Dysfunctional IT relationship No. 5: Sys admins vs. the world
Let me put this bluntly: The sys admins at our company are impossible. They're constantly nagging us to change our passwords (which are hard enough to remember as it is), haranguing us about software licenses, or insisting we follow some arcane procedure. But when we ask them to do something the business needs, the answer is almost always no. I'm tempted to bypass IT entirely and get what I need from the cloud, only I'm afraid the admins will change the passwords and lock us all out of the network.
— Frustrated & fearful
When you hold the keys to the kingdom, it's easy to create fiefdoms. For years, the admin's word was absolute. Users had to adhere to strict policies and procedures or get locked out. When admins spend all their time just getting systems to work properly, change is something to avoid at all costs -- in case something breaks and they have to fix it. Every so often, one of them will go rogue and cause real damage.
But think about it from the admin's point of view. GFI Software recently surveyed more than 200 U.S. sys admins. The results: 85 percent said their personal lives were negatively affected by their jobs, and more than two-thirds have considered switching careers because of the stress involved. Every day, they have to deal with clueless users (not you, of course) who ask them to do ridiculous things.
"An overwhelming number of IT administrators said they've received support calls from users who are apparently unaware that computers don't operate without power," notes Dodi Glenn, product manager for GFI Software, which provides IT solutions for small businesses. "To cite just one example, a frustrated admin told us that a user had plugged a power strip 'into itself' and couldn't figure out why his computer wasn't powering up."
While writing your network password on a sticky note affixed to your monitor may keep you from forgetting it or deliberately downloading malware just to "see what will happen" may satisfy your curiosity, these things will drive IT admins insane.
IT people can't really change how users are going to behave, says Dev Anand, director of product management for ManageEngine, which builds real-time tools for automating IT management. But they can change how they respond to it.
To avoid having to answer the same stupid questions (over and over and over), IT departments can crowd-source solutions by setting up community portals or a page on their internal social network where employees can post questions for other users to answer, says Anand. IT can anonymously post the really dumb ones, Dev suggests, so people will eventually learn to never ask that question again.
In an era where cloud-based IT managed services are just a phone call away, internal admins must learn how to be more flexible and responsive to users' needs, says ManageEngine president Raj Sabhlok.
"These guys have to learn that no is not always the right answer," he says. "Business users move at a faster pace than many admins are used to, so IT pros need to automate mundane tasks and start using real-time technology if they want to keep up."
In the end, though, what both sides need to do is be nicer to each other, notes GFI's Glenn.
"IT staff should have the right to hold users accountable when they make preventable mistakes due to carelessness or neglect, and users should have the right to ask IT admins questions without being made to feel stupid or annoying," he says. "The bottom line is this: Both sides need to treat each other with courtesy and respect."
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This story, "5 dysfunctional IT relationships -- and how to repair them," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in IT careers at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.