IT | Viewpoint

7 Simple Tips for Getting Your IT Issues Solved Faster

As you may have noticed, we IT folks are an odd lot. We're always walking around with our "mobile," we generally have more than a bit of OCD, and our offices have enough gear to frighten a jet pilot. But for all our eccentricities, we're not really that different from everyone else working in the school building. We love kids (more often than not), believe in the importance of education, and really want to help you in the classroom. So where is the problem?

Well, between staff, teachers, parents, and students, IT personnel can interact with up to 75 to 100 people a day. Of those, more than 80 percent have requests of some sort. That's a fair number of issues, so how do you go about getting your name at the top of the to-do list? Here are a few tips for how to work with your IT department to get to yes.

1. Work with us to plan ahead: IT departments can have many projects going on at any one time, along with a backlog of "immediates"—or top-priority emergencies that need a quick response. These issues can get in the way of helping you teachers, which is frustrating for everyone. You may even feel like a lower priority, which isn't the case at all. Getting you on the docket makes it much easier for us to set aside time. We can schedule your request, and work with you to do the best job possible. It depends on the request, naturally, but even a day or two notice will always be appreciated.

2. Help tickets help: Nothing chills the heart of an IT professional like the words "Hey! While I've got you..." Most IT departments now have some form of help desk or ticketing system available. If so, please use them. They're helpful for tracking issues, following up, prioritizing, and--perhaps most importantly--as a metric to gauge our effectiveness. There's also a much better chance we'll address a help ticket versus a shouted request while we're sprinting for the bathroom. Plus, it may seem silly, but there's a good deal of satisfaction in "closing a ticket," and we love doing it (a little too much to be healthy, really).

3. Remember, IT has a full plate, too: There are a lot of moving parts to a school, and IT supports them all. And while we understand and agree that the teacher/student relationship is at the heart of everything, sometimes other needs sneak in. There are staff offices, data feeds, records systems, servers, and vendor relationships, all of which require our attention as well. We love it when you remind us of what's important to you, because it helps us prioritize your needs much better. But unfortunately that doesn't mean we can accommodate every request, and if we have to say "no for now" please don't take it personally. Chances are, if you’ve requested through the right channels, and you’re understanding about the delay, you’ll be right at the top of the list when things lighten up.

4. Get requests into the budget: No, money isn't everything, but it does solve a lot of problems. Unbudgeted requests can be difficult to accommodate, so getting your tech requests into the budget is always a good idea. Small requests aren't usually a huge deal, but big-ticket items will almost certainly need to be budgeted for. This means both planning ahead and being patient. Emergencies happen of course, but generally most purchases should be part of the budgeting process (spring in most cases). Large unbudgeted purchases indicate that the school anticipates poorly, and catch the attention of both boards and banks.

5. Be patient: We definitely don't know everything: There sometimes can be a thought of "If it runs on a device, IT can fix it". We love your positive attitude—however!—an IT department can have more than 1,000 applications it needs to understand and support, including operating systems, classroom apps, information systems, staff applications, interactive web pages and more. With the advent of BYOD, that number is growing steadily. While we know a number of these systems, and have a good handle on how programs "think," it's still hard to have an intimate knowledge of them all. Sometimes we might not have even heard of the program. Hang in there! We'll figure it out, but it may take a little time.

6. Share your successes: We love to hear your success stories! We want both you and the students to succeed, and we love being a part of that. That might not always come across in our demeanor, but believe me it's true. IT is a lucrative profession, and there's a lot of money out there in corporate America if that's all you're looking for. Odds are the IT people in your school believe in a larger mission, and love to hear that it's succeeding. If you're doing something really cool in the classroom, invite us in to see it. We tend to get bogged down in details, so bringing us back to what's really important can turn an entire week around. Plus, it never hurts to expose us to the tools you're using before disaster strikes.

7. Talk to us: Lastly, the most important step in any successful relationship is communication--even with IT people. Using the help desk, ticketing system, or starting conversations with "Is this a good time?" can go a long way toward being heard effectively. Also, just popping in to say "Hi" without an agenda can really make our day. If you're wondering about the prioritization of a particular request, delicately asking (and listening to the answer) is often a good way to go. Few people are interested in hearing what's on our plate, and it can be refreshing to talk about it.

Obviously, IT folks can be eccentric, aloof, and difficult to work with at times, so don't think for a minute these tips will solve all your IT problems. But for the most part, understand and respecting your IT department's responsibilities (and helping them to understand yours) is the best recipe for getting to yes.

About the Author

Keith Borgen is director of Information Technology at Lexington Christian Academy in Lexington, MA.