Life's hell for users of IS department resources

To many users, the IS department is second in the pecking order to those bean counters who review expense claims - a necessary evil that makes life hell for the corporate user. Sadly, the Computerworld Internet survey found that all the stereotypes seem to be true.

To many users, the IS department is second in the pecking order to those bean counters who review expense claims — a necessary evil that makes life hell for the corporate user. Sadly, the Computerworld Internet survey found that all the stereotypes seem to be true.

The survey, posted at www.idg.co.nz, asked users to rate their IS departments in a range of areas. Sixteen respondents took the time to answer the 19 questions. Not all questions were answered by every respondent and the majority of them did not want their names published. Overall, IS support received seven responses in the "poor" category, and only one each in "excellent" and "very good". Users do, however, seem to be aware that IS departments are stretched to the limits, with 11 claiming their IS departments were overworked, two saying they were under-worked and only three believing the workload was "just right".

"If you want something installed you have to do it yourself because the IS dept is FAR TOO BUSY," wrote one respondent. She believes IS departments should respond to problems on the day the problem is logged. The majority of respondents felt this was not happening.

We asked how long it took IS to respond to calls: hours, minutes, days or weeks. Respondents scored evenly here, with four in each category. But when we asked how long it took to resolve problems after they were reported, only two respondents answered "minutes". Five answered "hours" and there were four respondents each for "days" and "weeks".

One particularly unhappy respondent, who did not wish to be named, claimed his IS department was under-worked, took weeks to resolve problems and characterised his interactions with staff as "unpleasant". Most other respondents were more impressed with their staff — three described their interactions as "delightful", four found them "pleasant", six thought they were "fine", while three found them "unpleasant".

Another anonymous respondent wrote of one experience that typified his relationship with the IS department at a university.

"We installed a new computer suite that called for two 32-port hubs but received only one ... It has now been five weeks since we requested our second hub be installed. The request went to the head of IS."

The request was then referred on, but little happened until a technician called "to see why we weren't up and running". The technician couldn't access the equipment because it was locked away, and so did nothing.

Communication skills are considered more important than technical skills for IS managers (13 versus three), but technical skills have it over communication for staff (11 versus four).

When asked what was the primary function of IS, most respondents replied with "maintaining the system" and "supporting the core business". The best way to measure IS success was by "keeping users happy", or by having a "short response time". Profit as either measure or motive received two votes.

Training also came in for a hammering from respondents. Two ticked the "excellent" box, one believed it was "very good", but four each ticked "good", "adequate" and "poor".

"Computer training is non-existent. Basically, if you can push a button, they leave and say get to work!" wrote one respondent.

"I have worked for the company for more than two years and still find out new things which would have been helpful to know, but you have to learn them the hard way."

Only one question received a unanimous response: all respondents believe IS will increase in importance during the next two years. If that happens, it will only compound the problems they are already experiencing.

How does your IS department stack up? Do you want to defend them to the hilt or do they deserve to be lined up against a wall and shot? Send your comments to paul_brislen@idg.co.nz. Please include daytime contact details.

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