Ask any IT professional how they would verify that a network connection is up and active, and it is certain that you will receive an answer almost instantly in response. From manually typing in the command to ping an IP address to receiving an alert from a monitoring system this is a very simple task to accomplish for most IT professionals. It has been drilled into our heads time and time again that the network cannot go down, and that if a network outage does occur that we must be made aware of it instantaneously. Furthermore there must be redundant network connections, so that if a single connection is lost our operations remain up and running.
We spend significant amounts of time and money on keeping that precious network alive and operational at all times. The network can never be down! It is unacceptable, unforgiveable, and unfathomable that the network should ever be down! Nothing is more important than the network being up!
Now go ask an IT professional (preferably yourself first) when was the last time that he or she asked their end users if they were happy with how IT enabled and empowered people to do their jobs. Ask when was the last time the IT staff hosted a lunch with randomly chosen end-users in order to receive feedback on how IT can improve the business. Ask how they introduce themselves to new hires and what they do to make sure that each new employee feels both welcomed and supported by the IT staff. Show the IT staff pictures of randomly chosen end users and ask them if they can put a name to each face.
More than likely you will discover that while most IT professionals know their infrastructure they do not know their end-users. Why would they? Most IT departments are structured to respond to requests coming from the top of an organization down to the IT staff. This means that complaints and concerns have to travel all the way from the end-user to a high level manager or executive, and then those same complaints and concerns must be delivered to another high level manager or executive in the IT department who then sends the message down the ranks where it eventually lands on the tasks list of an IT staff member. Unlike a network transmission though there are no built-in controls to ensure that the message was received intact. This results in miscommunications and assumptions, and the end-result is upset end-users who feel that IT is not responding to their needs.
Imagine that your monitoring system had a status for each and every end-users’ personal satisfaction with the IT department. Did you imagine a collection of green indicators or of red ones? Keep that mental image of an end-user satisfaction monitoring system in focus and ask yourself the following questions:
- How are we alerted to a dissatisfied user?
- If we do not wait for the executives to tell us that there is a problem with the network, then why do we wait for the executives to tell us that users are not happy with our services even though the technology is working as it was designed to?
- How often to do we go visit our end-users face-to-face when no support ticket has been opened?
- What was the last solution that we put in place because of feedback received directly from an end-user?
Take the time to think deeply about your answers to these questions. Let these questions spawn even more questions for you to consider. Challenge yourself to find the answers to these questions, and then implement the solutions that those answers lead to.
If you want to be an amazing IT professional your technical knowledge is not enough to get you to such a level. Develop your social and business skills in parallel to your technical skills, and make it a point to spend as much time interacting with your end-users as you do interacting with your infrastructure. Just because the network is up does not mean that end-users are happy. Be sure to have a connection straight into your end-users’ perception of IT, and monitor it like you would any other mission critical infrastructure component. You will soon discover that your end-user satisfaction indicator is the most important one of all.