If It Ain’t Broke…

I’ve been known to blather on and on about process. Without process, IT can’t function efficiently; there’s no arguing with that.

What I’ve learned, however, is that sometimes process just gets in the way of things that are already working well on their own. In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

My employer’s official business hours are 9am-6pm, Monday-Friday. Since we’re in the business of client service, folks end up working all times of the day and night. One of the first things I did to optimize the Help Desk when I came on board was to extend our support hours an hour in either direction of business hours.

The other piece of the Help Desk policy that I wanted to change was official after-hours support. I really thought that it would be a good idea to institute an on-call rotation for IT; this way, each of us would take a fair turn in supporting those tickets that came in outside our 8-7 window.

When I proposed this to the team, I got a little resistance: “But we get so few urgent tickets after hours, and when we do, someone always responds right away. Do we have to make it so formal?”

I sat back and thought about it. Being on-call, officially, means you have take your personal life into account: where you are, who you’re with, how much you’ve had to drink, etc. I remembered when I was an engineer and participated in an on-call rotation, and what a pain it was.

I told the team to let me chew on it a bit, and after reviewing some past after-hours tickets and seeing that yes, they were indeed handled in a timely manner, I decided to let things ride. When I talked to the team again, I asked them how they deal with things like seeing a ticket come in but not being near a computer, or not being in a place where they can call the user. The answer was that they would call or email someone else on the team and explain their predicament; universally, their colleague helped out and the user got what they needed.

Could I have enforced my process and made everyone take an on-call rotation? Sure. Would we have gained anything, other than forcing staff to do something they were already doing a great job at without being managed? Nope.

Sometimes process for its own sake doesn’t have any added benefit, and where employee morale is concerned, it’s important to think through the implications. And as far as the users are concerned, they just send an email to the Help Desk, and they get a timely response no matter the day or hour.

Image credit: Andy Piper via Compfight

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