As productive and effective volunteer service managers, we are constantly learning about, and improving our craft. We sharpen our inner-personal skills, network with colleagues, read journals and attend conferences. How many of us incorporate these same practices when it comes to technology?
Is this a scenario you are familiar with? There is a major deadline. The network was down when the workday started. It finally came up. The computer has been buggy all morning. Just before noon, the screen freezes. It is time for the dreaded call to the Help Desk.
This month we will talk about working with IT staff. Some of our best skills and abilities fly out the window when we have to deal with them. By working well with IT staff, we can gain knowledge that in turns gives us the power to do our jobs better.
All of us have met IT staff that even Gandhi would have slapped. Others are so wonderful that you look forward to your computer breaking down. What makes a healthy relationship with IT staff? Professionals in the field of Information technology shared insights with me.
Says, Laura Hale Teaming for Technology AmeriCorps/VISTA in Burlington Vermont, "Tech problems are generally very frustrating for everyone, so both sides need to be patient, respectful, and clear about the problem, and that usually works out well."
Appreciating the IT person's perspective is also important. "Users (the folks requesting help) sometimes assume that the IT support person is trying to be smart and to wow them with esoteric knowledge," shares Jose Fernandez, the Management Consultant with Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation in Boston. "In fact the person is typically just trying to solve their 'dull and routine' issue (from the point of view of the IT staff person who has often dealt with the same issue many times before) in the most expeditious manner possible."
Something that I heard loud and clear from almost all the IT folks (I must admit I hate hearing this one, but it is true!): document, document, document! Write down all the steps that led up to the problem, including what that stupid pop-up window says. "The more information you can give IT staff, " emphasizes Laura Hale, "the better. "
In addition, learn from the problem and the IT staff. When a problem occurs or reoccurs don't just turn into a zombie and give all the control to the IT staff. Again, Jose Fernandez, "I get the best help and provide the best help when the person I'm working with appears to really want to learn how to solve the problem instead of wanting me to miraculously fix it."
Get to know your IT staff. Not only the Help Desk people, but also the managers or the major decision-makers who purchase equipment and software which will impact you directly. Meet them for lunch. Spend a few hours shadowing them to get know their daily frustrations and rewards.
In January's Issue, I'll share some tips on what to do before you call the Help Desk. In the mean time, put your volunteer management skill in gear, gain some power and acquire a little more knowledge from your information technology staff.
Georgean is a trainer and consultant in the areas of nonprofit management and volunteer involvement. She holds a Master's degree in Education/Staff Training and Development and a Bachelor's degree in Sociology from Indiana University.
Georgean is an Adjunct Faculty member of Ivy Tech State College with the Business and Industry Training Department. Her articles have been published in the Florida Libraries Journal and The Bottom Line: Managing Library Finances.
Georgean conducts national and regional workshops on Train-the-Trainer, Customer Service, Conflict Management, Staff/ Volunteer Relations, Fundamentals of Volunteer Management, Family Volunteering, Trends in Volunteerism, and other aspects of Volunteer Management.
Georgean is immediate Past Chairperson
of the National Government Volunteer Coordinator Advisory Committee
for the Points of Light Foundation in Washington, DC. She is Past
Chairperson and Founding Officer of Northeast Indiana Association
of Volunteer Administration, a professional membership organization
representing 60 nonprofit/voluntary organizations. She is a member
of the Association for Volunteer Administration, the Points of
Light Foundation, and the Association for Research on Nonprofit
Organizations and Voluntary Action.
Prior to starting her training and consulting company she served for several years as the Manager of Volunteer Services in healthcare, library, and social service organizations, leading programs of 500 volunteers.