Which animal would give the best IT support?

Posted in: Digital Data & Technology Group

Unsurprisingly this question won the award for the best question asked during the recent UCISA SSG conference in Bristol, which a group of us from User Services attended during the first week of July. We’ll come back to that at the end, in much the same way as the panel asked it then had to.

The overall theme of the conference was “It’s not about technology, it’s about people…” and this was evident through all of the talks and sessions. For all of us this was an interesting event, as only 1 of the 5 in our group had attended a conference before. This gave us a chance to get out of the office and think differently for a while, to meet with others in similar roles from other institutions and share ideas and experiences. Oh, and catch up with former colleagues who now work elsewhere!

Over the conference there were various presentations and sessions, far too many to include here, but there were some that made you think a bit more, and which have already made it back into our everyday roles.

“Unhappy is the land that needs a hero” was the first of these; an engaging presentation by Stuart Rance, about IT heroes and why we don’t need, or want, them. An IT hero is the person always saving the day, in an organisation that is constantly staggering from incident to incident, and expending all energy on resolving these instead of the underlying problems and a collaborative approach to ensuring that these incidents don’t occur in the first place. Definitely worth thinking about, as we so often have to be reactive instead of proactive.

We were then treated to the SSG Room 101, where a number of suggestions were put forward for things that should be consigned to Room 101. After the cases were made, and votes counted, in went: The Apple Genius Bar (I’m sure that our Director will approve – and with apologies to our ex-Apple colleagues!), Bad self-service and ID10T errors. Of course, we’re not guilty of any of these things. Or are we?

The panel session, with the panel being made up of a mix of students and those involved in Support was interesting, and brought out some points for us to consider:

  • Students aren’t keen on self-service, and the point was made that good signposting is necessary to make this work.
  • Software is seen as being easy to support, and hard (if not impossible) to break... If only that were true!
  • Students in particular don’t care if things are in the cloud or not, and really don’t know what this means, they just want things to work.
  • More resources are wanted for first time fix.
  • And when that isn’t possible, that expectations are managed and assurance given that the request is being handled.
  • Which animal would give the best IT support?

Further interesting sessions followed, including the official launch of The UK Higher Education Service Desk Toolkit, which includes contributions by our colleague Sherilyn Elmes, and many examples taken from the front line IT Support service that we provide here.

The final day took a surprising twist back to talking about animals again, where we were all encouraged to be Dolphins (apparently, a good mix of political awareness and an ability to act with integrity), rather than sheep, wolves or baboons. Which brings us back to that starting question…

Which animal would give the best IT Support? Various suggestions were made:

  • A monkey would be good, with opposable thumbs, but there were concerns about the way this may look if left running the service desk.
  • A mouse, portable and would be easy to take out and scurry around solving problems
  • An owl, demonstrating the values of wisdom and patience
  • A Terrier, just will not let go of a problem until the end
  • Ants, self-organise to sort things out
  • Pigeons, handy if communications go down
  • A Camel, as they chew things over, and keep going due to the energy in their humps to cover any major incidents.
  • A Salamander, as it was believed they could regrow limbs for resilience
  • Dolphins?

Oddly, nobody suggested a human. Maybe that’s also something to take away and think about?

For me, I think the variety of animals being suggested proved one thing. There isn’t a single answer that can encompass everything needed to give the “best” IT Support. Having a varied team working together is probably the best answer, and in that regard I think we’re doing very well!

Posted in: Digital Data & Technology Group


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