The Human Element of IT, Updated

What are some of the common scenarios where IT and the human element intersect? What do you do in these situations?

Scenario:

Bill was fired! Who is going to do X? He was the only one who knew how.

Solutions:

One company I worked with did a risk assessment of its IT systems and identified a list of software applications at high risk because only one person remained on staff as a subject matter expert, and a longer list where there were only two or three people who could support the application. I’ve personally had to train my alternates in other business divisions because the one guru there retired or, in one case, was laid off because the manager didn’t know what he did or how important it was.
The best solution to this case is to identify your subject matter experts; then verify that these people have equally qualified alternates who have access to the system to fill in for them on their tasks. This isn’t a theoretical. I have actually had to troubleshoot cases of backups who were listed as “oh, yeah, he knows that”, but didn’t have the higher level privileges to compete the subject matter expert’s advanced tasks. That the guy knew how to do it was irrelevant, if he’s set up on system A and tapped to fill in on system B.
Require the person leaving the company to train their replacements in those few skills or procedures no one else is experienced. Document the process as the training takes place so that the information is available should others need it.
In the future, document all job tasks and processes so that they can be used by others in an online database. Try to have at least one backup for every job function or task, such as restarting servers or setting up users. Ideally, you need to have at least three people able to do anything mission critical in your organization.

Scenario:

Jill has to go on medical leave. How do you handle her tasks for the interim?

Solutions:

Know how to delegate and/or reassign tasks in your task management system. And verify that delegates actually have the authority to perform those tasks, such as approve financial line items or promote drawings. Verify that they have accounts on all IT systems where these approvals or actions take place.

Scenario:

On-boarding takes forever, and we discover things they need access to weeks or even months later at the most inconvenient moment.

Solutions:

Create an online check list of everything new employees need, from accounts to access levels. For example, they need access to the HR system to input their time cards or access to the database to search for drawings.

Scenario:

Boss announces the implementation will be delayed a month, and all vacation is cancelled until rollout. A key staffer says, “But I have non-refundable tickets.”

Solutions

Divide work where possible to avoid forcing someone to cancel a vacation. If that person is indispensable, delay the project two months. Avoid demanding that someone check email or respond to queries for two or three hours a day on vacation.
A last backup plan is enabling remote work for someone who was planning to be on paid time off. However, making this demand dramatically increases the odds they will not be with the company for the next implementation.
This is another scenario where redundancy helps solve the issue. If you have three gurus and one goes on vacation, it is a matter of scheduling between the other two until he or she comes back. If your organization has only one person who can do the task and your schedule conflicts with his or hers, you may end up delaying the task longer or force someone to lose out on a planned event (and raise the risk of losing the expert).

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