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What is top of mind for support and IT teams

Last week the ITKit podcast made its return with episode 9 of the series. The conversation was moderated by Ashley Owens, IT Manager at Fleetsmith and featured Kerry Buckley, Freda Kreitzer, Erin Merchant, and Rosanna Schaefer.

They discussed an impressive number of topics and trends in today’s IT work environment and had a ton of insightful bits of information to share. Here are 5 big takeaways from their conversation 

Why it’s important to have a strong security culture

“For support, we need to be able to find the right balance between providing an excellent experience for customers that’s convenient, but also safe and secure.” – Rosanna Schaefer

In today’s world, many modern SaaS-enabled companies are leaning towards a model where IT and Security teams work closely together. The nature of technology exposes vulnerabilities that affect both IT and security – hacking being the most prominent. IT, DevOps or SecOps and support engineers are in constant communication and take a shared approach to educate end-users of security self-awareness. That also means they are negotiating a balance of security stringency and ease of use of deployed services and tools.

Cooperative Security Mindfulness

“So another fundamental part of a security culture is not just cohesion between parts of your org, but the people within it.” – Ashley Owens

Progressive IT team’s goals are set to make user workflow as simple as possible without operative disruption. It is most visible in tool access fragmentation and insecure storage of those passwords.

Yes, IT teams want their users to be hyper-aware of security, but they also want to make it painless by having security right at their fingertips.  Institutionalized password management through services like 1Password, LastPass, or Okta facilitate this, but it relies on a strong security culture in place.

Getting the buy-in from employees early is the key to this situation. If you are able to help steer and guide that security culture from day one then you get a huge head start on building that culture from the start.

To the user, applications like iCloud Notes or Google Drive notes seem more than fine as a personal password vault. But from an IT support perspective, that is a huge NO-NO. 

Human-centric design and humanist IT

“So human centered design is essentially the infrastructure that you’re building whether that’s a physical help desk or the toolset that you’re deploying or the robust nature of your security culture and the humanist IT aspect is what you put in front of your customer.” – Erin Merchant

Human-centric design approaches the creation of infrastructure, deployment of tools, and distribution of services with the needs of the customer as the focal point of evaluation, maintenance, and support. Showcasing understanding of the team, department, and company-wide initiatives and targeted, thoughtful placement of the best tools for the work broadens the purpose of IT beyond a tool distributor to a knowledgeable and trusted partner.

“The way you socialize that, the amount of empathy that you apply, your willingness to be transparent and honest which also gives IT on the other end an opportunity to say no and try for yes when we can, because that is what we want to deliver.” – Erin Merchant

Humanist IT is your individual, team, and department presence and the application of empathy, transparency, and collaboration applied to customers. In this case, “customers” is defined two ways: a team’s inbound clients (end users) and inward to the IT team itself (peer-to-peer and top-down from management). 
Whether internally or externally focused, humanist IT commits to a person rather than only focusing on the issue and the solution as paramount. It provides an opportunity to understand the “why” of an ask, to negotiate to build the best and right solution for the person within required IT parameters, and to support them through the process.

Empowering teams and employees

I think that we’ve talked about this whole concept of being proactive versus reactive. I can speak personally that, you know, we took IT at Greylock from a standpoint of quite reactive several years ago to very proactive. It’s changed everything for us. We’re not feeling that repetitive stress of answering the same questions. – Kerry Buckley

Teams looking for the time back and end-users looking for better solution access starts with knowledge management. Not only does it decrease the amount of mundane, repeat requests to an IT team, but it also allows for people with questions to gain a sense of ownership and empowerment around their technology. 

A key way is through proper documentation of knowledge and having an accessible knowledge base. When provided to employees upfront, they are more likely to engage with IT for constructive issues than mundane tasks. When made available to teammates as process documentation, it creates an open technical culture and enforces unity of process for repetitive tasks.

Regardless of customer, it allows for IT teams to focus on the tasks that matter and do so with principle for technical self-empowerment.

Building out the proper support for remote teams

“The key for us is to simplify. Simplify, simplify, simplify, simplify. At the same time, security.” – Kerry Buckley

Distributed work is now and the future of work, not only a reactive state. When your workforce is national or global, the easy answer is The Cloud.  Wrapping robust methods of distribution and simplification of access around cloud accessible tools creates a consistent experience, no matter where you are.

Adding to the consistent experience should be a commitment to regular communication (keep that knowledge base fresh, too!). Socializing changes, updates, and process improvements mean everyone stays on the same page and ensures teams are in the same loop and nothing gets lost. It also adds morale and camaraderie – regular video meetings, slack channel updates, and weekly one-on-ones are ways to keep those conversations fresh and consistent. Think of them as replacements for “water-cooler conversations” and keep your communication line open, the same way you would in office.

A great remote support experience always ensures your employees know that your level of commitment to support has not changed, and you are still open and available to talk when users need help no matter where you are. 

“It’s important to separate yourself from the issue and the person’s frustration because … by the time they’re seeing us, like they’re probably pretty sad or upset. But that’s why it feels so good to help people!” – Freda Kreitzer

To get caught up on the rest of the ITKit Podcast, head to their interviews page and make sure you subscribe to the pod for all upcoming episodes.

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