Managing Against IT & User Snafus
Sometimes the little things that get ignored or overlooked are what lead to big losses.
Sometimes we need a good laugh to improve our day or, yes, sometimes a good cry to reboot and move on. I'm not sure which you'd do after reading my stories below, but whichever it is, know that I am not kidding around but trying to provide insight into processes that could use some improvement.
For one, automated notices and alerts are pretty common in the help desk function, with the goal of funneling traffic and keeping the network running smoothly. But what happens when one automated help desk notifies another automated help desk of scheduled downtime?
If both help desks use email, then what might result is a loop of endless "receipt of your message" emails from one help desk to the other. You can imagine that this methodology would generate 60 messages for each help desk in one hour, which adds up quickly over the hours if the loop goes undiscovered. On top of that, add in the number of technicians that receive the group messages for the help desk and they, too, may receive messages at the rate of one per minute.
Now imagine that you call your provider for assistance in turning off this annoying message loop, but don't get an immediate response. What can you do short of shutting down email to the help desk? One quick fix is to set up a block or filter on the inbound mail, rejecting mail from the replying help desk with a no response/no reply.
Other message loops create an internal attack on users brought on by the users themselves. These occur when within a Group Distribution List (hundreds of users email addresses) a user includes the name of another Group Distribution List that included the first Group Distribution List. For example, the method below creates an endless loop of one message sent to Sales@yourcompany.com, which in turn relays to the members of Service@yourcompany.com, which relays back to Sales@yourcompany.com.
- Group Distribution List 1: SALES
Members: Fred, Barney, Wilma, Betty, Pebbles, Bamm-Bamm, and SERVICE (Group Distribution List 2)
Group Distribution List 2: SERVICE
Members: Mr. Slate, Gazoo, Dino, Hoppy, Baby P, and SALES (Group Distribution List 1)
The issues that users report are sometimes humorous or worrisome, depending upon how you look it: "I cannot copy myself from the computer to the copier," and "My computer's cut and paste does not work." As funny as these are or aren't, you have to wonder: Do the users need training, or does IT need to hone in and do a better job of layering in features with responsibilities?
As trivial as these issues may seem, they can potentially have a ripple effect -- especially with hosted and managed solutions providers. Organizations end up spending lots of time and resources in cleaning up thousands of messages from message loops, for example.
Other problems come up when IT personnel with administrator control exit an organization, as I discussed in a previous post, Untangling IT's Web. These are not trivial matters, especially when it comes to ordering services, ensuring invoices are paid on time, and managing accounts.
Authentication processes are often lame. Some "Forgot your password" links, for example, actually work on email accounts that require only access to that specific email address. If the email is compromised, then the account information is usually pretty easy to obtain.
IT automation isn't easy, and asset management is a daunting task. This may only get more complicated with bring-your-own-device and freemium models, as each will impact how users think, behave, and even react to IT and IT policies. Both can be either detrimental or beneficial to the enterprise, but IT must be responsible for maintaining security and protecting the company assets. If the help desk is indicative of a company's intellectual capacity, then I'd be afraid for many firms.
Threats range from lack of training to lack of discipline within IT ranks, and, at the service provider, an inability to secure customer accounts. These low-level threats can be avoided, but we tend to focus on complex solutions and ignore everyday common sense managing and administering. Perhaps this is a sign of dealing with flat organizations and the new era of how work is done. Whatever it is that is being ignored or overlooked is what can create losses.
How do you manage? What art, craft or automation do you use to tackle everyday issues? Share in the comments section below.
Follow Matt Brunk on Twitter and Google+!