10+ Smart-Working Enterprise IT Work Rules

As a young IT professional in a large enterprise, there were rules I had to learn in order not to go out of line — it was 2011, the first time I ever stepped into the commercial world of IT, where I learned the essentials (and politics) from my supervisor and mentor who always told me not to work hard but work smart. This is a list of IT work ethic reminders I crafted for myself thanks to him.
Studying Image courtesy of Justin Baeder
  1. Most of the time, IT support is a ‘standby job’ — it may be peaceful but we must get prepared for the worst to come anytime.
  2. Underpromise and overdeliver. We must leave buffer time when telling users an approximate time to fulfill their requests. (If done early, it surprises them.)
  3. We are just a worker if we don’t plan and just do as ordered. When assigned a task, we should be curious. We should ask. We should seek every bit of detail. We then tell risks to avoid taking responsibility in case of failure.
  4. When answering the management, do not rush to say yes or boldly suggest when we aren’t sure. Just chill and say we don’t know or we need to check.
  5. To maintain IT operation of an enterprise, sometimes doing nothing is better for users and the whole company in long term. For example, working around a slow 10-year-old PC to mitigate compatibility issues is bad. Why not use it as a reason to support buying new PC that makes the user more productive and happy?
  6. Get to know one or two colleagues well in each department. That will help make our administration smooth, e.g. conducting a pilot test with users would be easier.
  7. Avoid writing long emails which are often ignored or skim-read by users. Make emails short and in point form so that users easily grasp them and do what we mean them to do.
  8. Email is official (and cold). Never take sending emails as the sole action. Carbon-copying (cc) to lots of people or users’ department head could be invasive. Always casually talk to the user first, then email.
  9. Don’t be too nice to users. In a big enterprise, our role is policeman, users are like citizen. Rules are rules. We do not teach users how to violate rules; they could, however, figure it out by themselves, as no policeman teaches passengers to cross a car-free road when the traffic light is red.
  10. We must not let users feel we are soft in saying no. We must be firm in enforcing policies.
  11. If we really want users to obey and respect us, whether it is email or talk, be firm, concise and to the point.
  12. Strict first, loose later would be better regarded by users than being loose first and strict later.
  13. Think in the mind of challengers (e.g. auditor, the management). Anything that is emailed, logged, signed can be later challenged. Do not give in to laziness or convenience and let users bypass flow, such as not requiring approval for installing high-risk software. We don’t want to cause trouble to our supervisors later.
  14. Because of our role of helping people, users and even the management are very nice to us, but we should maintain our professionalism, which is what they expect from us. Stay humble, sincere, diligent and be courteous to everyone at all times.
  15. IT professionalism also includes not peeking at users’ emails and files. Do not abuse our privileges (in front of users or behind them) without their consent.
I hope these rules will be of use to anyone new to the enterprise IT world.

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