Handling Requests: Three Simple Rules

I’m a sysadmin, half my working life seems to be spent handling other peoples requests (which is why I’m trying to move over to infrastructure work - where I can hopefully concentrate on something for three whole minutes). While chatting with a junior admin at a tech talk in the week the following three tips came up:

Use a ticketing system. This one comes up a lot but it’s true, never dropping someones request is well worth the time spent setting it up.

Customers sending requests to individuals is a BAD THING. People go on holiday, they get dragged in to meetings. They work on projects. Which of those do you think someone who’s been waiting for a request will accept as an excuse? None of them. And telling them that it’s their own fault is a great way of annoying them even more - even if it is true. Training your users to reply to all (so follow ups also get tagged by the ticketing system) and to not send a “Just a quick question” mail so their favourite sysadmin helps you keep an eye on the workload while ensuring that things can’t drop between the cracks. Even if it’s an often repeated uphill struggle.

There is a caveat to this one. If you’ve got the resources it’s often helpful to assign a sysadmin to a new employee for their first couple of days. Asking those awkward new starter questions is a lot easier face to face than on a mailing list of who knows how many. Any requests can then be added in to the ticketing system while the sysadmin is present, showing the starter how to use it, and that the admins actually pay attention to and process tickets. Nothing beats a good first impression.

Lastly, people have an expectation of how long something should take. If you break this unwritten rule, even for a good reason, then they’ll notice and it’ll be used against you at some future point. While it’s not ideal for concentration quickly completing short tasks like password changes can make a huge difference in how your team is perceived.