Even if you don’t work in IT, you almost certainly work with technology in one way or another—making spreadsheets, updating web pages, checking customer information from databases, or just reading emails. And, as you’ve probably noticed, tech doesn’t always work the way you’d like it to, or worse, the way it should. That means sometimes you need to work with your tech team to solve problems.
However, as anyone who has been on either of this interaction knows, it doesn’t always go smoothly. In order to make sure that you get the help you need and that the technical experts are always happy to assist you, here are practical tips for communicating with the team in a way that will work out well for both parties.
1. An Emergency
Example: “The site is down!”
Your digital world is crashing down, or maybe just your company’s server is crashing. Whatever the crisis is, you need to get in touch with your tech team immediately—but without panicking, freaking out, and flipping desks. No, you need to do this the right way because it is so critical. That means you have to bring the facts to the tech team as quickly and clearly as you can.
But, a word of warning before you send off that email in all caps or call a developer on a Sunday morning: Make sure that the situation really is “life or death.” For most companies, “life and death” involves the bottom line. In other words, is it a problem that stops or seriously hinders you, your colleagues, or your company from being able to serve customers properly? Yes? Carry on. No? Take a deep breath.
Not sure what’s considered an emergency? Ask your boss if there’s a policy in place, and if so, the established procedure to follow in case the worst does happen. If neither of those things exist, schedule a quick chat with your technical manager or lead developer about the possibility of setting up a system. Odds are that the IT team will not only appreciate your interest, but they’ll also be happy that it will lead to fewer false alarms in the future. (Even tech enthusiasts dread an 11 PM server emergency.)
2. Internal Bugs
Example: “When I click on the ‘Next’ button, I’m not taken to the next page.”
This time, the problem isn’t a threat to business, but it’s an irritating glitch that makes getting tasks completed challenging. You might be able to get on with your day by working around the bug, but you shouldn’t just ignore it.
Again, you should follow any set protocol for reporting. (And, going back to number one, you can help set up a reporting system if none currently exists.) When you do file your report, remember to include as much relevant information as you can.
A dream report would include the following:
- What you were trying to do
- What happened when you did it
- The device and operating system you were using
- Any software involved
- A screenshot of the issue
While this information may feel tedious to write out, it’ll help the tech team diagnose the problem more quickly. Want bonus points (and your issues addressed faster)? Brush up on your tech terms to talk about the bug. It will save everyone involved a lot of guesswork.
3. An Urgent Update
Example: “The client needs his homepage updated EOD.”
Return to crisis central. But this time, you are the one initiating the rush. That means you need to be especially sensitive to your IT staff. Be very clear about what needs to be done. And, if you need help with several items, let the team know the priority of each, just in case everything can’t be done at the same time.
Also, instead of demanding that the tech team drop everything to serve you, ask how much time they think is needed to make the change. If it can’t be done as quickly as you want, you should reinforce why the task is so urgent (remember that bottom line?), and make it clear you’re here to help complete it ASAP.
It’s also key to remember that just because you need something, that doesn’t always make it possible. Always assume that before you arrived with your urgent task, the tech team was working on another project (or two or three) with a deadline.
Yes, you probably legitimately need something to be done right away, but is there a temporary or quick fix (like just correcting the typos and broken links) that would work for now? If so, go with that. Then, set up a timeline for the rest of the project that works for everyone involved.
4. A (Small) Suggestion
Example: “We should create a way for readers to comment on our blog using their Facebook profiles.”
Have a clever idea that you think would improve your company’s app or website? You might be on to something. But, that doesn’t mean you should rush over to the tech team and expect praise for your idea. Instead, you need to be smart and respectful with how you approach it.
Let the developers or designers know why you think your idea is worth implementing (“Our marketing team just shared some stats about how active our customers are on Facebook, and I think that could help us improve engagement on the site”). Yet, at the same time, keep in mind the time and money limitations that everyone faces. And remember to respect your IT professionals’ knowledge and opinions. Consider using “could” instead of “should” to avoid sounding like you already know all the right answers.
Also, if coming up with these kind of ideas is a regular part of your job, try learning about development or design. Even some basic knowledge will help you make more useful and realistic suggestions.
5. A Big Idea
Example: “How about redesigning the entire homepage?”
Sometimes you want to shake things up. And your insights as an outsider can (sometimes) be just what’s needed to refresh your company’s strategy or brand.
But, don’t get swept away by your revolutionary urges. Again, you need to tell your design or development team why you believe the change is necessary. And, since this is a major overhaul you’re talking about, you should be prepared to justify the expense and time needed to make it happen.
You can make the idea sound more appealing if you can find a way to help. Maybe you can be a beta tester. Or, you can write copy. Or, perhaps, you can lend the tech team your intern to help research a few (simpler) aspects of the process. Any way you can pitch in will ease the load, which means your big idea can become a reality more quickly.
Whether what you need is a time-sensitive task or just a creative suggestion for improvement, knowing how to approach your tech team when you need their help will make both your jobs easier and help everyone work together better—ideally leading to fewer confusing emails that stress everyone out.
Kelli runs customer support and creates content for Skillcrush, a digital skills training and education platform with friendly instructors, an active student community, and laser focus on helping you achieve your career goals with technology. She has an MBA and successfully ran an international company and her own freelancing business before pursuing her passion for tech by taking advanced web development classes. Kelli loves listening to tech podcasts at 2x speed, looking for cute Corgi photos online and teaching and performing country line dancing—as a true Texan living in Finland would do. Say hi on Twitter.More from this Author