December 7, 1999
Let’s face it. Most corporate users hate their IS staff. While a certain amount of mudslinging takes place among all departments in most organizations, the pile at the door of Information Systems is usually pretty high.
Some IS managers see user ignorance and downright stubbornness as the source of the conflict. “We get constant calls about problems that we know for a fact we’ve explained to users time and time again,” says Greg Merideth, Director of MIS at Technology and Business Integrators, an IT consulting firm. “Everyone wants to use their computers, but nobody is willing to learn how.”
Merideth and his team have decided that after a certain age, users are simply incapable of grasping the basic concepts of computer operations. “Anyone over 46 we forget about,” he says. “We literally won’t even try.”
Most users, on the other hand, will tell you that IS workers are slow to respond, insensitive to their deadlines, unable to translate computer-speak into plain English, and most important, unable (or unwilling) to keep their computers from crashing.
“Many IS organizations preserve this ‘we’re gods’ attitude,” says Sarah Douglas, professor of computer and information sciences at the University of Oregon. “Born of the hacker culture, IS workers are often resistant to working in teams, and they often don’t give users proper training on the systems they impose on them. They just say, ‘Here, use it.'”
The IT staffing shortage, and the exorbitant salaries it has created, Douglas argues, only fuels the fires of IS arrogance and the conflict between the department and its users.
But does user stubbornness or IS arrogance tell the whole story? Or is something else behind the near universal antagonism between IS departments and their users?