Approach When IT Goes Wrong

Posted on: March 10, 2016


Its exciting and challenging to work in the higher education information technology environment here at UT Austin. Each and every day, IT@UT significantly contributes to the success of our students, faculty, researchers, and staff, helping to fulfill the University’s core purpose of transforming lives for the benefit of society. We can all be proud of the work we do that helps achieve this goal. We do, however, work in an field that will have problems, complications, mistakes, and malfunctions caused by technical failures and human error. Its a given, and how we respond to these challenges is critical. Because we want our constituents to have the most positive experience when using IT services on campus, it is important to for us to have an approach for addressing when IT goes wrong.

Seth Godin, a highly successful author, entrepreneur and futurist, posted an insightful and helpful protocol on his blog for moving forward in such difficult situations:

  1. Double check the work to make sure that there are no other problems within it.
  2. Alert the relevant parties.
  3. Take responsibility for what went wrong. This doesn’t mean that you intentionally did it wrong, or that doing it right was part of your job description. It means that you know something went wrong, you’re unhappy about it, and you accept responsibility for letting it get by you and you accept responsibility for making sure it wont happen again.
  4. Apologize. Not because its your fault, but because the incident cost other people time or money or upset them, and you’re sorry that they have to deal with that.
  5. Come up with a plan to ameliorate the impact of the problem. If you cant come up with a plan, say so and ask for suggestions.
  6. Come up with a plan to avoid the problem in the future.
  7. Gather feedback.
  8. Thank everyone for their patience and goodwill.

Seth offers this checklist for us to use when IT does not perform up to our high standards. Technology is powerful when it works as intended, which it does most of the time 24/7/365. Having a plan for when it doesn’t is prudent and a best practice. We take our service mission seriously and we work based on our values to: deliver high quality services; foster customer partnerships; establish trust, understanding and accountability; make data driven, innovative, customer focused decisions; and facilitate collaboration, cooperation, and communication.