Corporate IT departments are hit or miss. I’ve dealt with a few.
At a prestigious (unnamed) Cambridge university, famous for entrepreneurial elitism with a side order of more elitism, the IT department consisted of a gaggle of unkempt, surly men who reveled in our collective technological ignorance. It took me months to prove my worth as a geek; even then they took potshots whenever possible.
At a prestigious (unnamed) publishing company in Boston, famous for, well, essentially controlling its sector of the publishing industry, I avoided the IT department like the herp. They were friendly guys (and all males; I sense a pattern here), perhaps a little too friendly, but it wasn’t their unwelcomed shoulder-claps or snooze-button banalities that had me dodging their phone extensions. It was that somehow, I knew more about fixing computers than they did. And I don’t know shit about fixing computers.
Once I had a problem with PowerPoint. After spending a good two hours Googling for solutions, I conceded to IT’s assistance. Another three hours later my assigned IT dude—who smelled of corn chips and $3 Walgreens aftershave—sat at my computer and started to Google solutions with me. I told him I’d tried that. He didn’t listen.
Then he asked me what I’d do to fix the problem.
“I’d ask you,” I said. “Like I did. That’s what I’d do. That’s what I did.”
Helpful or not, socially maladjusted or not, calling your company’s IT department is like playing Russian roulette with both your time, patience, and, in some cases, your sense of self-worth (they can be mean!).
A better solution—the solution of the future; one that taps into our Internet culture’s affinity for crowdsourced information and our fear of personal interaction—would be real-time Q&A sessions with disembodied professionals who can either fix problems for us or walk us through the processes, teaching along the way, so should the problem pull a Lazarus, we’ll have the anti-undead bazooka prepped.
Leo—or Help by Leo—is a free interactive tool that helps you operate any supported software application. Leo currently has its fingers in Microsoft Office 2007, iTunes, Firefox, and Facebook, and is buffering its barracks to support additional apps for the future.
(Side note: who needs help with Facebook? What’s complicated about a website specifically built to limit user options almost to the point of three hots and a cot?)
Leo has two modes, both of which are sensually suggestive, which is kind of perfect given the sleazy stereotypes associated with IT professionals: Do It and Guide Me. Leo will “Do It” to you—Do It real good—or else it’ll Guide You—tenderly, patiently—so when you meet your next Leo, or Leoni, you’ll know how to … you know … make a table of contents. Or a spreadsheet. Hey-o!
But before you schedule your Ides of March takedown of IT, you should know that the free version of Leo is meant for personal use only; company-wide iterations require license purchases.
And there’s another catch: chances are your company PC restricts desktop downloads, so even if you wanted to watch Leo feast on the red guts of Firefox, you can’t, they won’t let you, they won’t be replaced!
So you’d better
- make nice-nice with your local IT dudes, however they behave, however they smell;
- steal admin rights to your work machine (it’s very possible—trust me); or
- learn what you gotta on your own time, to save time at work—when you really need time.