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IT Consulting: The Hollywood Complex

Hollwood-ComplexI warn you, this post has nothing to do with movies or hollywood per se. This post is about the users you support as a consultant and an interesting complex that starts occurring over time. This complex happens when the user, needing help, thinks he or she has something of unique and glorious significance (although it’s likely not anything more than a mundane issue). This interesting complex, one that I call the hollywood complex, can really skew the way we support clients – and even make solving issues more difficult.

Let me explain. Perhaps you have a user (of 50) in an office and they are unable to print to a network printer. After the user casually surveys other users, this person determines that they’re the only one with the printing issue. Next, is an email that looks something like this:

Hi IT Consultant,
I can’t print to the xxxx printer and I’m the only one with this issue. Theres probably a bug in Windows or the driver, right? Help?

Thanks,
User

This interests me because the person writing the email isn’t trying to do the consultant’s job – it appears more like they’re actually, and possibly subconsciously, attempting to raise the significance level of this problem to something very unique. This example is fictional, but experience has proven that more than 98% of issues are that of simple configuration, malware or hardware failures. Rarely do we actually find unique software bugs, not to mention the limited capacity for testing these sorts of variances. I tend to think the consultant finds far more system “limits” than they do actual “bugs”.

The truth is, users are most often willing to help in situations like these, so long as progress is being made. It does seem plausible that a user is doing it because they want attention, but this interaction is just too common to it explain that way. I feel that, because we all believe we’re unique and individual (perhaps a sort of cult of individuality), that we may all tend to think our problems are that way also. Users are describing problems as hollywood blockbuster, when most often, they’re no more than the common struggling actor.

The next time you have a problem as a user (we’re all users to some degree), it will serve you well to recognize that the thing you’re struggling with is probably a simple, easily fixed and mundane issue. Knowing this may even give you comfort that a solution is possible. You’ll probably approach it with less stress and provide more information to the person charged with helping you. The administrator you’re speaking to about the issue has probably seen it hundreds of times by now and in the rare cases a blockbuster issue does occur, be prepared for a great deal of expended energy to get to the root of that problem.

The experience of supporting users like this varies from helpful to downright difficult. In some rare cases, the IT Consultant is charged with mere babysitting instead of actually supporting a real issue. Are you an Administrator? I’d love to hear your perspective on this idea.