Time-Strapped IT Pros Need Accurate Online Info

As downsizing and outsourcing become increasingly popular options for companies these days, IT professionals are asked to do more in less time.

As a result, they routinely search far and wide to find quick and good-quality troubleshooting help. But according to a recent Safari Books Online study, IT professionals are missing out on the most valuable resource of all: each other.

Fifty-seven percent of the 225 respondents said they spend an hour or less sharing information with new employees during orientation, and 25 percent don’t share at all.

“I think people don’t share with each other because they’re just overwhelmed with everything that they need to get done,” said CJ Rayhill, senior vice president of product management and technology at Safari Books Online. “So trying to support them in ways that they can access information and share insights of that learning with other people — and do that in a mechanism or form that doesn’t take a whole lot of extra time — I think is really the challenge.”

It’s important to maintain “a readied resource and reference for the people [who] need to get twice as much done [as before],” she added.

It’s especially important given that, according to the report, the most common form of research done by IT professionals is online searching, and almost half of these professionals reported the content they found and used in critical projects was inaccurate.

There are numerous business implications for organizations whose workers fall prey to the droves of questionable content online. Respondents’ use of this erroneous information can lead to malfunctioning networks, project delays, increased project costs and even failure of entire projects that then need to be redone. Not only can bad information derail a project, it can cost the company money through lost time.

“When I call up [a help desk] and I have an issue, I expect that someone has a certain level of direct information for me, [or that] at least they’re a librarian [in] the sense that they know where to go and get the information. If they can’t provide the information, those minutes add up,” Rayhill said. “That can be substantial impact to an organization, depending on how many IT-type workers they have and/or what their impact is on the rest of the business-related folks.”

Some IT staffs have found ways to make sure the information they’re referencing is valid. They look at the content owner or publisher on resources they reference and verify whether these materials were peer-reviewed. They also use social networks and various community forums to support and provide answers for one another.

“There is a social networking aspect of things; there certain forums that are more trustworthy and have better-quality participation than others, and you get to know those by participating in communities like the Pearl community or the Java community,” Rayhill said.

Companies are helping, too: Many use intranets to disseminate information about vetted resources, Rayhill said. Others opt to send out weekly newsletters.

Even with these methods in place, the result of the Safari Books Online survey indicate that the struggle continues for high-quality, on-the-job information. Companies and individuals alike must work together to ensure progress is made in finding real-time resources so job tasks can be completed efficiently and correctly.

“The more that we can provide just-in-time resources or material and reference for people, the better off we are,” Rayhill said. “I think that [for] IT professionals in particular — I mean, we’ve all become more of what I’ll call an attention-deficit society — ingesting content and information in really large chunks and long periods of time is beginning to go by the wayside.”

- Mpolakowski, meaganp@certmag.com

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Meagan Polakowski

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