IT Firefighting

Your IT staff wears a lot of hats in your firm. Not only do they take care of everything that has a cord with a plug on the end, they have to constantly juggle priorities. One user’s “emergency” is not necessarily priority. The inability of a user to find the ANY key is not quite as priority as smoke pouring out of another user’s power supply. Of course, most end users want their problem fixed first and think that no other problems exist but theirs. It is a constant battle that always leaves some users unhappy.

One thing is certain, there is always plenty of work to do in the IT department of a CPA firm. That is both good and bad. The bad comes into play due to the nature of work that is out there – proactive vs. reactive. What usually suffers in this scenario is the proactive work. The proactive type includes: preventative maintenance, scanning log files, documenting break/fix issues, making sure you have backup hardware at the ready, etc. The reactive stuff, as you can imagine….”My printer won’t print!” (even though there is another perfectly good one just around the corner) “I forgot my password!” or “I think I have a virus!” These items will always be there, just as there will always need to be someone at the firm to deal with them. Even with the onset of cloud computing, most firms will still need the hands and feet of an IT type person at their firm.

Sometimes I think it would make a good reality show to follow IT people around their firm because there is something new each and every day. I quickly come back to reality when I realize that no one would watch the show – especially IT people who usually don’t want to think about work when they get home and eat their TV dinner at night (then get back on their computer).

How do you spend more time on the proactive side? In my experience, there is no substitute for discipline in this area. You simply have to devote time each and every day toward the proactive nature of the position. If not, days become weeks and weeks become months and you’ll just get further in the hole. Unless human cloning becomes a more viable option, I don’t see any other possibilities. If you know a better way, let me know!

Keep putting out the fires, but take time to install some more smoke alarms and add a few more extinguishers. It also helps to drive a red fire truck.

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Jim Fahey is COO of Apple Growth Partners, a regional CPA firm in Ohio. His focus is on the effective and efficient use of technology within the firm by all team members.  He is also in charge of talent management and retention at his firm.  A background of IT and Human Resources helps Jim bridge the gap of technology complexities with end users who just want their computer to work so they can be chargeable.  Being a very cheap (frugal sounds better) person himself, he is always looking for ways to save dollars at his firm.  He is Director of Education for the Association for Accounting Administration and past Technology Committee member of the Ohio Society of CPA's.  He often leads industry CPE events on the topics of Information Technology, CPA firm practice management and human resources/recruiting. Find out more about Jim on LinkedIn.

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