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Boost your IT support people instead

There I was sitting on one of the few trains that were running between Uppsala and Stockholm. Normally there are around eight to ten trains an hour, but now there seems to only be one train every hour and a half. We’ve heard about frozen points, trespassers on the line or points and signal failures before, but now another type of fault seem to have become common.

Last autumn, the senior press officer for Swedish Rail (SJ) referred to replacing a system that would result in 300 cancelled departures over the next two (2) weeks. Two months later, there are still extensive interruptions to services but you no longer hear that much about inadequacies in the new personnel planning system at SJ. However, to go by the heated discussion between two conductors I overheard on a platform in Stockholm, the personnel planning problems clearly remain. They are clearly trying to resolve the problems outside the system.

When I reflect on this, it would appear that people are not keen to speak openly about shortcomings in an IT system, because passengers do not have that great an understanding of how important the IT infrastructure is for a service to be able to operate at all. You can accept that an accident has happened, if the pandemic leads to a personnel shortage or purely technical problems, but IT should work without a blemish.

Talking of which. A few years ago, I was on a domestic flight to the north of Sweden. After we had fastened our safety belts, the passengers were informed that we would remain on the runway due to a “computer fault”. The passengers became pretty frustrated, but soon enough the aircraft started to move and take off approached.

A happy pilot explained over the speakers that they had fixed the problem. He said that they had resolved the problem, they had by quite simply pressing ctrl-alt-delete and restarting the whole system and so off we go. Several passengers squirmed in their seats and felt that they would prefer to take another mode of transport, but by then it was too late. I mentioned this incident to a good friend who is a pilot and he simply replied, “how stupid can you be, all you usually have to do is bash the side of the computer a bit and that usually fixes it”.

In principle, IT systems are of crucial importance for all enterprises to be able to work. We expect and take for granted that all systems should work impeccably, but it is only when they don’t work that we become agitated. We don’t take any pleasure in all the IT that works every day to enable our enterprises to function.

I once turned to one of the developers that at the time was trying to ensure everything was working to say what a fantastic job they were doing and how pleased I was with the IT systems that help me with my work and in my free time on a daily basis. He replied that that was the first time throughout his professional career that someone had given him positive feedback.

I would therefore like to make the following request: Tell your IT support people how satisfied you are with the help you get, and with the systems that enable you to do your work every day.