We put the IT in city®

CitySmart Blog

Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Nathan Eisner, COO
Nathan Eisner

Do you remember reading those Choose Your Own Adventure books when you were younger (or seeing your kids read them)? You may know that, in those books, the reader can choose between different storylines based on their decisions. Many stories and many endings that all start from the same beginning.

In the spirit of those books, we’d like to do our own IT support “adventure” where you get to see two different paths depending on the choice you pick. So let’s start with a scenario…

The Story Begins

Your city is experiencing a typical Tuesday when, suddenly, a server begins acting up. It’s freezing and slowing to a crawl—to the point where your finance department employees cannot process payroll data or do much else. After trying to reset the server yourself and getting nowhere, you decide it’s time to call your IT helpdesk.

If you work with an “as needed” reactive IT support resource, go immediately below.

If you work with a proactive IT support resource experienced with municipalities, go to the bottom of this article.

Reactive IT Support Storyline

You call your “as needed” reactive IT support resource at noon on Tuesday and leave a voicemail. You also send an email for good measure. When you don’t hear back all day, you tell yourself, “That’s okay. It’s only a two-person shop, but they’re local. They’ll eventually respond.”

The next morning, you call again. Finally, late Wednesday morning, one of the two IT support employees (a junior-level person working for the owner) gives you a call back. He apologizes because they were both onsite at a business yesterday solving some problem. The junior-level person asks you what’s wrong, and you repeat what you explained on your voicemail and email. He asks you if you rebooted your server. “Yes,” you say, growing a little frustrated.

Over the phone, the junior-level person has no idea what problem you’re experiencing and needs to talk to the owner. Getting back to you later that afternoon, the owner calls you back and asks you what problem you’re experiencing. Frustrated that you’re explaining it again, you ask if he can fix it. He says he needs to schedule an appointment for Thursday morning. “Thank you,” you say. “Payroll really needs to go out this week.”

The appointment is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday. You wait. And wait. And wait. The owner shows up at 11:30 a.m., just as you and some employees were about to head out for a long-planned lunch. For four hours, the owner fiddles around with the server. You check in every now and then, asking if he’s found anything wrong. You hear technical jargon and go back to your office.

Four hours later, the server is working. “Thank goodness,” you say. The owner says a few things that you don’t understand and says it should work fine. For four business days, it does work fine—enough for you to do payroll for that week, barely.

On Tuesday of the following week, the server starts freezing and slowing down again.

If you work with an “as needed” reactive IT support resource, repeat what you just read above.

See the problem of choosing this path? It’s like a loop, or like the movie Groundhog Day. Problems are not resolved, or not resolved quickly.

Before we show you the alternate storyline, we want to share some aspects of IT support that will help you assess your current resource.

1. Initial responsiveness

How quickly does your IT support resource respond to you by phone or email? That initial responsiveness is crucial because city operations often rely heavily on IT systems.

2. Problem diagnosis

When you communicate with your IT support resource, are they good at diagnosing problems? Do they have a good process and tools to troubleshoot problems? Are you talking to senior engineers with lots of municipal experience? Or are you finding yourself talking to a junior-level person reading from a script and in over their head?

3. Remote IT support

Onsite visits can grow expensive, and many IT problems can be solved remotely (such as giving an engineer remote access to a computer to directly fix a problem). Is your IT support helpdesk trying to solve problems remotely first before scheduling onsite visits?

4. Timely onsite visits

If an onsite visit is required, does an engineer show up within hours or a day—and do they show up on time for their appointment? During their visit, do they communicate to you clearly and without jargon about the nature of the problem?

5. 24/7 access

Does your IT support resource support you beyond a 9 to 5 timeframe? For public safety departments or city council meetings, can you call your IT helpdesk any time of day if you have an issue?

So, let’s see how the second storyline plays out…

You call your proactive IT support resource at noon on Tuesday. A senior IT engineer immediately answers. After explaining the server problem to her, she does some diagnostic tests over the phone and points out that the server—more than eight years old—really needs replacing and will not get any better. It’s been showing end-of-life signs for a long time, and she reminds you that these warnings have been shared with you for a while.

You agree that it’s finally time for a new server. During the time that a new server is ordered and shipped to your city, the proactive IT support resource helps you temporarily switch over to your onsite backup server so that payroll can continue working uninterrupted. The IT engineer will monitor the server order and send a senior engineer onsite on the day the server arrives so that it’s deployed immediately.

One week later, the new server arrives and the senior engineer shows up on time for the appointment. She installs and deploys the new server, returns the other server to backup mode, and communicates to you clearly about what she did. From that point forward your new server runs smoothly, without any of the freezing or slowing down, because your proactive IT support resource addressed the root cause of the problem.


If you’d like to choose the path of proactive IT support over reactive IT support, reach out to us today.