This is another of those interesting issues I mentioned in my first post, and one that I argued makes our industry unique from an IT perspective. Today, I’d like to discuss some of the issues which surround the support of a large Creative contingent.
While I’d like to keep the discussion centered mostly on the people and work, I do think it is worth mentioning that part of the discussion also relates once again to the PC vs. Mac thing. Since the Creative users are all on the Macintosh platforms, they sometimes perceive that IT support is more geared towards the PC side of the house. Because the size of our company dictates that our IT personnel be “jack-of-all-trades”, we’ve never really had the luxury of hiring pure Mac support specialists. We also haven’t ignored the Mac in our hiring of support personnel. Of the 5 people working for me today, 2 of them came from publishing backgrounds where they actually performed Mac support. We also made a point of sending one of our most recent hires off to the remote office he now supports with a Mac PowerBook under his arm. Even though he wasn’t a Mac guy, the users in that office took it as a very good sign that he was willing and able to support the Mac platform. It took them a while to realize that he was spending a lot of his time on a Vista virtual machine running on Parallels, and in the meantime he actually did learn to support the Macs. Gaining the trust of the Creative users is paramount in supporting them, and actually having Macs on our support people’s desk goes a long ways in building that support. One of the big problems in supporting Macs is finding qualified people. Windows support people are a dime a dozen, and it can be difficult finding good Mac support people who are also willing and able to support the PC.
Another side of this issue which I’ve become more sensitive lately is the perception that IT hates the Mac. I’ll be the first to admit that we have some very entertaining discussions/debates amongst our IT staff regarding the PC vs. Mac battle, but unfortunately some of these debates have spilled over into our discussions with the Creative employees. When I started hearing from Creative that “IT hates the Mac”, I decided it was time to talk to my personnel, and to ask them to be careful what they said. That’s not necessarily an easy thing to ask – it’s a little too much thought control for my liking, but I felt that we needed to be careful about the perception we were creating. The funny thing about this is what the Creative staff isn’t hearing. Those internal IT discussions are just as frequently gripe sessions about Microsoft as they are about Apple, but our Mac users never hear us having those discussions. One of the nice things about having a larger staff of IT people, is that we get an opportunity to discuss these things amongst ourselves. This is one of the things mentioned most frequently when we’ve acquired new offices with existing IT personnel. Typically, these IT people were the only one in their office, and they never had anyone else who truly understood some of the issues we face. Finally being able to discuss some of these things with their peers is a big deal to them.
Obviously there’s more to supporting Creative than just the Mac vs. PC issue. The potential clash between the typical IT personality and the typical Creative personality is probably the single biggest issue, but I’ll leave that one for another day.