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infrastructure

Preparation for unscheduled IT support staff absences

As the Omicron variant of Covid-19 threatens to reduce staff availability due to self-isolating, it’s worth preparing for the possibility that a key member of the IT team is suddenly unable to come to work causing operational disruption.

Talk to your HR department

It may be that individuals who are self-isolating but who have no obvious symptoms may still be available on call to field support questions etc. in a ‘working from home’ arrangement, while this may not be appropriate for those whose symptoms have developed. Having a discussion with your HR department in advance on how this potential situation could be managed would be helpful. In any case some thought on how to manage remote workers concurrently with on campus staff may prove useful.

Documentation

Talk to your team and identify critical workflows and the staff who normally processes them.

Where possible, ask your team to write down exactly what the process is, what needs to be done and how. Possibly in the form of an easy to follow, step by step crib sheet. In this way someone else less familiar with the process could temporarily fill in during the absence.

Example workflows which may be worth consideration:

  • Data backup procedure
  • User account creation
  • Change password process
  • How to log a support call to the help desk system
  • Orderly process for shutting down/starting up systems and servers.

Of course, this cannot cover all eventualities or complex procedures, but it may alleviate some of the more everyday tasks that are often taken for granted, but which the potential to cause significant disruption if uncompleted.

Alerts and notifications

Have daily systems checks and prepare alerts of critical services ready to send out about any service that’s at risk or unavailable prior to users trying to access them. Perhaps make use of bulk SMS text messaging services such at Janet txt to notify service issues where staff/students are at remote locations or at home.

IT team capacity assessment tool

Based on the Jisc IT team skills assessment tool, we have produced a capacity assessment tool which has been simplified to cover the essential day-to-day activities of an IT department. It is designed to determine which members of staff can undertake tasks in a specific area, rather than their skill level.

While the IT team skills assessment is intended to be completed as a collaborative team exercise, the capacity assessment can be completed quickly by IT managers to assess where key person dependencies lie and where activities cannot be undertaken remotely to help mitigate against staff absences or staff unable to work onsite.

The tool is Excel based and is available for download here.

Further material

Member story: delivering college IT services remotely

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