IT contact person job description
Rationale and model job description
This is based on a document in "IT Support in Community Legal Centres", a resource developed by the Management Support Project, Community Legal Centres NSW, 1998.
What do we mean by Information Technology (IT)?
Like all organisations, CLCs are heavily reliant on information technology tools such as computers (including the server), email systems (Outlook, BBS), internet (general access as well as your own website), document-writing software (eg Microsoft Word, Excel, MYOB, Filemaker Pro), and so on.
If your centre’s IT tools work well, they can improve your efficiency, workplace morale, and enhance your capacity to serve your client’s needs. If your IT is not working well this can cause higher costs, bad-tempered staff, and serious losses of critical information.
Why does your centre need an IT contact role?
Every centre needs someone on staff who is responsible for ensuring IT tools are working smoothly, and IT resources are being managed well.
The role of the IT contact person is to:
- Know what is going on with IT in the centre
- Decide when IT support work is needed
- Bring in appropriate external IT support providers
- Monitor the success of the IT support
- Encourage the centre to effectively budget and plan for IT.
The current 3 skill levels of people doing the IT contact role
There are three skill levels in CLC staff who are asked to perform the IT Contact role.
1. Trained expert
Some larger centres, or the larger auspice bodies of small centres, decide to employ a person (usually part-time) with extensive IT knowledge. Even these experts will probably from time-to-time bring in other external IT support providers, eg to do cabling, design a website.
Note: expert in-house IT staff often do not attend to system documentation tasks, so it is a good idea to buddy the IT expert with another staff member who writes up procedures and policies – these are crucial in case the IT person is away, sick, or leaves.
2. Limited IT experience
Other centres decide to allocate IT responsibility to designated staff positions (eg the administrator); or to existing staff members with some IT experience, perhaps self-taught; or to someone who has some confidence or interest working with IT (we call these “young people” - just joking…).
People with limited IT experience work in close collaboration with external IT support people. The internal staff member performs a simple troubleshooting role (often trained up by the external expert), looks after routine operation of all installed services, and writes up documentation. This staff member keeps track of passwords, keychains and other information. They also monitor the quality of the provision of external support.
3. No particular IT skills at all
Some centres have no staff with IT knowledge or confidence, and so the centre administrator or coordinator have to deal with IT issues as part of their general management duties. Centres in this situation are heavily reliant on an external IT support provider – the first port of call for any IT problem is the external service provider.
What is the best model for an IT contact person?
You can probably tell that we lean heavily in favour of role #2 above. Well, actually, we think all centres should be so well funded they can employ a part-time IT expert, but we know this won’t happen. On the other hand, failing to have a staff member with at least some IT know-how can lead to long-term high costs and inefficiencies.
One of the objectives of the NACLC Pilot Advisory Service is to encourage centres to think clearly about their IT needs and see if they can reduce IT costs. One way to do this is to invest in training or supporting an internal staff member in the IT Contact Person role.
A well-trained IT contact person position offers the centre:
- Better reliability and satisfaction with the network
- More efficiency
- Less stress and complaints due to fewer crises
- Reduced risk of loss of important data
- Long term lower support costs (including cost of disasters and crises)
- A chance to stay ahead in the IT game – e.g. by investigating new technologies (social networking, videoconferencing, VOIP, free software, syncing phone and PC organisers, new databases, survey tools).
Draft job description – IT Contact Person
Note – this job description can be incorporated into the job description of an existing staff member, with amendments to suit the incumbent’s skill level. Alternatively the job description can become part of an existing vacant role, for example; Administrator or Administrative Assistant.
Responsible to: Coordinator/Director
Supervises: work of external IT support providers
Workload: X hours per week, separate from other tasks.
- respond to staff requests for assistance, assess seriousness of the problem, identify if it can be fixed in-house or if it needs external technical support assistance
- keep a report of events including tech support callouts, what the problem was, what they did, what changes, whether it worked (see simple template)
Maintenance and development:
- document existing computer and network systems, register software, maintain passwords/keychains etc (see simple template)
- develop a computer system maintenance and development plan and budget agreed to by the centre (see simple template)
- support external support providers doing maintenance and troubleshooting
- review external support provision to maximise costs and efficiency
- some experience with IT, or confidence / interest in computers / IT
- willingness to learn and develop new skills
- ability to articulate symptoms of technical problems, and the desired result
- awareness of own IT limitations and willingness to call in external help when required.