An Autocratic Approach to User Support Will Fail

Turn end-user services departments from reactive technology troubleshooters to business process improvers.

A few weeks back I was talking with one of the pioneers in the outsourcing industry. He told me a story that demonstrates how far both end-user technology and IT management have come. Forty years ago, he said, he wrote a contract for IT support on his manual typewriter. The contract was all of six pages long. This simple document drafted on low-tech equipment outlined a relationship that was renewed time and again for 25 years.

If you fast-forward to 2007 and consider the level of complexity most CIOs face in selecting, managing and supporting information technology for their prime clients—the employees—it’s almost enough to make you yearn for the days of Underwoods and six-page scope documents.

USERS

For more about user relations and shadow IT, read Time to Rethink Your Relationship with End Users and Users Who Know Too Much and the CIOs Who Fear Them.

Ever since the PC ushered in the era of decentralized computing and its attendant complexity, many IT organizations have taken it on the chin for their perceived lack of responsiveness to user needs. In some cases, the knock against IT was deserved: The IT support function simply was not staffed by enough people with the appropriate skills to meet the expanding needs of employees as technology increasingly became an integral part of their jobs.

This trend has only accelerated in the last few years. In a recently conducted study of 243 North American organizations, Unisys found that soaring technology complexities have made it difficult for even the best companies to provide highly efficient and effective employee IT support services. Today, services groups support far more people whose jobs depend on technology devices, many more devices per person, more software applications on those devices, and more servers from which users obtain information and email access—all while having to deal with many more hardware and software vendors than last year, let alone 40 years ago.

Even when a company standardizes its hardware and software—such as requiring hundreds of salespeople to use the same laptop and applications—over time the software “image” will vary significantly from machine to machine as users load other applications they need. And when the software varies, it creates challenges and wastes time for the support staff.

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