The benefits and pitfalls of working with Super-users

Over time, IT organisations have developed reflexive procedures for engineering productivity improvements within specific functional groups such as accounting, manufacturing, logistics and customer support.

IT maintains a small but highly specialised corps of Business Systems Analysts (BSAs) who work directly with client groups to understand their needs and challenges.

BSAs routinely establish formal business requirements or technical specifications for individual IT projects.

BSAs also work with their client groups in facilitating user acceptance testing of new applications before they are put into production.

BSAs' interactions with their client groups are frequently funnelled through a small handful of super-users who represent the needs of their departmental colleagues.

Under these circumstances, BSAs have relatively limited exposure to the majority of employees that are actually using IT applications.

The current frustrations and future needs of these employees are being summarised by the super-users.

Super-users emerge within almost every functional department for a number of reasons.

- The majority of employees don't have the time, interest or energy to deal directly with IT
- They have tried to work with IT in the past but became frustrated with IT's shifting priorities, chronic resource limitations and cumbersome procedures for funding new ideas
- There are frustrated technologists within each department who harbour a deep personal interest in IT and actually enjoy thinking and talking about IT issues and opportunities.

These individuals typically possess the greatest proficiency in the applications that have been deployed within their department.

It's no surprise that these super-users derive a great sense of personal satisfaction from their ongoing interactions with members of the IT team.

Whatever the motivation behind the emergence of super-users, most BSAs find themselves collaborating or taking orders from these individuals the majority of the time.

Although most super-users undoubtedly have the purest of motives in trying to improve the productivity of their department, they inevitably focus on technology enhancements or acquisitions that would improve their personal productivity or that of other, like-minded super-users.

Put another way, super-users rarely focus on improving the productivity of colleagues who are only 50 per cent proficient in the use of current systems.

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