The benefits and pitfalls of working with Super-users

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This assertion can be tested by having members of IT's application development and maintenance teams visit their clients on a periodic basis.

During these visits, application team members should sit deskside with their end users and watch the ways in which existing IT systems are actually being employed.

Based upon personal experience, I'll predict that these exercises will uncover a list of frustrations, needs and recommendations that is quite different from the enhancement list developed by the departmental super-user.

Super-users will frequently object to such an exercise as a complete waste of time, since they have already determined IT initiatives need to be undertaken by themselves.

I'm not suggesting that the role of the super-user needs to be abandoned or discontinued.

A professional and competent super-user is a key asset for any IT group. These individuals have operational, technical, organisational and political insights that IT could never develop or maintain on its own.

Their knowledge, intuition and personal networks are invaluable in planning and implementing any IT initiative.

I'm simply suggesting that their greatest strength is also their greatest weakness. Their in-depth proficiency in the applications employed by their department tends to bias their perspective towards enhancements that will boost their productivity and the productivity of like-minded co-workers.

IT needs to periodically break the symbiosis that develops between BSAs and super-users by spending time with the employees using IT-supported applications.

Ongoing support and enhancement activities, in particular, should be periodically vetted against real-world, deskside observations of how end users are employing existing applications to perform their jobs.

Deskside observations of application utilisation will inevitably lead to another, quite discouraging, conclusion.

Application support teams will rapidly discover that their users, both individually and in aggregate, are employing a very small portion of the functionality that they (IT) have delivered in the past.

One of the principal recommendations that will inevitably emerge from any series of deskside observations is that we need to spend a lot more time training employees on the functionality they already have before embarking on initiatives to deliver the next batch of enhancements or extensions.

Mark Settle is CIO at BMC Software and a former CIO for Visa International

Pic: JMR Photographycc2.0

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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