Enterprise Software

Keep users in mind when closing a shop

It's easy to overlook the needs of users when you're closing an IT shop. But you may experience user backlash and training issues if you do. In this article, TechRepublic members offer their advice on how to wean users off of your support.


In charge of closing a shop or think you will be soon? If so, don’t neglect the needs of the organization’s users while planning other closing duties like equipment disposal or helping ex-employees find jobs.

You will need to train users to complete both mundane and specialized IT tasks before their regular IT support ends. You should also plan for negative reactions from your users. To help you prepare, we asked two TechRepublic members to share their own tips for ending user support.

It’s not your fault
Users may place the blame for ending IT support directly on you and the IT staff. Of course, this is far from the truth since IT managers who close down shops ultimately shut themselves out of their job.

Users should know that the blame travels up to executive management. “The user base must understand that management, not the IS staff, made the decision to shut down support,” said TechRepublic member Susan E. Howey.

You will fight an uphill battle if executive management does not communicate to the organization that they axed the IT shop. If this lack of communication occurs, you need to reassure users that you did not decide to shut down your division. However, don’t be openly hostile to upper management and make yourself look like a disgruntled employee during your last days on the job.

Instead, when working with users, briefly mention which department made the closing decision or which executive management is working with you on the close. This should be enough to politely let users know that closing the shop was not your call.

Prepare for backlash
You should also expect false emergencies or an increase in calls for routine assignments, according to Howey.

“Users might think that if they have too many problems, they’ll get to keep their IT staff,” she said. “This attitude works against training users and (their) acceptance of change,” she continued.

Users should know that the regular level of support is ending and that there is no turning back. Reassure them that closing a shop won’t happen overnight, especially if the organization will operate after the IT support is phased out.

“I have never heard of an IT division that simply turned out the lights and walked out the door in one step,” said TechRepublic member Jorge Grillo, who closed a shop because of downsizing. “The dismemberment of services [is] a phased-out activity ranging from three months to over a year.”

Let users know that transition periods are difficult but that there will be time to adjust.

Still, weaning users from your support will not be easy. Grillo suggested you try taking a vacation during the transition to provide a glimpse of the future. This may help gain users’ cooperation, he added.

More shutdown advice
Read “Closing shop: Create a plan now, before you need it” for more closing advice from TechRepublic members.

Document for the future
Most likely, you and your staff will be required to train users on everyday tasks, such as changing toner in the copier and running specialized reports. But training users is not enough. They will need your support even after you’re gone. The best way to help users after a close is with documentation.

Document every process your shop completes for future reference. Documenting tasks before you become wrapped up in shutdown activities has to be a priority. It is easy to let the commotion of pre-shutdown plans cover up the documentation process, said Howey.

“Carefully track your every move starting now,” Howey said.

Be open with users
Finally, striving to keep users in the loop will foster cooperation between end users and the IT staff. Keep your in-house customers informed about shutdown processes and always tell them when each IT service is scheduled to shut down.

“It is imperative to list all services your division provides and when those services are scheduled for shutdown,” said Grillo.

Grillo also suggested that managers tell users which IT staff members are leaving the company before they actually leave. Being honest with users will reflect positively on your abilities as a manager and it may be the difference between a strong or a haphazard close.

What’s your plan?
What steps would you take if charged with closing your IT operation? Let us know by posting a comment below or sending us an e-mail.

 

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