Empowering the Users

It seems that IT staffs are annually given more work to do

than they were the previous year; more new and complex projects to implement

while continuing to support an ever expanding list of yesterday’s systems.  The increase in work appears to be disproportionate

to the increase in new help hired.  Speaking

with friends in IT at other companies I discover the exact same scenario.  This is odd because I also know people

looking for work in IT, but who can’t seem to land a job despite their

substantial efforts.  So what is the

answer to getting more work done with less? 

More systems management utilities and appliances?  Server virtualization?  Robocopying ourselves?  No, I say it’s one word – empowerment.

Give power to the people, or users in this case.  No, I am not inebriated as I write this.  And yes, I’ve witnessed my fair share of dumb

user moments; even contributed on a couple of those occasions.  I’m not saying make your users local

administrators of their workstations and hand them the keys to the server room

so you can play golf.  Page me if I’m

needed, please. 

What I am saying is identify and enlist the help of one or

two power users as you are implementing a new system; preferably two in case

one leaves the company.  You’d be

surprised how helpful a user serving as the system champion and front-line

support person can be.  Many times the

empowered person will end up being the user who stands to benefit the most from

the new system.  It’s in their best

interest for the system to be successful and remain in proper working

condition, and it frees IT staff to concentrate on rolling out new applications

and troubleshooting infrastructure level issues.

What level of empowerment am I suggesting?  I am suggesting that a user serve as pseudo

system administrator for the day-to-day functions such as creating user

accounts within the application, resetting application level passwords, and

running applicable system maintenance tools as needed.  Basically, anything that can be done from

within the application and from the user’s PC should be fair game.  The key is to remove yourself from the daily

operation of the application, and empower a designated user to accomplish these

routine tasks.

Defining role based system access levels is extremely

beneficial.  Many times, applications

will have granular security which is capable of hiding groups of functions not

needed by all users.  This level of

granularity should be managed by someone intimately familiar with the system that

can fulfill user access requests.  Functions

needed for system administration should only be accessible by the power user.  All other access to the system should be

predicated on what they need available to perform their jobs.

Empowered users can serve as front-line support for other end

users, intercepting many requests before they reach your desk in the form of

support incidents.  In the days leading

up to a system go-live event or immediately after, go over documented steps to

resolve common issues and requests.  Is

the user unable to print because the printer is paused or out of paper?  Teach them to fix common problems and it not

only frees some of your time, but it also makes for happier users.  Their issues are resolved quicker because

they won’t need to wait for your schedule to become light enough to help


Empowered users can prove extremely beneficial in

communication.  For instance, I have

found them to be very helpful with relaying system downtime intervals due to

server reboots, patch installations, etc. 

It is much easier to provide pertinent system information to one user

and have them disseminate that information to the other end users.  A power user can also provide details

(sometimes in the form of screenshots) about a reported problem which can prove

beneficial when troubleshooting and working with the vendor.

Empowered users can accomplish many things, but most

importantly they can make your job easier. 

Don’t leave them out of your plans when rolling out that next

system.  And, as always, let me know your

thoughts and experiences related to this topic. 


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