IT Policies

Are your end users getting more tech savvy?

You're used to poking fun (gently, I'm sure) at your end users' screw-ups. But do you ever want to hand out gold stars to some of them? In general, do you see any overall improvement in the computer skills of your users? Take the poll and let us know your perspective on the current state of end-user tech savvy.

IT pros, especially those in user-support roles, get a big kick out of the flubs and generally clueless behavior of their end users. Let's face it -- it's more fun to tell jokes about the dumb things users do than it is to praise superstars. Plus, it's a good way to blow off steam when work is stressing you out. But just to be different, let's consider the opposite issue and give credit where it's due.

Do you have well-placed end users who actually run interference for you by being able to answer their coworkers' questions or troubleshoot simple issues? When a cube denizen declares that his monitor is broken, is there someone you can count on to ask him if it's powered on before he files a help-desk ticket? Or even more rare, do you have an office full of users who you think are generally pretty computer savvy, allowing you more time to attend to the real challenges of keeping the technology hopping?

I think users often exhaust the knowledge of their coworkers before giving up and contacting the help desk. Personally, I always pester my fellow editor Mark Kaelin first (and he can't avoid me -- I mean, he's literally right there!). Poor guy. (See Toni Bowers' recent post.)

So, here's your chance to throw around a little praise for your tech-stars among users, or share a story of when one of them actually stumbled across a solution to something you'd been scratching your head over. Are we going to hear crickets?

Take the poll below and let us know if you've noticed any shift in general computer-savviness on the part of end users over the years (for those of you who've been around awhile, especially). Perhaps the explosion in consumer technologies and gadgets has raised the level of computer smarts? In a related poll that ran recently in the Microsoft Office blog, the results were almost evenly split between IT pros who rated their users as "self-sufficient" and "barely skilled." Interesting.

About

Selena has been at TechRepublic since 2002. She is currently a Senior Editor with a background in technical writing, editing, and research. She edits Data Center, Linux and Open Source, Apple in the Enterprise, The Enterprise Cloud, Web Designer, and...

11 comments
dsteinschneider
dsteinschneider

I deploy technology to small businesses. A small percentage of firms really run with it but most level off at a surprisingly basic stage. Over time the latter slowly improve their capacity to sustain more complex systems if continually prodded. Sometimes the effort hinges on exceptional individuals who are difficult to replace when they leave. When discussing this issue the old saw about how amazing young people are with technology comes up. I'm not seeing that at all, if anything I've noticed decreasing technology aptitude. In these times of high unemployment an interesting statistic is that we have millions of unemployed but also millions of unfilled job openings.

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

They haven't. our 21 year olds and our 65 years olds are both about as "tech savvy". I work in the medical field, so I see just about every kind of people. Some get it, most don't. Doesn't matter about age or length of time using computers.

mhuthwaite
mhuthwaite

I definitely see a trend in end users believing they are more tech saavy. The issue I find is they are becoming tech saavy on home PCs, not corporate IT. Different policies, processes, and configurations apply to the corporate domain, and unfortunately, the end users feel they know better then IT in many instances. Paul passed a comment about the help-less desk. I have heard these same gripes in many organizations, but what end users fail to realize is that the HD must be generic to encompass all levels of users. They start with the basics, and move toward more complex troubleshooting. I often find the "saavy" ones are the first to say I did this or that so let's just skip that step, because "they know best". Those same users don't realize that the command they ran or scan they did never ran because they didn't have administrative rights. So yes, users are becoming more saavy, but instead of making the HD more efficient, they actually make it more difficult for them to their jobs both in how they talk to the agents and in the fixes they tried to apply on their own before calling for support. Here's the best analogy I can give: If you break your arm and go to the Dr. he puts a cast on, the arm heals, you feel better. If months later your arm hurts the same way it did when you broke it, you don't put a cast on yourself, do you? No, you go back to the doctor, and they ask a bunch of questions about what you've done since then, and then they make the right medical decision for you.

GSG
GSG

Most of ours seem to be staying at about the same level. Of course, there are exceptions, and we tend to treat those people very well, but there seems to be a group who are determined to learn as little as they possibly can. These are people who seem to resent the intrusion of technology into their working world, and do everything they can to avoid learning anything about it. You'd think that these would be some of our older nurses, but it moves across all age ranges. We have users tell us that it's too technical to push a power button, yet they seem to be able to load forbidden software, including the virus otherwise known as google tool bar, yet they can't (read, "won't") reboot when we ask them to.

Joe_R
Joe_R

I think user support professionals should (if possible) gauge their approach on how savvy the user may or may not be. And yes, users, in general, are indeed getting more tech-savvy. In such cases, I think it might behoove us to treat them as such. Don't treat users like technological idiots, if they're not, and don't come across as a know-it-all (which nobody really is), and problem solving just might become a case in which two heads are better than one. Sure, there are those who don't have a clue, but we need to recognize the difference. In my experience, however, those people are becoming more the exception and less the rule. As user support professionals, we need to adapt to the changing environment, not the other way around. Besides, this falls in-line with the old axiom about treating people with respect, and the same will be returned to you.

user support
user support

First as an IT Pro, I disagree with your first two sentences. IT pros, especially those in user-support roles, get a big kick out of the flubs and generally clueless behavior of their end users. Let?s face it ? it?s more fun to tell jokes about the dumb things users do than it is to praise superstars. Sure there is some frustration and disappointments in this job but you have to understand that these users have a priority to know their job function first. As an IT pro in my office first level 1 and currently level 2, I have an idea just how much capacity of knowledge my employees can absorb without experiencing information overload. I try to figure out why an employee doesn't understand an issue and re-evaluate the best method to resolve the issue. When I need to blow off steam I can take a walk out of the office to refresh and refocus. During orientation I let employees know that answers to most of their questions can be found on our intranet using our How To Bulletins and signing up for computer based training. Classroom refreshers in Outlook and Word are given occassionally. For IT humor I can look at Dilbert, Office Space or http://www.sysadminday.com/cartoons.html. At least once a day however someone says, "Sorry to bother you, but I have a question about..." And I repeat once a day you are my customer and without you I don't have a job. There are a few young ladies and men that I am aware help out their co-workers with how to do something in Outlook, Word or Excel. I am happy that there are others happy to impart their knowledge on their co-workers. I thank them verbally occasionally because we all need to be acknowledged.

CG IT
CG IT

More often than not, those that improve their tech skills is done so to try and circumvent controls rather than do their job better. Much like the high school kids and others who come to sites like TR and want to know how to get around passwords, file permissions and other controls put in place to secure a network.

mwb78
mwb78

I think that overall the end users are about the same. Even though individual users may (or may not) be growing in their tech skills, there seem to be many roadblocks to "users" in general becoming more competent. As users move to jobs which require different skills, they lose some acquired competencies and may become "novices" again. Changing software can add to that issue. I have also seen many users who are quick to search out new skills and are willing to do what it takes to expand their knowledge. But, as we know, not all users can or will do that. I am a technology trainer and, as was discussed in another TR topic, there is often a leader who imposes their authority on how to use a given piece of software, rightly or wrongly. arg. Additionally, training is not often seen as a value. The managers don't want to invest the time and money. Oftentimes, I see the problem is the users "don't know what they don't know." Attitudes like these do not foster growth in savvy-ness; they only create stagnation, or worse.

csmith.kaze
csmith.kaze

That is almost exactly like our nurses and Doc's. I wish there was a mandatory computer training class at the end of high school and at least one every year in colleges...

maclovin
maclovin

...said it better myself.

Paul R.A.
Paul R.A.

I am the end user, we outsource to india, call it the helpless desk and first and most of second level support for our departments apps are handled by my support team because our IT support is now outsourced to Satyam. It's a pain to be treated like an idiot, then have to teach the person on the other end how everything works. especially when you get into algoritmic transitions that occur in the code. then do it again for the next helpless one