Some IT departments are finding that they can significantly reduce their workloads by training power users to offer a basic level of support to their end-user peers.

In “Understaffed? Start a PowerUsers program,” IT manager Ed Collins described how he set up a program to train power users to help with setting up mail accounts, creating and deleting network maps, adding printers, and a variety of other minor IT tasks that end users commonly need help doing.

The discussion that followed the article examined the pros and cons of delegating support to certain end users, but because they were talking about the support function on a managerial level, we thought Support Republic members might want to get in on the discussion as well.

So the question remains: Should you recruit and train end users to augment your support staff? Read through our short list of pros and cons from the IT Manager debate and then add your two cents at the end of this article.

Some arguments for power-user help
Along with the obvious advantage of saving money by not hiring more help desk staff, the arguments for using trained end users imply that in tight economic times, any help for stressed help desk resources would be welcome.

Some of the other arguments for using power users as support backup were:

  • It would save IT staff time from doing simple and repetitive tasks.
  • Users are better able to talk to their end-user peers.
  • Selected end users would gain helpful experience and insight into support functions.
  • End users would feel empowered to help themselves.

Proponents of the power-user support model call it a win-win-win proposition. Employees would win by learning new skills and would feel good contributing to the organization. The IT staff would win because they would be freed from doing minor tasks and would be happier tackling the more complex and challenging problems. The organization would win because it would save money.

The dissenting view
Of course, not everyone is buying this rosy view of IT support life.

The opposing view goes something like this: In tight economic times, management might grab hold of the program as an excuse not to adequately staff its support department. Why pay for well-paid IT professionals when a few talented and interested amateurs can satisfy the need?

That kind of mentality by management also could indicate that technology is not being properly appreciated and implemented in the organization.

Other potential problems with using power users for support include:

  • End users are too busy doing their main jobs to help with support.
  • Power users that help, but aren’t rewarded for doing so, will eventually stop helping to offer support to their peers.
  • Training power users to help, but then not compensating them, is unfair to the workers.
  • Depending on the rights they are given, power users could mess up the network or even compromise network security if they fiddle with the wrong settings.

Join the debate!

Now it is time to put your opinion into the mix. Do you agree with any of the points raised above? Do you have additional reasons why this is a good or bad idea? Tell us what you think in the discussion below or send us a note.