IT should always respect its internal customers, and produce applications that meet their business needs. Nevertheless, there are end user "sand traps" that skilled IT project managers learn to recognize and preempt. These end users can become productivity threats and even risks to IT projects.
Who are these difficult users, what behaviors do they engage in, and how do you manage them? Here's what you need to know.
1: The Perpetual Enhancer
When projects first go live, there is a cleanup period of typically 60-90 days when bugs are uncovered by users and must be resolved by IT. "Analysis paralysis" users don't accept the project is in a bug fixing maintenance mode; instead, they want to further "perfect" the project by introducing new enhancements. This is known as enhancement creep, and it can destroy project accomplishments, as well as the IT manager's ability to control the project. This negatively impacts IT productivity, and it can be bad for business because the end stakeholders are not taking ownership of their system.
Tip: You should pencil in absolute cutover dates for projects and get signed end user agreements to these dates up front.
2: The Non-Participator
Non-participators are so busy with their daily work that they don't devote quality time to review new applications. This is an IT productivity risk at the start of projects, because if the user doesn't come to the table with a list of specific business requirements that he needs from the system before it's purchased or built, IT is in the precarious position of having to figure out something that will work. Sooner or later, this user makes his opinions heard, though it's usually after the system has been implemented, and he's telling IT the system doesn't meet his needs.
Tip: You should demand collaborative leadership for the project up front, and refuse to advance to the next project step until after input and signoff from the user.
3: The Over-Participator
This is typically the frustrated business manager who formerly consulted on PCs when he was in college, and can't resist getting hands-on in IT. He will have suggestions about technology, and may even try to micro-manage.
Tip: You should carefully orchestrate meetings and project events so these users stay on task. Whatever you do, don't be arrogant and disregard their suggestions without listening to them. This may not always be the kind of user help that you need, but sometimes these individuals come up with great ideas.
4: The Poor Communicator
This IT user or non-IT user has critical information for the project but either fails to convey it or explains it very poorly, exposing the IT project team to failure. While there are people who are just poor communicators, most poor communications result from individuals being careless or feeling that, deep down, they aren't in favor of the project.
Tip: You should insist on clear communications and signoffs before moving projects forward.
What other end user types would you add to my list of IT project productivity killers? Let us know in the discussion.
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Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturing company in the semiconductor industry. Mary is a keynote speaker and has more than 1,000 articles, research studies, and technology publications in print.