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Looking after end users

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IT end users can make or break a company. Ensuring that they are able to properly carry out their tasks, be it data capture or sharing of information. I refer to end users as “internal customers” and they should be treated as such. Here are some ways of ensuring that everyone can work optimally and happily with IT.

Firstly, one of the areas that is often ignored in most organisations is IT skills building. Many companies insist on the latest hardware, software and communications infrastructures.

Staff are then expected to work faster and more efficiently. Yet, no end user training is provided. Most staff are expected to work with Microsoft Office apps but how many of them are provided with the skills to properly utilise these? Investing in end user skills is a first step in improving efficiencies.

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As IT support, look to build healthy relationships with your end users. Remember that many end users are fascinated by new technology but do not understand it too well. When something goes wrong they are often afraid that they will be personally blamed.

Look to create an environment where they feel they can talk to you freely about the problem they are facing. Often, the problem is not hardware or software related and can be solved by simply correcting an end users understanding of how their “faulty” application works.

Try and understand the business process behind the application – this will provide insight into their work demands. Many users complain that IT does not understand their needs and instead provides them with what they think they should have. Avoid being arrogant or apportioning blame. Every device will at some stage require repair or configuration, this is only normal.

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And yes, many machines will end up being attacked by malware during their lifecycle, often not the fault of the user. Avoid using technology jargon that end users don’t understand. Jargon is frustrating for end users, and strengthens the perception IT support professionals are arrogant and like to talk down to them.

By leaving jargon out of conversations with end users and sticking to the business and the purpose of an app, IT professionals improve their collaborative skills and their ability to forge strong working relationships.

Some IT staff actually use jargon to strengthen their position in the organisation and this approach is often applied to company management. Also known as “technological mystique”, this should never be tolerated in an efficient organisation.

Purposely confusing colleagues is a destructive trend. As a non-technical manager or procurement officer – demand explanations in plain English – from your IT team as well as from IT sales reps.

If you are in the process of upgrading systems or applications, ensure all user are given visibility of what you are doing and why. Provide progress updates regularly so that they are comfortable with what is happening.

When resolving end users’ issues, inform them of what you are doing and why. Most users face work deadlines and downtime affects their efficiency in the organisation. Knowing what is happening enables them to accurately predict the impact of this downtime, and if necessary, look at alternative ways of meeting their targets. Do not leave them in limbo.

Once the remedial work has been carried out, stay with them and allow them to test all their normal day to day IT dependent tasks to their satisfaction. Only then do you sign off the task. Do not forget to follow up and ensure that they are back to working normally.

And of course, we all experience difficult users – those who make excuses. From comments like – “this only started when you worked on my machine” to those who refuse to admit that they tinkered with settings or visited high risk websites.

As an IT professional you will be aware that modern Windows operating systems keep log files of every user activity. A quick check of these will identify any user abuse – pointing this out to users non-aggressively will often defuse a difficult situation and allow you to get on with your tasks.

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