Super Users to the Rescue!

You may not know it, but the first line of support in IT is not the help desk or Service Desk.  Instead it is a special group of users in your organization who have taken it upon themselves to help their fellow coworkers.  In ITIL, these special people have been given a formal designation - Super User.

Who are these Super Users and what have they been doing behind your back?  Let's take a look at what a super user is, and how they can help you out.

Identifying Super Users

Unfortunately, super users don't come to work in spandex and a red S on their shirt for casual Fridays, so it may not be clear who in your organization fits this designation. Let's start by looking at what a super user is not. They are not someone who has root or admin privileges on your systems (i.e. the traditional definition of superuser.)  They are not members of your IT staff. They are not usually an executive or senior level manager (these people do not have the time and/or are not "in the trenches.")

Instead, super users are individuals that use your line of business applications on a daily basis. They tend to be the early adopters of new features or new services offered by IT.  They have a propensity to help those around them when they have problems and are willing to share their knowledge. These individuals generally have a good relationship with IT and can work around communication barriers.

Counter-intuitively, they may submit a higher percentage of service requests; however, their requests will be well thought-out with helpful information to IT. Why do they submit more requests? Because they tend to act as a channel between their coworkers and IT, and additionaly, they understand when problems should be raised instead of ignored.

Consequently, super users can frequently be identified through the service desk as that their communication channel in to IT. Also, service owners can help locate super users as the super user may be the one driving the direction of the service and provide the most useful feedback to the owner.

Putting Super Users to Work

Taking the time to identify super users for your various services or functional areas can be very helpful in the long run if they are put to use in the right way.  Without any interference from IT, these people are already lessening the burden on your support staff and providing informal training to other users. So, how can you reap even more benefits from super users?

Here are four ways I think you can help them to help you:
  1. Training - Provide additional and more in-depth training to super users then normal users.  Not only can they absorb this extra information but they also have good ways to put it to use.
  2. Solicit Feedback - Yes, your super users may already be providing more feedback through the service desk or service owner than your average user, but if you seek them out with specific questions or requests, you may find a wealth of useful information.
  3. Pilot Groups - Super users make excellent additions to those user teams who test out new features or services. You can expect good feedback, especially from someone who can bridge the IT communication gap.
  4. Access - No, not Microsoft Access.  I'm talking about access to your systems.  Consider whether it may be appropriate to provide additional access to super users.  Maybe provide them with some basic tools to help troubleshoot problems or even resolve some simple issues.  For example, some organizations will provide super users with rights to unlock accounts or reset passwords of their coworkers, or give them special access to logs or debug information.
Whether you utilize them or not, there are super users operating in your organization. By taking the time to find and foster them, you can greatly improve the service your IT department provides to users.