Chapter 7: Knowing How to Support and Maintain Your Technology Solution|
Your organization should have a long term plan for providing timely and useful help to users.
How do you plan for providing ongoing user support?
It is critical to determine the type of support and training that your organization will need. Trial and error can be a frustrating, costly and dangerous way to learn how to use computer applications initially, or to refresh users' memory (human memory, not computer memory) after their initial training. That's why it is essential to have planned activities to help and support users when new technology is implemented.
Support services, training, and certification must be ongoing to ensure successful post-implementation use of technology. As time passes, personnel change, organizational needs change, and the ways in which the technology is being used may change as well. Any and all of these changes must be taken into account when planning for ongoing system support.
For successful implementation and operation of computer technology, there must be full support and encouragement at all levels of the organization. Help and support services provide users with ongoing technical assistance. This includes both technical questions and application questions. The organization must have a plan for providing timely and useful help to system users, either via available staff or through arrangements with vendors and consultants.
The most common means of providing user support is to create and staff a bank of telephones (or at least one phone) with people who are willing and capable of patiently and constructively answering users' questions. Today, most Help Desks in networked organizations also offer assistance using electronic mail, fax and telephones. In large organizations, such as universities, Help Desks may be available 24 hours a day. For most education organizations, however, it should be sufficient to have someone running the Help Desk for only part of the day, with the number of hours depending on how many users there are and how many questions are being asked. Likewise, it may be sufficient simply to have someone check voice mail or e-mail twice a day to see if any questions have been forwarded.
When staffing a Help Desk, keep in mind that the person or people who work at a Help Desk must be able to demonstrate extreme empathy and patience, and they must be very detail oriented. Each caller's problem must be treated diligently, even if it's the hundredth instance of the same question or problem being reported. Some schools use students to run the Help Desk. If you decide to use students, you should have a staff member train, supervise and evaluate the service provided by the students.
In addition to solving users' problems on a day-to-day basis, a Help Desk's value is in documenting trends and patterns concerning the use of an application or equipment. It is important to track Help calls and responses. One effective way of doing so is by using a software package that generates reports like 'most frequent queries' or 'call distributions' (i.e., the distribution of callers who have the same problem). This information can be used when tailoring training to users' needs and developing new training materials. Many users will find it helpful if frequently asked questions (FAQs) and their answers are printed in a newsletter or made available via your network.
Providing Ongoing Training After the initial training has been delivered on your computer technology, the issue of ongoing training for new users and refresher training for experienced users arises. As mentioned before, many organizations fail to budget adequately for training after the initial implementation phase. In addition to the cost of providing the training, organizations must plan to: