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We have a few challenging "power users" who know enough to be dangerous, but not enough to know the trouble they cause. The typical example is "this is slow, see I have run xyz command that proves it...", which leads to IT spending cycles proving the system(s) are behaving normally. A classic example is seeing an NFS slow warning, which is often misunderstood to be a problem.

How do you handle these users? Have you found a way to redirect their unhelpful habits into something useful?

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7 Answers 7

Depending on your size of organization, you can establish a set of "Key Users" in the user population. These users have the responsibility of aggregating and prioritizing change requests for a particular application or function.

They represent The Users, a key IT stakeholder, in business discussions about allocating IT resources. Most likely, Management and The IT Organization are already represented in these discussions, but The Users are not directly represented.

In the process of aggregating userbase input into the IT business decisions, these individuals become seen as local experts and go-to people in their parts of the organization. They are explicitly aggregators of issue reports and serve both to focus problem reports into IT as well as to disseminate information from IT.

The benefit for the organization is that a key stakeholder gets an explicit voice in IT related business decisions. The benefit for the IT group is that they have fewer points of contact that need to be actively managed. The benefit for management is that the organization is communicating more effectively.

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I agree, communication make all the difference in the world. –  notandy Jun 2 '09 at 21:24
    
Most of the time these users are easily turn around to be useful to you with little effort. Let them run the commands and feed you info. –  Thomas Denton Jun 2 '09 at 22:26
  • Work with yours and theirs management to accomplish the heavy-lifting.

  • Be friendly, courteous and polite. You'd be surprised how many users are working off of a preconceived notion of what IT is like. (Think SNL skits and `The IT Crowd'.)

  • Instead of answering requests with a generic 'Hell no!', try to have an alternate solution handy for them. If the answer is a complete 'No', ("Can I turn off the firewall?", "Can I have a Mac?", etc.) Then give a good rationalization of why.

  • Find out what they're trying to do, help them accomplish it within YOUR means.

  • I agree with the guy up there that says, "Educate!" I agree. You'll appear more friendly and open to working with them.

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Give them enough rope and they'll hang themselves.

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It's a feature not a bug!

Treat them as features, not bugs.

Since you're probably going to be giving them verbose answers ... put those answers somewhere on your IT website, for re-use next time the question is asked. (You do have some sort of knowledgebase or FAQ, right?) This kind of user can help you hone and shape those answers for completeness and readability.

Many users of this type really do just want to get the best possible use out of their computer. But of course some of them do have other motivations. The goldbrickers, the IT-haters, the otherwise disaffected. In these cases, you'll probably want to get management involved - both yours and theirs. At some point, this user's manager will probably be concerned that her employee is spending more time yanking IT's chain than doing his own job.

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Instead of making them part of the problem, make them part of the solution. Give them the tools, access and knowledge to help diagnose and fix issues. We are a small company with only a couple of dedicated IT guys, but we have several "backup" admins. They help with certain issues and can take some of the load off the the IT guys. For example they can reset peoples accounts when they get locked out for entering bad passwords three times. We don't let them see the passwords, but just to reset the account.

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Best way to handle such users is by educating them. Organize a meeting between these "techies" and your IT administration so they can exchange knowledge. It can be educational for your users but also for your administrators. More importantly, keep them motivated to do their own jobs as best as they can, and if they seem to want to help the administrators, ask them about their current status and if their own projects are finished already. If their jobs are done, great! Let them help. If not, ask them why they're not focusing on their own jobs first.

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Honestly, at first I've read it as "challenged" and, of course, thought: whats so special about that? :P

As for the real question, the best course of action would be to somehow make their efforts help you. From my experience, you could regard a nosy, enquiring power-user as a nuisance. Why? You are, basically, getting a free tester for your infrastructure. If he reports something that worries him to you, thats all the better, - if he's wrong, so be it, if he is right, well, time to fix it then! At least that is what I tell myself when I am in such a situation.

For example, there was that one time when a certain user pointed out to me a few mis-handled forms on the corporate intranet website. I've fixed them, thanked the user and told him not to hesitate to report to me anything suspicious. What's so bad in that?

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