Nov 01 2006

Eliminate the Technology 'Get It' Gap

What is simple to one individual may appear complex and overwhelming to another.

Most end users are more concerned about completing a pressing task than understanding the basics of how to use an application. They prefer to plow through, asking questions of the information technology staff only after their application crashes. But can we narrow the gap between employees who don’t really “get” technology applications and the power users who know how to get the most mileage out of them?

Tech Tutorials. Even if your company doesn’t have the resources to sponsor formal tech training on key applications used by your business, that doesn’t mean IT can’t host periodic tutorials on applications that frequently crash. Raylene Renfrow, who runs Software Solutions Pro in Marquez, Texas, suggests keeping these tutorials simple and focused. The goal of IT personnel should be to eliminate the problem by coming to the user’s level, not the other way around, Renfrow advises.

Unlike typical end-user application training, focus on application maintenance and usage, as opposed to application functions. For example, a Microsoft Office tutorial could cover different aspects of running Microsoft Office efficiently, not performing a data sort in Excel. Explain the tradeoffs to running several apps simultaneously or how to properly delete files to free up disk space.

Shortcuts and Mapping. Some IT professionals dispute whether creating shortcuts and mapping drives are good ideas. Take Paul Aceves, a senior systems engineer in Texas. Aceves prefers to teach end users how to find network files and drives themselves, as opposed to creating shortcuts and maps that will speed end users to their final destination.

“Give a hungry end user a fish and they will eat for a day,” Aceves says. “But teach them to find drives on their own and they’ll learn basic skills that they can use for a lifetime.” Shortcuts and mapped drives make it easier for end users to get to certain network folders and apps without having to call the help desk. Most apps contain a set of predefined destination folders under which you can create shortcuts and subfolders.

Weekly Tech Tips. When IT notices a pattern of problems, share how to address that concern with the company. Send out these tips on a regular basis to keep end users up-to-date via an e-mail. To create your tech tips, copy a short article or create your own synopsis. Keyboard shortcuts and how to create macros are simple to communicate and offer time savings for your end users, building their confidence to tackle more complex problems. If the tip relates to a critical issue, request a response back from department heads that the communication has been shared with their teams.

Vertical Teams. Create a “Vertical Team” within the company to flatten the learning curve. A vertical team consists of members from every department, including IT personnel, where information can be exchanged freely and openly in a neutral environment on a consistent basis. The goal is to address current problems among users relating to technology within the business.

IT takeaway
Technology prowess comes easy to some but is harder for others. If formal tech training isn’t in the company budget, enlist IT to help get your staff up to speed.

• Encourage IT personnel to come to the level of the user and explain problems in a manner the user will understand.
• Tap help-desk logs, end-user suggestions and other problem indicators to determine the topics for your tech tutorials.
• Utilize predefined destination folders under which you can create shortcuts and subfolders for end users. Most applications contain a set.