A Guide to Computer User Support

Chapter 7
User Support Management
Learning Objectives
The mission of a support group
Steps in staffing a support position
Contents of a training program for support staff
How to manage a user support project
Project management software tools
Certification for support professionals
User support professional associations
Code of ethical conduct for support professionals
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Reasons to Study
User Support Management
• Applicants for support positions need to understand the
managerial perspective
Support specialists in small organizations often perform
management tasks
• Project lead or coordinator tasks
• Supervisory or lead worker responsibilities
• User support group management
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Common User Support Management
• Mission statement
• Performance measures
• User support staffing
• Training for user support staff
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Example of a User Support Mission
A mission statement is a list of guiding principles that
communicate support goals and objectives to staff, users, and
The mission of the user support group is to: (a) maximize operational
efficiency among users in an organization by providing timely
resolution to technology use questions and (b) effectively manage
problems to continuously improve the:
quality of support services to users
usability of information systems
effectiveness of documentation and training
users’ satisfaction with support services
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User Support Performance
and Justification
Performance statistics are objective summary information about
the user support or help desk operation
Average response time to incidents (wait time)
Percent of incidents abandoned (abandonment rate)
Average resolution time for incidents
Percentage of problems that could not be resolved
Percentage of closed incidents that had to be reopened
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Use of Performance Statistics
• Most useful when compared across days, days of week,
or months to display trends
Can be used for an entire support organization, a help
desk team, or to compare employees’ performance
Often used to justify the need and budget for support
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User Satisfaction Survey
• User satisfaction survey is a questionnaire to measure
how satisfied users are with support services
• General questions about support services
• Questions about specific support staff members’ performance
• Methods
• Follow-up phone call
• Mailed questionnaire
• E-mailed questionnaire
• Web-based survey
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Justifying User Support
• User support in an organization’s budget may be a
• Cost (or Expense) Center – justification more difficult
• Income (or Revenue) Center – justification easier
• Justifying user support as a cost center
• Performance statistics
• User satisfaction surveys
• Justifying user support as an income center
• Revenue based on support level
• Free support (no income)
• Fee-for-service (pay-as-you-go income)
• Premium support (stable contract income)
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Staffing a Help Desk
• How many help desk staff are needed to meet the
service level demands efficiently?
Erlang is a unit of traffic (such as user calls) in a given
period of time
Erlang calculations are used to estimate the number of
help desk agents required to meet peak demand and offpeak times
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Steps in Recruiting
Help Desk Agents
1. Use mission statement as basis for staff planning
2. Analyze knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs)
3. Write position descriptions
4. Prepare classified ad for open positions
5. Screen applications received for best match with
6. Interview applicants with best combination of KSAs
7. Check employment references of interviewees
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Common KSAs for
Help Desk Agents
• Hardware, operating system and application software
knowledge and experience
Specific technical skills
Network skills and experience
Internet and Web skills
Troubleshooting and problem-solving skills
Communications, listening, writing, and telephone skills
Ability to work as member of a project team
Understand business information systems and business
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Employment Interview Tools
• Knowledge and skills test measures an applicant’s
knowledge and problem-solving abilities
Interview questions about applicant’s educational and
work background and experience
Scenario questions give interviewee representative
problems to solve
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User Support Staff Training
• Staff training for help desk agents includes
• New employee orientation
• Orientation to the company and support organization
• Payroll and job benefit information
• Specific job skill training
• Support group policies and procedures
• Performance appraisal criteria and procedures
• Professional development and career opportunities
• Ongoing training
• Requires scheduled down-time for agents
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Performance Appraisals
for Support Agents
• Performance appraisal is a process to evaluate a
support agent according to established criteria
• Related to support mission statement
• Related to position description
• Related to employee’s professional growth objectives
• Common performance appraisal tools
• Performance statistics
• Monitored calls
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Managing a User Support Project
• Agents primarily perform routine operational tasks
• Special projects are support tasks that do not occur
Characteristics of special projects
• Steps and procedure not well-defined
• Usually take longer to accomplish
• Often more complex than routine support tasks
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Examples of Special Projects
• Develop or update product standards or support policies
• Select and install new hardware or software
• Plan a new training facility
• Upgrade PC hardware, software, or networks
• Select and install a help desk management system
• Develop end-user documentation or training session
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Project Management Steps
• Project management is a step-by-step work plan and
process to reach a specific goal
1. Project definition
2. Project planning
3. Project implementation
4. Project monitoring
5. Project termination
Guide to Computer User Support, 3e
Step One: Project Definition
• Project definition describes the project scope, including
• Goal(s) (objectives, outcomes)
• Tentative calendar (timelines, due dates)
• Tentative budget (estimates)
• Participants
• Project goal is a specific, measurable result that is the
ultimate target or outcome
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Step Two: Project Planning
• Purpose:
• divide a project into tasks
• estimate a time for each task
• identify available resources and costs
• assign resources to tasks
• Project task is a specific action or objective that must
be performed to reach the goal
Project plan is a document that describes project tasks,
resources, timeline, and costs
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Analysis of Project Risk Factors
• Project risk factors are an analysis and assessment of
the problems that can arise during the life of a project
Common risk factors
• Poor initial estimates of schedule, costs, resources
• Unanticipated events
• Illness
• Hardware problems
• Conflicts among participants
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Step Three: Project implementation
• Project implementation is the work on each task or
objective according to the assignments and schedule in
the project plan
Project manager’s responsibility shifts
• from planning to coordination
• to resolving problems and conflicts
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Step Four: Project Monitoring
• Project monitoring assesses the status of all project
• How much work has been completed?
• What work remains to be done?
• Should staff and other resources be reassigned?
• What impact will changes have on completion date and
• Scope creep is the tendency for a project to grow or
change in unexpected ways that increase the time frame,
resources and costs
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Step Five: Project Termination
• Project termination is the final step during which:
• Completion is communicated to stakeholders
• Final report is prepared
• Performance of the project and participants is evaluated
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Project Management Tools
Project management software tools
Gantt chart is a project planning tool that displays basic
information about each project task as a horizontal bar on a graph
Microsoft Office Project Professional 2003
Kidasa Software’s Milestones Simplicity 2002
Predecessor task is an activity that must be completed before
another task can begin
Critical path is the sequence of project tasks that must be
completed on time to meet the project’s completion date
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User Support Certification
Certification is an assessment process to measure and document
employee knowledge and skills
• Individual certification
• Formal education
• Vendor-specific product knowledge
• Industry-standard (vendor-neutral) knowledge
Certification of an entire support group
Based on industry best practices, which are procedures, tools and
methods that successful support groups use
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Examples of End-user
and Help Desk Certifications
• Microsoft MOS covers applications software
Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint
core and expert proficiency levels
• CompTIA A+ covers PC hardware and operating systems
support and troubleshooting
• Chauncy Group ATS covers core IT skills
• Help Desk Institute HDA covers basic help desk skills
• Microsoft MCDST covers desktop support skills including
Windows XP and Office applications
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Benefits of Certification
• Recognized benchmark of minimum-level job skills and
Justification for pay increases
Justification for promotions
Documents efforts to keep up to date in field
Feeling of accomplishment and increased job
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Certification Process
1. Acquire knowledge and skills covered by the
certification exam
2. Evaluate skills by taking a pretest assessment exam
3. Take certification exam
May include preparatory courses to cover steps 1 and 2 above
4. Retake parts of certification test not passed
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Common Ways to Prepare for
Certification Exams
• College and vocational/technical courses targeted to
popular exams
Crash courses are intensive preparatory classes
Time consuming
Sometimes called boot camps
• Online tutorial courses use computer-based (CBT) or
Web-based (WBT) training methods
Self-study courses are self-paced tutorials in a book
Lowest cost
Little help available
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Certification Tests
Traditional fixed-length sequence of questions and problems
Adaptive test is a method used in certification exams that asks
selected questions from a computerized test database that are
graded in difficulty to quickly estimate the test taker’s
Asks fewer questions than traditional test
Takes less time
Reduces testing stress
Reduces boredom from too easy or repetitious questions
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User Support as a Profession
ITAA estimates 2 to 2.5 million user support workers employed in
Professional association is a formal organization that represents
the interests of a group of professionals and provides services to
its membership
Publishes journals, magazines and books
Encourages professional growth of members through seminars, and
Offers training and certification programs
Facilitates membership contacts via e-mail, Web sites, chat rooms,
newsgroups, and local chapters
Encourages members to adhere to code of ethical conduct
Guide to Computer User Support, 3e
Examples of User Support
Professional Associations
Help Desk Institute
Help Desk 2000
Association of Support Professionals
Information Technology Association of America
Service and Support Professionals Association
Network and Systems Professionals Professionals Association
Guide to Computer User Support, 3e
Code of Ethical Conduct
(Information Technology Association of America)
Guide to Computer User Support, 3e
Chapter Summary
A mission statement defines guiding principles and goals of a
support group
Performance statistics and user satisfaction surveys help evaluate
agent and group performance
Support managers prepare a position description and job ad based
on KSAs for open help desk agent positions
Interviews for support positions include general background and
scenario (problem) questions
Training for support agents includes new employee orientation
and ongoing professional development
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Chapter Summary (continued)
Project management steps for special projects
Automated project management tools help prepare Gantt Charts,
participant assignments and budgets
Certification for support professionals includes college degrees,
vendor-specific and industry-standard certification programs
Associations of support workers address the needs of support
Guide to Computer User Support, 3e