The Superuser

The Superuser

System implementations invariably involve one hugely important component: the superuser. They are critical because the staff, or users, they train can quite literally, make or break a new application. For an implementation to be successful, besides delivered on time, on budget and to spec, it must ensure the users who will be using the new system are trained properly.
Superuser (see a definition here) and train the trainer (see a definition here) are frequently-used buzzwords in the realm of software implementation projects, and rightly so. These approaches can be enormously valuable in enabling a smooth transition to the new system. In essence, project teams teach and equip normal employees to become quasi-service desk staff and trainers. These users can then pass on the training that they have received directly from the project team to their colleagues. These people, who are usually the first cohort of users to complete the training, may be designated as superusers. Once live, staff are to use them as a first point of contact for help, before contacting the service desk. The benefits of training the new users to become trainers themselves are manifold, and hold true across diverse system implementations. Additionally, the employees gain valuable firsthand experience and future projects can save time and money.

The SuperUser Experience

Superusers are likely to feel empowered by their special role. Being chosen for this task is a privilege, as they get a behind-the-scenes view of the project and a sneak preview of the new functionality. These individuals are likely to feel more positive about the new system, and their positivity may well be infectious!  The team’s feelings about the upgrade are favourably impacted by a capable, upbeat team member who acts as an advocate for the new system. This gives the projects a real boost in terms of user acceptance.

Users further down the chain will be much more receptive to receiving training and support from a colleague they know rather than from an outside trainer. They understand what their colleagues are trying to achieve through using the system, and will be able to comprehend problems they encounter in the context of the business process they are attempting to complete. Conversely, staff are hostile to receiving training from a team member who explains and uses language from a technical or text-book perspective the users are not familiar with. Superusers may not have formal training certification but they will more than make up for in their understanding of the business processes the new functionality supports. In addition to this, staff acting as superusers speak the same ‘language’ as their colleagues.  They can translate system ‘jargon’ (“techie gobbledygook”!) into language all their colleagues can understand.

The SuperUser Location

Superusers need to be co-located with the other users that require training. This makes it logistically easier for them to deliver training and support face-to-face. It is difficult to quantify how much more successful face-to-face training is.  Two colleagues sitting side-by-side at a desk, looking at a screen together, pointing to it, sharing their papers and notes and working through a process or problem together usually yields more effective results. An online training module or a live chat with the service desk can be cold and often time limited. Plus staff are more likely to ask for help from a colleague they see and trust, then call service desk. It means users will seek support sooner, before their frustration builds and before they have inadvertently created a complicated mess! System uptake is positively impacted, as users are emboldened because they can ask for support from their colleagues if needed.

Saving Money and Time

The benefits of training new users to become trainers are therefore significant in terms of system uptake and acceptance and staff morale. However, the benefits for the project team and the organisation’s service desk are also substantial. There are two key aspects to this: minimising the training budget and releasing service desk capacity.

Firstly, train the trainer can have notable cost-saving implications. Seasoned project managers know very well, the healthy training budget is squeezed mid-project as money intended for training is reallocated to pay for scope and change requests. Training therefore often has to be delivered within a very tight budget. Superusers may not receive any tangible compensation, though the benefit to them individually in terms of recognition and career progression helps. In contrast to professional trainers or the project business analysts, whose time may be very expensive. Moreover, the help they provide continues indefinitely once business-as-usual resumes. It does not necessarily end when the project ends or the budget runs out.

Secondly, the adoption of a superuser approach can save the project team and service desk an inordinate amount of time. Superusers help divert user issues away from the support teams, freeing them to resolve genuine defects and problems.

The Broader Role of Superusers

Superusers can play many other important roles within the project in addition to training. Good examples are in designing functionality and in prioritising requirements and defects. This makes them better informed and therefore even better placed to share their knowledge and skills with their colleagues.  In short, sharing knowledge and skills across the company leads to overall business success.

If you want to read more about roles, skills, and job salary information click HERE to get more.


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