The Business Superuser May Be IT's New Best Friend

Ann All

So it turns out all of those fears about autonomous business users keeping IT out of the technology loop -- a concern I blogged about just last week -- may be overblown.


One of the most interesting takeaways from IT Business Edge blogger Loraine Lawson's post on a new Forrester Research report about Web 2.0 spending is Forrester's contention that business users will rely on IT to bring Web 2.0 technologies into the workplace.


This flies in the face of the heretofore common belief that users are bringing new technologies with them to the office in droves. This practice is known as "shadow" or "rogue" or "guerrilla" IT -- terms that give you a pretty good sense of how companies feel about it.


Web 2.0-related security and compliance concerns may be overblown as well, as Loraine points out. She cites an Intelligent Enterprise article that emphasizes the superiority of Web 2.0 tools over e-mail as a collaboration tool, largely because of the clear audit trails they typically provide.


I made a similar point in a blog last February, sharing the belief of Harvard Business School's Andrew McAfee that tools like blogs and wikis, with their inherently public nature, would fare well if subjected to a "flip test." Such a test would illustrate how reaction to them might differ if they preceded, rather than followed, common corporate communications tools like e-mail and instant messaging.


Considering Forrester's prediction about IT's central role in Web 2.0 adoption, do you really need to read an article like Guerrilla IT: How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love your Superusers, which appears in InfoWorld? It is a worthwhile read, because it offers tips on how to engage users and get them more directly involved in the implementation of Web 2.0 technologies, thus removing some of the burden from overtaxed IT teams. It quotes Forrester analyst Jeffrey Hammond:

If your infrastructure is flexible enough, you can let superusers solve their own problems, take the heat off your developers, and provide some of your business needs.

Among the article's five suggestions:

  • Solicit feedback from superusers, especially those who are experts in particular applications and whose input may be more valuable than the opinions of "super geeks" who love technology for technology's sake. How to find these superusers? Examine log files to determine who is using apps most often.
  • Let users build some of their own apps, using mashups and Web-based workflow tools that let IT keep an eye on the action. The article cites two companies, Thomson Financial and Ministry Health Care and Affinity Health System, that have enjoyed good results by doing so.

A key caveat: Don't give users so much IT responsibility that they don't have the time to do the duties for which they were hired.

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