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  1. CTS 217: Computer Training & Support CHAPTER 6 User Support Management

  2. In this chapter, students will learn about: • The mission of a support group • Steps to staff a support position • The contents of a training program for support staff • Certification for support professionals • Professional associations for support workers • Ethical conduct guidelines for support professionals Chapter Objectives

  3. Applicants for support positions need to understand the perspectives of support managers • Support specialists in small organizations often perform management tasks • Project lead or coordinator tasks • Supervisory or lead worker responsibilities • User support group management Reasons to Study User Support Management

  4. Mission statement Performance measures User support staffing Training for user support staff Common User Support Management Concerns

  5. Mission statement: list of guiding principles that communicate support goals and objectives to staff, users, and management • Example: 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 Example of a User Support Mission Statement

  6. Performance statistics: objective summary information about user support or help desk operation • Examples: • Average time to respond to incidents (wait time) • Percent of abandoned incidents (abandonment rate) • Average resolution time for incidents • Percentage of problems that could not be resolved • Percentage of closed incidents that had to be reopened • Number of unresolved incidents User Support Performance and Justification

  7. Most useful when compared across days, days of week, or months to display trends over time Can be computed for an entire support organization, a help desk team, or to compare employees’ performance Often used to justify the need and budget for support services Use of Performance Statistics

  8. User satisfaction survey: questionnaire to measure how satisfied users are with support services • Contents • 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 User Satisfaction Surveys

  9. Typical survey questions measure: • Availability of help when needed • Responsiveness of staff • Ability to communicate effectively • Usefulness of online resources • Technical knowledge of staff • Ability to resolve problems User Satisfaction Surveys (continued)

  10. User support in an organization’s budget may be a: • Costcenter • Support budget includes only expense items • Expense examples: payroll, benefits, taxes, equipment, software, overhead • Profitcenter • Support budget includes both revenue (income) and expenses • Revenue examples: income from service fees, contracts, and per incident Justify Support Services

  11. How to justify user support as a cost center • Performance statistics • User satisfaction surveys • Sometimes difficult to justify support center expenses when no direct income is produced • How to justify user support as a profit center • Income based on level of support that clients need • Free support (no income) • Fee-for-service (pay-as-you-go income) • Premium support (stable contract income) • Somewhat easier to justify support center expense when revenue offsets at least some expenses Justify Support Services (continued)

  12. Management challenge: how many help desk staff are needed to meet the level of service demands efficiently? • Need to have sufficient staff available to meet the demand for timely responses to incidents • Need to keep staff to a minimum to avoid idle agents and unproductive expenses • Erlang: a unit of traffic (such as user calls) in a given time period • Erlang calculations estimate the number of help desk agents required to meet peak demand and off-peak times Staffing a Help Desk

  13. Use mission statement as basis for staff planning • Analyze knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) needed • Write position description(s) • Prepare advertising for open positions • Screen applications received for best match with KSAs • Interview applicants with best combination of KSAs • Check intervieweeemployment references Steps in Recruiting Help Desk Agents

  14. Hardware, operating system, and application software proficiency Specific technical skills needed for position Network skills and experience Internet and Web expertise Troubleshooting and problem-solving capabilities Communication, listening, writing, and telephone skills Work experience as a project team member Understands information systems and business perspectives Common KSAsfor Help Desk Agents

  15. Experience with Intel-compatible hardware platforms Skilled in use and support of local area network (LAN) in office environment Windows XP or Windows Vista operating system experience Working knowledge of Microsoft Office applications Ability to troubleshoot technical problems Ability to communicate effectively with users, other agents, and managers Ability to work as an effective member of a support team Example KSAs for a Help Desk Position

  16. Common categories of questions asked in an employment interview • Knowledge and skills test questions • Traditional interview questions • Directed questions • Non-directed questions • Behavioral questions • Scenario questions • Stress tolerance assessment Categories of Interview Questions

  17. Knowledge and skills question: measure an applicant’s knowledge and problem-solving abilities • Interview questions about applicant’s educational and work background and experience • Directed question: determine whether applicant has specific qualifications • Non-directed question: give applicant an opportunity to talk in general terms about their qualifications • Behavioral question: asks applicant to describe actions they took in a specific situation Employment Interview Tools

  18. Scenario question: gives applicant a specific problem representative of problems agents actually encounter • Stress tolerance assessment: interview environment designed to evaluate an applicant’s performance under pressure • Noisy • Interruptions • Multiple interviewers • Overly technical questions Employment Interview Tools (continued)

  19. Questions or characteristics that it is illegal to inquire about in an employment interview • Age • Ethnicity • Marital status (and family background) • Sexual orientation • Religious affiliation (and political beliefs) • Disabilities (except to determine need for accommodations under Americans for Disabilities Act – ADA compliance) Illegal Interview Questions

  20. Staff training for help desk agents includes: • New employee orientation • Organizational culture, policies, and procedures • Payroll and employee benefit information • Specific job skill training • Help desk tools used • Support group policies and procedures • Performance appraisal criteria and procedures • Professional development and career path opportunities User Support Staff Training

  21. Ongoing help desk training • Requires scheduled downtime for agents • Goal: keep help desk staff current with changes in computer and help desk technology • Professional growth and development is a joint responsibility of company and help desk staff members • Attend conferences, training sessions, and workshops • Read trade publications User Support Staff Training (continued)

  22. Performance appraisal: process to evaluate support agent according to established criteria • Based on support mission statement • Based on position description • Related to employee’s professional growth objectives • Common performance appraisal tools • Performance statistics • Monitored calls Performance Appraisals for Support Agents

  23. Certification - assessment process to measure and document employee knowledge and skills • Individual certification • Formal education (certificate, diploma, degree) • Vendor-specific product knowledge and skills • Industry-standard (vendor-neutral) knowledge • Certification of a support group • Evaluated against support industry best practices, which are procedures, tools and methods that successful support groups use User Support Certification

  24. Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) • Office applications (Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint) • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) • Cisco network administration • Apple Certified Support Professional (ASCP) • Mac OS X operating system Vendor-Specific Certification Examples

  25. Comptia’s A+, Network+, Security+, Project+ • A+ covers hardware, operating systems, configuring, installing, diagnosing, and maintaining PCs • ICCP’s Associate Computer Professional (ASP) • Knowledge and skills earned in academic and vocational degree programs • Linux Professional Institute’s LPIC certificate • Linux operating system administration Industry-Standard Certification Examples

  26. Help Desk Institute • Support center analyst (SCA) • For help desk agents • Desktop support technician (DST) • For user support workers who provide face-to-face technical support • Others: • Customer service rep (CSR) • Help desk team lead • Help desk manager User Support and Help Desk Certification Examples

  27. Microsoft • Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) • Windows Vista support • Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) • Configuring and supporting Windows Vista and applications software that runs on Vista • Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician (MCDST) • Configuring and supporting Windows XP and applications software that runs on XP User Support and Help Desk Cert. Examples

  28. Recognized benchmark of minimum-level job skills and expertise Justification for pay increases Justification for promotions Documents efforts to keep up-to-date in field Feeling of accomplishment and increased job satisfaction Benefits of Certification

  29. Some position descriptions and job ads now list certification requirement • For other positions, certification is optional • Provides documentation of knowledge and skills to supplement formal education • However, job requirements in user support vary; few agreed-on industry-wide standards Is Certification a Job Requirement?

  30. 1. Acquire knowledge and skills covered by the certification exam 2. Evaluate skills by taking a pretest assessment exam (optional) 3. Take certification exam • May include preparatory course to cover steps 1 and 2 4. Retake parts of certification test not passed Certification Process

  31. College and vocational/technical courses targeted to popular certification exams • Crash courses: intensive exam preparatory classes • Expensive • Time-consuming • Sometimes called boot camps • Online tutorial courses:use computer-based (CBT) or Web-based (WBT) training methods • Self-study courses: self-paced tutorials in book format • Lowest cost • Little help available Common Ways to Prepare for Certification Exams

  32. Certification test formats • Traditional fixed-length sequence of questions and problems • Adaptive test: method used in some certification exams that asks selected questions from a computerized test database • Questions are graded in difficulty to quickly estimate a test taker’s proficiency • Advantages • Asks fewer questions than traditional test • Takes less time • Reduces testing stress • Reduces boredom from too easy or repetitious questions Certification Tests

  33. 2006 employment: 800,000 workers in US employed as computer support specialists and system administrators - US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) User Support as a Profession

  34. Employment trends • 2000s decade: some reduction in support employment • 2001-2003 recession • Overseas outsourcing of lower-level support positions • 2010s decade: forecasted increases in support employment • Computer support specialist: average rate of growth • Network and computer system administrators: above average rate of growth Changes in Employment

  35. Professional association: formal organization that represents 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 conferences • Offers training and certification programs • Facilitates membership contacts via e-mail, Web sites, chat rooms, blogs, newsgroups, and local chapters • Encourages members to adhere to code of ethical conduct Professional Associations for Support Workers

  36. Examples of User Support Professional Associations

  37. Example Principles of Ethical Conduct for IT Professionals

  38. Example Principles of Ethical Conduct for IT Professionals

  39. A mission statement defines guiding principles and goals of a support group Performance statistics and user satisfaction surveys help evaluate agent and support group performance Support managers prepare position descriptions and job ads based on KSAs for open help desk agent positions Interviews for support positions include knowledge and skill test questions, traditional directed and non-directed questions, behavioral and scenario questions, and perhaps a stress tolerance interview environment Chapter Summary

  40. Project management steps for special projects • Definition • Planning • Implementation • Monitoring • Termination • Automated project management tools help prepare Gantt Charts, participant assignments, and budgets Chapter Summary (continued)

  41. Training for support agents includes new employee orientation and ongoing professional development Certification for support professionals includes college degrees, vendor-specific, and industry-standard certification programs Associations of support workers address the needs of support professionals Codes of ethical behavior and standards of conduct guide members of professional associations Chapter Summary (continued)