A Guide to Computer User Support Chapter 2 Introduction to Computer User

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A Guide to Computer User Support Chapter 2 Introduction to Computer User Powered By Docstoc
					     Chapter 2

   Introduction to
Computer User Support
                         Learning Objectives

• What the job market demand is for user support
  employees
• Common ways organizations provide a user support
  function
• Services that user support groups provide
• Typical position descriptions for user support staff
  members
• The knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) needed to
  qualify for an entry-level user support position
• Career paths for user support workers
Guide to Computer User Support, 3e                        2
              Fluctuations in the Need for
                User Support Employees
• Increased demand during 1990s due to:
    • Growth of end user computing in offices and homes
    • Growth of Internet use
    • Lower unemployment rates
    • Shortage of well-trained IT workers
• Slower growth during early 2000s due to:
    • Economic recession
    • Overseas outsourcing of support positions
    • Contracts with temporary employment agencies
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                       Employment in
                   Information Technology

• Information Technology Association of America
   (ITAA) report (2003):

          • Workers in Information Technology     10.3 million
          • Workers in Technical Support fields    1.9 million
          • Technical Writers                       .5 million
          • Open positions (2000)                  1.5 million
          • Open positions (2003)                   .5 million


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                       User Support
                 versus Technical Support
• Computer user support is a job function or department
    in an organization that provides information and
    services to employees and/or customers to help them use
    computers more productively
•   Technical support is a level of user support that
    focuses on higher-level troubleshooting and problem
    solving
     • user support deals with a broad spectrum of support issues
     • technical support deals with difficult and complex problems
         users encounter
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    Alternate names for the user support
         function in organizations
• User Support                       • Help Desk
• Client Services                    • Client Support Services
• Technical Support                  • Computer Assistance
• Computer Help Hotline              • Call Center
• Hardware/Software/                 • Information Center
    Network Support
•   Support Services                 • Computer User Services


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     Ways that organizations provide a
          user support function




Guide to Computer User Support, 3e       7
                      Informal Peer Support

• Peer support is an informal level of user support
    • coworkers in an organization or department exchange
      information and provide assistance about computer
      use and problems encountered by other users
    • No special training or preparation required



Guide to Computer User Support, 3e                        8
    User Support Combined with Other
            Responsibilities
• Responsibility for user support is formalized in
    an existing employee’s position description
•   Can make significant demands on worker’s time
    and compete with other assigned tasks




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    User Support as a Separate Position
                or Group
• Frequently occurs when part-time, informal peer
    support cannot meet support demands
•   Alternatives:
    • Full-time support position
    • Organize part-time workers into a user support
        group




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                          Help Desk Support

• A help desk provides a single point of contact for users
   in need of technical support
    • Manages customer problems and requests and provides
      solutions-oriented support services
    • May be a:
       • physical location
       • a telephone number (hotline)
       • an e-mail address
       • an online chat session
       • a Web site

Guide to Computer User Support, 3e                           11
         User Support Center Operation

• A user support center provides a wide range of
   services to an organization’s computer users
    • Consulting on product purchases
    • Training and documentation on supported products
    • Help desk operation
    • Troubleshooting assistance
• Also called an information center

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                           User Support
                      as an IS Responsibility
• Support is provided:
    • directly by technical IS staff
    • by a separate group within IS
• Advantage:               Provides single point of contact for
    problems
•   Disadvantage: Conflicts with other IS employee work
    assignments



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                 User Support Outsourced
                       to a Vendor
• Outsourcing involves a contract with a vendor
   that specializes in support services
• Advantage: Controls costs while taking advantage of
  external expertise
• Disadvantages:
    • Relies on telephone, e-mail or Web contacts rather than on-site
      access
    • Costs are predictable, but not necessarily lower
    • Little transfer of knowledge to in-house staff
    • Lack of personal relationship between users and support staff

Guide to Computer User Support, 3e                                 14
       Common User Support Services




Guide to Computer User Support, 3e    15
    Staff a Help Desk, Hotline, or Chat
                  Session
• Respond to requests for product information
• Market products and services
• Provide solutions to problems
• Receive and log user complaints about product
    features
•   Handle warranties and product returns



Guide to Computer User Support, 3e                16
   Provide Technical Troubleshooting
              Assistance
• Deals with intractable problems that
           –are beyond the immediate services a help desk can
            provide
           –need a high level of expertise
• Examples
     • Hardware problem diagnosis
     • Repair, replace, fix, provide workarounds for difficult
         applications software and network problems


Guide to Computer User Support, 3e                          17
                          Locate Information
                            to Assist Users
• Access, search for, locate, and work with
     information to solve a problem
•    Resources
      • Printed materials from vendors
      • Trade and text books
      • Online help
      • CD-ROM databases
      • Internet Web sites
      • Automated telephone voice-response units
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    Evaluate Hardware, Software and
           Network Products

• Issues to evaluate:
     • Increase Productivity?
     • Compatible?
     • Timing?
     • Useful features?
     • Cost effective?

Guide to Computer User Support, 3e    19
          Coordinate Organization-wide
               Support Standards
• Support Standards are lists of computer
    products that an organization recommends to its
    employees and that it will support
•   Goal: To limit the hardware and software
    products a support staff must be able to support
    to reduce support costs



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        Perform Needs Assessment and
             Purchase Assistance
• Also called a needs analysis
    • Investigate and determine the features and
      configuration of hardware and software that will best
      meet a user’s needs
    • May also include
          • justifying the purchase
          • how to place an order
          • how to pay for the system


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                     Provide
           System Installation Assistance

• Purpose: efficient use of staff resources
• Strategy: User support staff have tools and
    expertise to unpack, set up, install, and configure
    a system




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                Provide Training on
            the Use of Computer Systems

• Goal: To make effective use of a new or
    upgraded system
•   Examples
     • Basic, introductory classes
     • How to use new software
     • Advanced training

Guide to Computer User Support, 3e          23
Prepare Documentation on Computer
              Use
• Training is one-time – documentation is always
    available
•   Example documents:
    • Introductory, “how-to” manuals
    • Tutorials and reference manuals
    • Organizational computer use guidelines
    • Online documentation, such as FAQs and wizards

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             Perform Computer Facilities
                 Management Tasks
• Computer facilities management tasks include
          • Maintain security
          • Make media backups
          • Prevent viruses
          • Deal with ergonomic problems
          • Purchase supplies
          • Perform preventive maintenance
• Goal: keep computers operational on a daily
   basis
Guide to Computer User Support, 3e               25
               Assist Users with
         Software Development Projects
• To solve specific business problems or meet information
    requirements
•   Software development is a potential source of conflict
    between IS department staff and support center staff
          • Compatibility
          • Design standards
          • Documentation
          • Security
•   Emphasis is on assisting users with applications development,
    rather than developing applications
•   Provided to a limited extent by many user support centers
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                Calpine Corporation’s
              Desktop Support Technician
• Provide support to end users
    • Install, maintain and upgrade systems
    • Provide network connectivity
    • Provide help desk services
    • Write documentation on procedures
    • Troubleshoot problems and maintain PCs
    • Maintain communications with end users
    • Analyze need for new technologies
    • Track PC hardware and software inventory
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            Stream International’s
        Support Services Representative
    • Provide telephone support
            • 7 hours per day
            • 10 to 40 calls per day
    • Help customers with technical problems
    • Work as part of a team
    • Research technical problems
    • Sell products
    • Work with technical specialists on difficult problems
    • Meet high performance standards
    • Become an expert on a product
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             St Petersburg Junior College
         Network Technical Support Specialist

• Combines network support with user support
    • Provide technical support to resolve network problems
    • Act as liaison between end users and IS management
    • Install, maintain and troubleshoot end-user computers and
        peripherals
    •   Assist with network design
    •   Perform preventive network maintenance
    •   Research solutions to technical and business problems


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        Knowledge, Skills and Abilities
                  (KSAs)
• Analyze position descriptions for KSAs:
    • Knowledge – what do I need to know
    • Skills – what do I need to be able to do well
    • Abilities – what special tasks or skills do I need to be
        able to perform

          –Note: the difference between skills and abilities is
             blurred in everyday use


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                                     Knowledge
• What an employee must know
• May be stated as:
    • specific number of years of education
    • a degree in a specified field
    • list of topics
• Examples
    • Knowledge of basic computer operation
    • Knowledge of application software package (e.g.,
        Excel)
Guide to Computer User Support, 3e                       31
                                     Skills

• Tasks an employee must be able to perform well
• Can be attained through practice or experience
• Examples
    • Skill in troubleshooting hardware and software
    • Skill in configuring desktop computers to optimize
        performance




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                                     Abilities
• A special task or skill a support specialist either
    has or does not have
•   Often state as ability to perform a specific task
•   Examples
     • Ability to lift 50-pound boxes
     • Ability to communicate with users in Spanish
     • Ability to work as a member of a team
     • Ability to write documentation
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                             How to get KSAs
• Few support employees have every KSA they
    need on day 1
•   Learning resources:
     • Employer training and orientation classes
     • Continuing education
     • On-the-job learning
     • Community College classes
     • Vocational-technical school classes
     • Industry training and certification classes

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      Alternative Career Paths for User
              Support Workers
• Computer Programmer/Developer
• Network Support Technician
• Web site maintainer
• User Support Manager/Supervisor
• Project Manager
• Trainer
• Technical Writer
• Computer Security Specialist
Guide to Computer User Support, 3e        35
                            Chapter Summary
    •     The job market demand fluctuates for user support
          workers
    •     Organizations provide a user support function to
          employees and customers in different ways
    •     Users need a variety of support services to be productive
    •     Position descriptions for user support staff in various
          organizations include common duties and
          responsibilities
    •     Entry-level support jobs require a combination of
          knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs)
    •     Several alternative career paths are available for user
          support workers
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