When migration to new systems or upgrades of new versions take place, users ask questions that need to be answered. These questions end up in various locations within the organisation, usually at a local or central support organisation (known as the service desk, helpdesk, etc.). 33 per cent of support managers the world over who were asked (in a study of HDI in 2009) are of the view that changes to infrastructure or products such as upgrades, migrations and installations were the main reason as to why the number of calls to the support organisation increased.
By having prepared user support before, during and after migration, you can reduce the number of user questions submitted to your support organisation. There are several types of user support to choose from.
Web-based user support in migration
By web-based user support (or what is known as web-based self service), we mean here that users themselves find the answers to their questions or resolve their own problems by finding the answers in a web-based interface. Here, therefore, no staffed support or training department is required at the actual time of support or training. On the other hand, skills and resources are required for construction of the content of web-based user support. The point of this format is that one instruction can help any number of users. This is a proactive and preventive working method. Often this assistance consists of supporting material in the form of text and video guides showing step-bystep what users should do, and of training material in the form of e-training in which users have the opportunity to see how things work and to practise in a simulated environment.
78 per cent of Swedish IT and support managers state that they use self service support as a supplement to their staffed support. 9 per cent state that they use self service support as much as staffed support, and 4 per cent state that users mainly find assistance via self service. Source: CMA Research on behalf of ComAround 2009.
Web-based user support to assist staffed support
Web-based user support often works as a handy reference work for staffed support when they are answering questions from users on the new system as the system is often new to them as well. With web-based self service, staff on the support team can search by category or subject and call up step-by-step instructions which quickly answer users’ questions.
Another point of this working method and support is to allow staffed support to easily mail out links to step-by-step instructions or videos to anyone phoning and needing help. This allows staffed support to cut down the length of calls by sending out step-by-step instructions to support recipients instead of going through all the steps on the phone together.
Staffed support can also stop unwanted calls by themselves ensuring that there are good, clear instructions for web-based self service for the specific query areas which take up a lot of unnecessary time.
More and more support organisations are appointing one or more Content Managers who are responsible for ensuring that the service has the necessary guides before or directly after the need arises. When migrations take place, basic content is often produced which is then managed by the support organisation/Content Manager together with the provider of the web-based service.
User support before migration
Before migration takes place, guides should be produced which support the migration in question. You do not need to cover all questions and answers here; you just need to look at what you assume will be the most frequently asked questions. These may involve differences between different versions, the basics of a new system or common applications.
Here, working together with an experienced supplier may be valuable. These companies often have experience of other, similar migrations and so will know in advance what the most common questions are that users will ask, and will have produced answers. The point of taking on board finished documentation is to save time and create scope for producing any adaptations or deviations from a standard environment.
User support during migration
Once migration starts, it is necessary to focus completely on clearly emphasising the most frequently asked questions and answers in webbased self service. Here, it is a major advantage to have a system which automatically detects what the most commonly asked user questions are and markets these.
At the start of rollout, it is also important to be receptive to any new questions arising and to quickly ensure that the content is adapted in order to meet this need. You can do this yourselves or together with the self service provider. It is often possible to tell from the web-based service what the most common questions are, along with which questions and answers are not included.
At the start of migration, you can also place emphasis on e-training, where users first get to see a new function and then have the opportunity to practise that element in a simulated environment. E-training and microcourses (shorter e-training initiatives) are an effective way of getting users up and running in a new system. Once users have got started, they will in most instances start asking questions which are more “support-like” in nature, and at this point traditional text guides with illustrations and video guides will work best. Here, users just want answers to specific questions as quickly as possible.
User support after migration
After migration, when the number of questions relating to the actual migration in web-based self service falls, it is appropriate to adapt the service more on the basis of a “normal situation”. Among other things, the support organisation can start to review the content again from a more general support perspective without focusing on the migration that has taken place. The companies that enjoy the best success with good use of their web-based self service are those that are receptive for what users demand in terms of guide types and make sure that their service meets these demands.
To work out what content should be produced, the support organisation can take data from several different places and in different ways. One way is to learn from the knowledge and statistics acquired by the company from the migration that has taken place. Another way is to identify the ten most common/biggest applications and then produce the ten or twenty most frequently asked questions for every application in the form of text and/or video guides for these and present them in webbased self service. Once this content is in place, the service will automatically provide you with all the statistics you need to analyse which elements need to be extended or scaled down respectively.
Seminars and training for user support during migration
Training and seminars as a means of user support are a very powerful and accessible way of supporting users during migration. The obvious advantage is that this gives the IT and support department the opportunity to meet users face-toface and respond to their questions and reactions. The disadvantage may be that this is a resourceintensive initiative for the people who hold the training course or seminar, but mainly users who may find it difficult to set aside time to attend this kind of activity.
Seminars are a popular and practical way of meeting users during migration. The difference between seminars and training courses is that seminars are shorter and often held with more people at the time of each seminar. Another difference is that during seminars, users do not have the opportunity to try out the various elements for themselves in the same way that they would during a training course. This means that seminars are often more informative in nature than providers of training. Therefore, the purpose of seminars is not usually to make users fully conversant with a new program; instead, they are designed to provide general information to allow users to progress in the new environment.
Seminars work well together with other support activities as they provide a good opportunity to demonstrate different types of support function. It may be a good idea to take along a spokesperson from the migration project along to seminars, along with an external person from a migration supplier or the supplier of the new system.
When an external person with expert knowledge and experience of other, similar migrations explains benefits and new options, this is often received more favourably by users. It also makes users realise that the company is using external assistance from professionally.
Training is a more costly type of user support. Training can take place at many different levels, but often it involves sitting for a fairly long time in a classroom, where users work together with a teacher through one or more programs in order to train the users on new functions and to help them to do their jobs using the new programs.
If a company offers its users training in connection with migration, this is often optional for users who feel they need extra support. Sometimes separate training is arranged in connection with migration at departmental level, but this falls beyond the scope of the responsibilities of the migration project and will not be discussed here.
Training in connection with migration usually takes place over what are known as half-day training courses lasting three or four hours so that the company has time to train two groups a day. The number of people doing each course varies, but ideally there should be no more than ten or twelve people. The more people there are, the harder it is for the teacher to deal with all questions and identify a level that suits everyone.
Before the course takes place, users’ knowledge levels should be checked in order to ensure that the users initially have sufficient basic knowledge to be able to start to take on board new functions and options. It is common for migration training courses to place a relatively large amount of emphasis on working through new functions and options rather than looking at problems. It may also be appropriate to tell users where they will find more help after the course, such as on the intranet or from web-based self service.
Summary – Provide the right user support
A lot of questions arise within the company when new systems or upgrades are implemented. These are normally given to the support organisation to answer. There are several different types of user support which enhance users’ skills levels while at the same time reducing pressure on the support organisation due to questions being asked.
Web-based user support, or what is known as web-based self service, is a cost-effective way of helping users to find their own answers to their questions and resolve their own problems via a web-based interface. Support material often consists of text and video guides and e-training.
Web-based self service also provides excellent backup for staffed support, who also need new knowledge to be able to help users.
To get the most out of web-based self service, the support organisation should be receptive to the needs of users of guides while the project is in progress – before, during and after migration.
Seminars are another way of providing users with support in the event of migration. Seminars are informative in nature rather than providing training on the new systems or versions.
Training is a more costly type of user support. Training courses often involve people sitting for a longer period of time and in smaller groups than is the case with seminars, and here users are able to work together with teachers to run through the new programs or versions and time is set aside to allow them to practise and test things for themselves.
Per Strand, COO and co-founder, ComAround