It’s easy to get bogged down in the constant flow of tickets thrown at you. Or maybe not even tickets. How many times per day does someone need “just a minute”? (It’s never a minute. Ever.) When you’re constantly putting out fires or draining your work hours “one minute” at a time, you’re actually holding back your own IT career.
You’re probably not training, which is the first problem. IT pros should constantly be learning. You’re also probably not dedicating time to the big projects that challenge you, elevate your experience, and, yes, look great on your resume.
Here’s how to break free and lift the trajectory of your career with relevant technical experience and training rather than support.
Create a user training program
If you have a ticketing program, then you have access to great data about low-level issues that your users (and you) face every day. Even if you don’t have a ticketing system, you typically know your greatest hits.
Take all those common problems and identify video training that everyone in your company who uses that software must watch and then create a simple quiz that validates the knowledge and tracks their completion.
Alternately, CBT Nuggets has courses specifically designed by experts to train end users on the most common office productivity software, and PCI-compliant security awareness training. With in-video quizzes, your users are validating their knowledge as they go and you can either see who completes training with an admin dashboard — or ask your users to send you a certificate of completion.
Create easy-to-use guides for common tasks
With the same data you used for the training program, you can develop step-by-step instructional guides for common Tier 1 or 0 issues. There are a few best practices you should follow that will ensure these guides are effective.
Document every click. While it might seem overboard to include every step, it’s not. Be specific and start with either how to find that program or the URL (if it’s a web-based app).
Try to avoid long text docs. Instead, use screenshots or video. It’s not only more user-friendly to avoid long, written description of the user interface (click on File and then…), it’ll also keep you from trying to find creative synonyms for the word “click”.
To see how the pros do training, skip YouTube and watch how Anthony Sequeira does his Windows 10 end-user training. You’ll get a good sense of the level of detail most users require. (Or just let him train your users!)
Once you’ve created your documentation, host it internally, and format the page by software and problem.
Don’t sacrifice quality for efficiency
While it should be your goal to add a few free hours to your day, you’ll need to provide the same level of service. There are two parts to the quality element — the training itself and the delivery.
Quality training. Your goal is to make life easier for your users, as well as yourself. Quality training serves both purposes. If your training or guides don’t fix the problem, you’ll have the same person at your desk again. Maybe it was too specific, or perhaps too broad. CBT Nuggets trainers are experts at designing user courses, so take a look at their training to get an idea.
Quality delivery. Don’t forget about the human element. Be polite and don’t make it seem like you’re trying to shoo them away with a link. That’s just one step above telling them to Google it themselves. Instead, explain that lots of people might experience these issues, so many, in fact, that they can follow a few simple steps to resolve their issue.
Finally, keep your audience in mind. There are the people who require the occasional assistance. They’re the ones who are mostly proficient, but everyone has their technical blind spots. And then there are the repeat customers. They’re the people who need lots of guidance. They’re also your primary audience for training.
What to do with your free time?
If you’re in a support role, there’s no way around it. You’ll have to help people solve their issues. Now that you’ve engineered more time for yourself, what are you going to do?
Keep building your training library. Once you’ve built the foundation for your training program, keep adding to it as issues arise that can be solved ad infinitum by good training documentation. It’s like a free time snowball. Once you have a little time freed up to do the documentation, then you’ll have more time to do more training!
Training yourself. While there are some companies that provide dedicated training time to their technical staff, most IT teams barely get lunch, let alone study time. Now that you have time, you can keep training. It’s really important for IT pros to learn as much as possible, and then use that knowledge either in a lab or production environment. You might even have time to earn a new certification. Certifying is the easiest way to prove that you’re truly proficient in a technology — and it goes with you if you decide to find new opportunities.
Backburner projects. Everyone has a project wishlist. Now that you have a few extra hours in your day, start moving down the list. Maybe you’ve been wanting to experiment with a home lab. Or perhaps it’s been far too long since you’ve straightened the server room. Be strategic about these projects and you’ll not only fill your time at work but also prepare yourself for future opportunities.
Priority projects. We’ve actually heard that some companies fear deploying new software because they’re afraid of the user training involved. Not only do you have the time to plan your next big software addition, but you now have the training infrastructure in place to train everyone.
Use these suggestions to break free from minor support issues, so that you can get to the projects that will elevate your career. Or start managing a full-service training regime provided by CBT Nuggets trainers.
We all know the “teach a man to fish” adage. It applies many-fold to your users with equal returns to your productivity. Sure, it’s often easier to just “help” with a task by doing it rather than teaching a user to do it, but you’re setting yourself up to create dependencies — and repeat customers. (You know who they are.)