User Tech Principle: The 10-minute Rule

One of the topics I’d like to explore on this blog is staff training: what really works (and doesn’t). And by explore I mean discuss with you, my fellow geeks. Acknowledging that every environment is different, I still have (want) to believe there exists a set of universal principles we can all apply to maximize technology’s impact for our users.

Next week I will be facilitating IT orientation for brand new members of our team. That always forces me to ponder the overall “tech philosophies” we want our staff to operate by every day. We call these User Tech Principles.

The first Principle I’ll throw out is our helpdesk Golden Rule, specifically The 10-minute Rule. Like all User Tech Principles, it has to be simple:

When you run into a tech hiccup, take 10 minutes to use self-service resources, google and colleagues before contacting the helpdesk.

This is one of the first Principles that I cover during tech orientation because it has a huge impact on our operation (and I want staff to remember it). A simple math equation is all the convincing most need.

40 staffers * 1 helpdesk question/week * 10 minutes = 400 minutes (6.67 hours)

We have a large staff, but (until recently) just one IT support staff (me!). If each staffer can save one question from reaching the helpdesk (which would otherwise take 10 minutes of helpdesk response time), it affords IT almost an entire day every week to instead roll-out new projects, enhance existing technology and create more self-service resources.

I’d like to do a future post on user responsibility, but this is a practical way for users to directly contribute to a functional technology environment. With this simple awareness, enlightened users…

  1. Begin developing the habit of self-reliance in troubled tech waters
  2. Learn about non-helpdesk resources (e.g. internal knowledge-bases, Internet search, coworkers) that can solve problems – often quicker than a backlogged helpdesk
  3. Create less support burden on the helpdesk, freeing up scarce IT resources for higher-level tasks
  4. Contribute to a virtuous cycle whereby IT creates increasing amounts of self-service training and usability enhancements instead of answering low-level questions

Our users have responded to our helpdesk Golden Rule extremely well and I consider it anecdotally successful. Staffers pride themselves on being technically literate and on a desire to continually improve their tech chops. I wish I had the pre-implementation data to quantify the gain, but being able to say I never spend time answering questions about opening documents is all I need to wholeheartedly recommend implementing this User Principle into almost any environment.

Cavet: users will be usually know when a technical hurdle is out of their control and only resolvable by IT (e.g. server offline). In these cases I still encourage users to wait 10 minutes. If IT is on top of its game, our monitoring systems will have already alerted us and this 10-minute buffer allows us time to resolve the issue and/or send staff-wide communication on the issue instead of field calls and tickets from multiple users.

Remember: every time the helpdesk answers a question that could be answered by the user him/herself, it is forfeiting a higher-level task! (While there are few nonprofits with dedicated helpdesk staff which only do user support, it still applies to that situation. The helpdesk could be creating/enhancing self-serve resources, analyzing tickets for patterns and recommending changes.)

Do you do something similar? What was the user reaction? Have you measured the improvement?

About Kye Hittle

I’m tall, enjoy traveling, running and the company of good friends. Lover of [square brackets]. (OK, parenthesis too, which I overuse, and {curly braces}!) Professionally I am the Director of IT for a nonprofit and do freelance higher-ed, small biz and other nonprofit tech gigs. I heart technology used for personal and societal good.
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