Computer Says: User Error

When I first started my working life, I worked for an organisation where, if you called the IT helpdesk, the “help” consisted of two standard responses:

• First: Have you switched the computer on and off again?
• Second: Uh-oh! User error.

I’m happy to report I no longer work for an organisation that operates like this, but that team’s approach always resonates with me when onboarding a new client.

Just how many support calls get logged every year? And how many of those support calls aren’t indicative of an IT error – but could have been avoided by improved user training or ongoing coaching?

Can we improve these stats as part of the on-boarding process?

Take a holistic approach to dealing with IT issues

If you are logging a high number of IT support calls, it is always worth investigating the underlying problem. Can they be categorised in terms of different applications? Do different departments have different reporting rates?

The most important task when reviewing support logs, however, is to separate out problems (i.e. something that is not working) from user issues (i.e. something the user doesn’t understand or didn't expect to happen!)

If the latter is higher, the issue might be more of a training issue rather than an IT issue.

A full-service IT support company will not only help you identify whether this is the case, they will also be able to help you structure and implement the training required.

IT that is fit for purpose

There is another element to this, of course. And that is the original purchase decision. If an IT system is to be considered “fit for purpose”, it should NOT present problems in terms of user acceptance or user training.

It may be time to review that original purchase decision. Again, a good IT consultancy firm will be able to assist with this type of review.

Another possible cause for a high incidence of user issues is natural churn. If you aren’t training staff regularly, then knowledge will be lost over time as a result of the natural turnover of staff.

Even if you don’t have a high staff turnover rate, technology moves on. The new cloud-based delivery models that most software is provided via today enables developers to push out changes to users much faster and more regularly.

That makes a refreshing change

There was a time when a software upgrade was a major event. IT staff would work through the weekend, machines would require updating locally and huge investment and fanfare would ensue. This process, while clunky and outdated today, did have the benefit of ensuring management was focused on the change – and allocated appropriate training budget to help users cope with that change.

Today, without this fanfare, users are expected to take changes in their stride without it impacting their productivity or effectiveness. This can cause problems over time.

Be proactive

Don’t wait for problems to arise before acting. Proactively scheduling refresher training for the most-used applications and for topics in which the landscape can change rapidly – such as security awareness, for example – is vital to ensure you are minimising user issues and maximising productivity.

In this way, proactive training – especially focused on a well-considered induction programme for new starters and refresher training for existing staff – can be an important source of competitive advantage.

It also prevents misreading any red herrings about the overall effectiveness of your IT systems!


Do you have a clear picture of the types and causes of the IT problems (or user knowledge gaps) that you submit to your IT helpdesk? Do you get an easy-to-digest monthly report? Do you have a regular review with your IT provider to examine commonly-occurring issues and their causes?

If not, you should!

IT should be an enabler that means your staff can get on with the day-job. If you're not sure if your people, your processes or your PCs are at the root of your IT issues, why not seek an independent appraisal?

Contact us today on 0131 603 7910 or 0808 164 4142 to find out more.



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