The Art and Science of a Super User Network
By Terrie Walker, McKesson, 2015-2016 SAPinsight Leader Board Member.
I equate building and sustaining a Super User Network to both Art and Science. The Art of the network is the ‘heart’ or ‘spirit’ of those Super Users who make up this organization. The Science of the network is all the work and data (the ‘brain’) that goes into supporting the day to day operations that sustain the network. Without the heart or the brain, the body dies.In my career of leading various groups of Super Users – whether by default (due to the immediate need for support of a project being rolled out) or by design (a ‘virtual department’ of Super Users from across the organization) I’ve found a common ‘thread’ - the intrinsic value Super Users receive just by virtue of brining the ‘heart’ and ‘human-ness’ to the organizations they support.
In talking with Super User, Tina DeLise, she elaborated on this ‘spirit’ by saying “I believe a successful Super User needs to have skills, a servant's heart, a certain amount of emotional intelligence and a desire to learn - yes, learn! I established a rapport with each end user, even though it might be the only time I ever talked with them. Every encounter became an opportunity to grow as a resource, be someone safe to reach out to and nurture a positive working relationship. I learned to listen carefully without taking their anger personally and assure them it was OK to lean on me. I processed all their input and challenged myself to become more supportive and to work with other in-house organizations to get at the root of problems, rather than applying band aids. But not just that…I really truly enjoy helping others, training others and sharing their joy when they finally ‘got it.’
Working with that caliber of employees and contractors made the ‘science’ of supporting this group that much more enjoyable. From recruitment to onboarding and continued training and education, from marketing and communications to ultimately recognition and reward among the network, their management and the businesses they support – those two combinations of Art and Science really benefit those who needed it most – our end uses.
As Tina stated “It’s a little daunting requesting support from a random super user whose name you found on a list. No one wants to look stupid or feel incompetent; so reaching out is an act of faith on the part of the end user. Putting an end user at ease often means admitting that you don't have the answer either and thanking them for their patience and the opportunity to learn right along with them.”
Organizations thrive when their end users are productive and feel supported. As a leader of Super Users, I can’t stress enough the importance of executive leadership to focus on building, growing and supporting Super User Networks long after the ‘90 days post go live’ of a project has been implemented. Why? Because Super Users: 1) ‘connect the dots, love what they do, and strive to make a difference …”I loved being a Super User. I gained useful insight into the pain of software implementations, and subsequent changes, on the end user”, 2) their leadership skills improve as they stay engaged and challenged, and 3) organizations benefit from these leaders who have nurtured valuable people and communication skills; who are ‘grown from within’ and who know their business, know the tools that support their business, and become the voice of their end users when systems are broken and change is needed.
A structured and sustained Super User Network that is available and accessible to test and train new company initiatives, really contains both Art and Science. It is the conduit of information between systems and users who communicate insight and reasons for changes back to their associates. And like the heart and brain…a Super User Network will continue to pump life to the other parts of the organization whose leaders recognize and maintains its health.