Menno Huijben
Sep 24, 2010
Posted in category: 2010 Member Articles

Sheep with 5 legs

The super user, aka key user, can be found on the project organization chart of any major business system implementation project. As they would say in Holland, a super user is “a sheep with 5 legs”: somebody who needs to be unreasonably versatile. Typically from a super user is expected that he/she is:

  1.    an expert on the current and envisioned business processes
  2.    an expert on master data issues
  3.    the new system tester
  4.    the new system trainer
  5.    a help-desk person

….and of course that he/she keeps on running his/her daily responsibilities. Sorry, that makes 6 legs, but super indeed.

Super users are the mantra when a solution provider is scoping your project. “Super users”, the provider demands, “plenty of good ones, please”.

Generally, the business organization responds reluctantly. Nobody told them beforehand they would need to make their own resources available for the project; they did not budget for it. Weren’t the provider and the IT department going to do the implementation? How many super users do we really need? One per 10 end-users, or per 25 end-users, or? What is their profile?

Finally after various pushing and haggling some super user names are put on the project org. chart.
What kind of super users are selected? The best expert in the organization, probably already overloaded with many assignments, or the person with “not so much to do” at the moment?

Anyway, these appointed super users will be under pressure: either their old job is not taken-over by anybody, or the new project manager starts to demand all kind of meetings and workshops for which they are ill prepared.

And this pressure will increase, because the provider will be using their weak participation as the reason why the project is delaying.

Cleary super users can make or break a project. Have a motivated, empowered team of super users and your project success rate will go up. Have too few super users, overloaded with other work, and you’re in for trouble.

Make sure when managing super users for your project that:

  • their role is clearly understood and is in line with their competences and ambitions,
  • you discuss their assignment with their direct superiors (typically this management level is left out of the project steering committees and badly informed about the project),
  • their assignment becomes part of their annual appraisal  and/or bonus scheme ( it should be made clear that being a super user will benefit your career),
  • they free-up the required project time and document their actual time spend on the project,
  • you take any concerns they might have seriously, check regularly how your super users are doing, and take timely corrective actions.
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