User Circles is what I call a group of key users (not necessarily project team members) that are responsible for ensuring the system is used to its fullest extent for their business needs. This cross-functional team are expected to have in-depth knowledge of the system, specific to their area of business. Each representative is responsible for passing along knowledge that they have learned about the system and that may benefit other users in other areas. This exchange of knowledge promotes learning of the system’s capabilities and limitations. The user circle can be the best internal front-line support for all end users.
It’s also important to carefully choose members of the user circles. Key users are a start, but consider including stakeholders that have influence in the organizational change that is occurring. Think of including those whose opinions others follow. If these “powerful” individuals can be involved in the change process in a positive way, other staff and users may follow and be more supportive of the overall use of the new system.
User Circles also need to be regarded in your organization as a group of utmost importance. After all, they are the keepers of the organization’s processes and data stored in the system. They are the ones that will have the knowledge to prevent setbacks and rescue the organization from them. I would have User Circles report to an upper management body of the organization like the Vice President’s office. With this authoritative backing, the User Circle will be empowered to efficiently and successfully perform their vital responsibilities.
It’s important that someone in the user circle be identified as the “go-to” person when an issue arises. This person or persons would be those that would perhaps seek certifications, additional training and attend industry user group sessions so that they can return to the user circle with a new breadth of knowledge and insight into how the system can be best used to meet requirements. The go-to person(s) would also be the contact with BDO staff with any ongoing issues.
This go-to person(s) are also responsible for importing and exporting objects to the test and live databases. He/she would ultimately be responsible for the database object activity since many objects can be involved in resolving a variety of issues. They would be accountable to keeping the objects synchronized with updates so that one would not over-write the other.
The User Circle would also be responsible for maintaining a log of issues they have encountered since go-live. This log would serve as a way of identifying trends of issues in given areas of the business, and also provide a solution to those issues. Should the issue arise again, the log can be searched for the resolution. It’s a huge asset to have, especially when employee attrition occurs. The log eventually serves as a start of a Knowledge Base unique to your business on common issues and troubleshooting guidelines.
The test database is the perfect place for reproducing issues and troubleshooting a solution. Keep this powerful place in mind and assign someone in the User Circle the responsibility to update the test database with a live data backup on a regular basis. I recommend this activity be completed at least every 6 months.
I would also task the User Circle with creating and maintaining a binder or a central place for documentation on customizations that were built for their area. Start with the project documents like design/specification documents and Functional Requirement Documents (FRDs). Every member of the User Circle should know if they have any customizations built to meet their needs. If so, then the documentation should include what was built, what the process is, what scenarios the customization is built for and any test scripts that were created in the project. If there wasn’t any testing documented, I would have the end users in the test database create new test scripts with scenarios that come to mind. This would provide another well needed round of testing before the same scenario occurs in the production database and may not work. These test scripts also serve as a training document for how to complete a process in their area of the system.
Now that you have a training plan in place and have appointed your User Circle, it’s time to consider another must-have for a successful implementation: training refreshers. Stay tuned for my next blog!