The famous adage among TV presenters is “never work with animals or children”. Sadly for professionals working within company IT departments, there is seldom a choice over which kinds of users they get to work with.
The inconvenient truth is that IT end users can be unpredictable and frustrating. Like any customer (IT end users are, after all, internal customers of the IT department), serving their needs is imperative but these needs can be very challenging, urgent, or bound up in impossible expectations. This is made all the more difficult with IT team understaffing, skills shortages, and other constraints impacting upon time management and contributing to workplace stress.
In this post, we’ll explore how email signature solutions can make for a better employee experience by removing users from email signature management while letting IT make updates easily.
What is an IT end user?
End users are users of IT services and infrastructure who are all employees of the same organization and are served by the same IT department. With few exceptions, an organization's community of end users includes all its employees and vice versa. Everyone uses IT, so everyone is an IT end user. Their IT end user experience is a significant part of their overall employee experience.
The 'end' prefix is employed to signify users at the 'end' of a value chain and don't contribute to developing or delivering IT services (i.e., they just use them). Since literally everyone is a user (including the head of IT and all their staff), this helps distinguishes end users from – for example – administrators, super users, and other roles.
End users act as customers of the IT department, and like any customers, they have their own sets of requirements, preferences, and expectations. But the term' end user' or 'user' is also a technical reference point for unique profile instances within an IT system. In this way, users have usernames are/or user IDs, and passwords. Their access to certain applications and data stores are governed by policies and rules that are set and managed by the IT department.
What does the IT end user need to do their job?
IT is a key business enabler for organizations as a whole but also to optimize the productivity of workers.
What does the IT end user need to do their job?
Until IT has completed the initial IT setup for a user (see below), they don’t technically exist within the operational workflows of the organization. They have extremely limited capacity to produce work, communicate with others, access shared information, or know what’s happening. This is particularly pronounced when the employee is remote or hybrid working.
Arguably the most fundamental IT requirement is an email address. With an email address, users can:
Strategic IT objectives for end users
Some of the key strategic IT objectives for end users include:
What end users want from IT
Over the last couple of decades, there's been a generational shift in how company employees perceive and engage with technology. Many workers 20 years ago will have been reticent or even fearful of using IT. Contrast that with today's world where the workforce is predominantly 'born digital' or what business author Don Tapscott refers to as 'grown up digital'. This makes employees active stakeholders in applying technology to support their personal goals.
The effect is that users today wish to leverage whatever corporate IT departments can give them to optimize technology adoption. This is to:
The role of IT in the end user experience
IT professionals and teams regularly interact with end users to achieve the above objectives. How these interactions happen and the value created has a big say in the overall employee experience.
Initial IT end user set up
The relationship between IT professionals and end users typically begins during employee onboarding. This is when new starters join, and one of the crucial milestones is completing their IT setup. Some of the IT tasks in this process include:
This is in addition to the IT team’s supporting role in enabling other departments to complete the onboarding process. For example, setting the employee up on an e-learning platform for induction training, having employee records with HR and finance for tax and payroll purposes, etc.
Coping with IT change
Once onboarded, IT must enable employees to be as autonomous as possible in their use of technology. IT’s role is to facilitate and ideally anticipate their needs in a non-disruptive way.
Naturally, exceptions to this arise whenever change events trigger interventions from the IT department. These break down into two groups – those generated by the ebb and flow of IT projects and maintenance windows and those by changes to the individual user’s circumstances.
IT departments fulfill a strategic role to let organizations exploit the opportunities around technology. IT will therefore implement projects in line with key business objectives, for example:
IT also has an operational workload for ‘keeping the lights on’, which entails continual maintenance and optimization. For example:
Finally, IT will drive technological change at the behest of other departments that have their own strategic mandate from business leadership. For example:
Employee-driven IT changes are at a smaller scale but at a far higher frequency. These typically originate from changes to the employee’s personal situation or job role that has a knock-on impact on their use of IT. For example:
What issues can occur between the IT department and end users?
There can be tension in the relationships between IT departments and end users. This is understandable given the often extreme expectations of users coming up against the ‘gatekeeping’ role that IT performs. IT cannot simply grant all requests because of many constraints including cost, security risk, and sheer lack of internal resources.
Other issues can arise because of dependencies between IT and users. The IT department and users need a shared understanding of where responsibilities lie and what they require of one another to deliver the required IT services.
Users need to have realistic expectations about what IT can deliver. However, this should not prevent them from articulating their needs and driving IT to continue innovating and supporting them.
Maintaining the right expectations relies upon positive, honest, and open communications between users and IT. Users must ultimately take responsibility for setting realistic and achievable expectations, but IT has a pivotal role in managing and shaping those expectations over time.
Assumptions and miscommunications
Both parties in the IT department / IT user relationship are guilty of relying on assumptions. This is why IT teams are so proactive in documenting policies that users must sign to attest that they understand. Some of the common assumptions made by users about IT include:
IT departments can also make assumptions about end users that turn out to be unreliable. These include:
Miscommunications can also occur, which places the onus on IT departments to be very clear about the service they provide and the impact upon users of any planned IT changes.
Relying on non-IT people to perform IT admin
IT departments exist to deploy IT-specific skills and resources on behalf of the business. However, that doesn’t exclude end users from playing an essential role in the IT function.
In some organizations, users are required to support the safe operation of IT by:
Where it’s been introduced, automation has alleviated many instances of non-IT people undertaking IT tasks. For example, through patch management systems. Many IT departments can call upon ‘remote control’ systems like TeamViewer to obtain control over remote machines – very useful in remote and hybrid workspaces – or use unified communications and collaboration platforms for screen sharing and co-browsing, i.e., in respect of IT settings options.
How IT can improve the employee experience
The purpose of IT departments is to allow organizations to obtain maximum strategic value from technology. The idea is to benefit the organization’s strategic goals, which are closely linked to benefiting the employee experience.
This is because organizations benefit when their employees are equipped and empowered when their time is optimized around high-value rather than low-value activities.
Satisfying end user IT demands and expectations
Users gain the best employee experience when their IT expectations are satisfied. This leads, in turn, to several significant advantages for both the users themselves and the organization as a whole:
Included and embraced
An excellent approach to IT will prevent employees from feeling isolated – important in remote and hybrid workplaces – and allow them to work and live with greater flexibility. It will also arm each user with the power to express themselves, produce great work and communicate effectively with others.
Highly productive and successful
Employees are happier when they are unburdened by the frustrations of inefficient tools and processes. They want to be more productive by applying technologies rather than simply working longer hours. This allows them to accomplish personal achievements, develop a more successful career and contribute to shared goals. This is a win-win for organizations.
Attract and retain top talent
Employees are increasingly drawn to organizations that support their aspirations from an IT perspective. Providing a progressive IT environment is key to attracting and retaining employees and reducing staff churn.
In particular, younger employees are more attracted to businesses that allow them to use their own hardware and software (within reason) and customize their working environment.
No recourse to ‘shadow IT’
Employees who lack confidence in their IT departments to satisfy their needs will often embrace a path of ‘shadow IT’ – using tools that IT has not sanctioned and has no visibility of. Instances of shadow IT typically happen when:
Examples of shadow IT in the last 10–15 years include:
Alleviating unnecessary IT burdens
The average employee is unqualified to conduct IT admin tasks. These tasks create an unnecessary risk of human error and take employees away from their core duties.
However, these situations have often arisen because IT departments cannot stretch to complete all IT tasks and so call upon users to undertake relatively simple tasks through necessity.
So, while it is helpful to the employee experience to alleviate any IT burdens, ensuring that this workload is not simply pushed back onto IT remains imperative. The only workable solution for satisfying both ends is to centralize and automate processes, such as email signature management.
The role of email signature management in the end user experience
As noted throughout this post, email signatures crop up time and time again as an important element in the workload of IT departments and users. It begins with creating user accounts and continues throughout the employee lifecycle. A succession of change events – including the desire of marketing and other stakeholders to promote more signature-based campaigns, data collection, and interactive functionality – makes email signatures almost organic and subject to continual evolution.
IT users are not best placed to manage their email signatures
In many businesses, the theory goes that users should be capable of administering their own email signatures. After all, email signatures are particular to each user and closely associated with basic email account settings (for example, out-of-office responder emails).
In reality, end users are often not interested in their email signatures. Every person has a different interpretation of how to use email signature templates and different skills to make that happen. IT has to then manage this process, picking up the pieces when users transparently fail to do so correctly.
The dangers of getting email signatures wrong
Email signatures are important to get right, else there would be no point in using them. And there are some unfortunate consequences when they aren’t. For example:
Taking IT end users out of the equation through centralized email signature management
Email signature management software makes it easier for IT to ensure the accuracy and consistency of email signatures while relieving end users from the responsibility of keeping theirs maintained.
And rather than simply consuming all that extra workload multiplied across hundreds or possibly thousands of employees, the centralized nature of a platform like Exclaimer means IT departments can concentrate their effort. Single changes can be implemented in just a few keystrokes, while individual-level updates to personal data are straightforward and painless.
Other labor-saving features of the Exclaimer approach include:
There’s still the capacity to securely ‘outsource’ control of certain email signature management elements to non-IT staff, but this is entirely the gift of IT personnel to control as they wish. For example, delegating control of professional email signature management templates to marketing leaders or allowing users to update their details into a database that the email signature management platform can use to complete fields in the email signature template.
Ensure end users are not involved in updating email signatures
Make email signature management simple for IT departments and end users by using Exclaimer. We integrate with Office 365 (now Microsoft 365), G Suite (now Google Workspace), and Microsoft Exchange so you can create email signatures for everyone in your company in minutes.
Try one of our solutions for free, or book an online demonstration with one of our product specialists below.
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