Guerrilla IT: How to stop worrying and learn to love your superusers

Your organization is filled with IT rogues and tech renegades. Here's how best to embrace them

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Tip No. 5: Recruit your own geek squad
Superusers constantly try to introduce new technology into an organization. Let them -- but make sure they support it themselves.

Chris Lynch, vice president of engineering at collaborative software firm Daptiv, begged, pleaded, whined, and cajoled his IT department to let him use a Mac, until they finally gave in -- but only after he offered to be his own support department.

"At first, our IT department said they didn't have anyone in IT who knew anything about Mac management and support," Lynch says. "I said, why not start with one person -- me. I will get a Mac, I will support it. Any problem I encounter, I come up with the best practice to resolve it and tell you everything I do."

You can guess what happened next. Soon, other people at Daptiv saw Lynch's Mac and wanted one, too. So he became their support department as well. The IT department saw the writing on the wall and assigned a staffer to handle the company's burgeoning Mac population, which Lynch estimates at 15 to 20 machines. (He says Daptiv offered to send him to Mac training as well, but he declined.)

EMA's Hank Marquis says deputizing superusers to provide shadow tech support also allows business units to get faster fixes without busting the IT budget.

"Say you have a remote office," Marquis says. "They're unhappy with IT because when the network goes down it takes four hours to get someone there to fix it. But if you take a person on site and make them a quasi-member of IT, he can call a special number to access the help desk when the net goes down. Or he can have a key to the telecom room and enough training to reboot the system. Business users get back up in minutes, not hours."

Just don't overdo it, Marquis warns. It's easy to give superusers so much extra work that they don't do the jobs they were hired to do.

There are other unexpected consequences as well. Once Daptiv's Lynch got his shadow Mac operation going, he naturally needed an iPhone to go with it -- and so did 30 to 40 of his BlackBerry-wielding colleagues.

"I must be the bane of IT," Lynch jokes.

Bottom line? "You better hop on this train because it's moving," says Alex Chriss, business development lead at QuickBase. "You need to believe in your superusers and empower them. They're the ones that have the business-specific knowledge. If you can empower them and give them the tech knowledge and toolset they need to solve problems, you're the one who's going to look like a hero."

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