Helping an End User Survive a System Upgrade

Changing desktop PCs can be a traumatizing experience for a user.  Not only is the hardware replaced, but quite often the Operating System is upgraded to a newer version and the business applications and other software are also brought up to the latest and greatest version available.  To the user, radical changes to their virtual desktop can be as disorienting and frustrating as rearranging the contents of their office.

This often prompts complaints around the water cooler such as:

  • My old system worked fine, why do we need to upgrade?
  • I can’t find anything on the new system!
  • This new system is slower / makes no sense / makes it harder to do my work / stinks!

In small to mid-sized organizations, where a PC can generally be “individualized,” it is important to retain the same flow on the new system for the user, to avoid frustration.  Take the time to ask:

  • What are the primary applications this user uses?
  • What view do they retain in their email client?
  • Do they work from desktop short cuts, or are they proficient finding applications through the start menu?

Using a very generic example in a Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office environment, completing these steps will assist your users in their transition:

  • Import the user’s NK2 file.  It’s a small thing, but almost every end user relies on those Outlook cached addresses more than their contact list.
  • In a POP3 environment, take the time to import their existing PST file after configuring their mail settings.  Simply mounting their existing PST file may cause items to corrupt or go missing when moving between versions of Outlook.
  • Migrate their “Internet Explorer Favorites” to their profile on the new machine.
  • Migrate their desktop shortcuts to the new machine (especially helpful when changing Operating Systems).  The most common complaint when moving to a new OS is that the new layout is difficult to navigate.  Giving them their desktop shortcuts can reduce this frustration.
  • Migrate their “My Documents” directory, as is, to the new machine.  Often times, even on work computers, users will store personal pictures and documents here.  They may not think to have them removed from the old machine.  Although debatable that the files should be there (on a work PC) in the first place, that decision is a matter of policy, not user support, and the comfort of finding their files should reduce anger with the expected challenges.
  • Reconfigure their default printer so they do not have to search for it the first time they try to print.
  • Take time to explains some of the “little things” available in the new Operating System.  This will make them feel more competent and confident going forward (pinning applications to the task bar comes to mind in Windows 7).

The user’s PC is supposed to be a tool to assist them in their day to day work.  Anything “new” that they need to learn slows them down and prevents them from doing what they are paid to do.  Often, the user does not see the benefit until weeks or months down the road, and by then has forgotten their initial frustration.

Teach your users simple solutions when they bring you problems.  Keyboard shortcuts, new drag and drop areas, new controls.  Sympathizing with their problems and giving them visible solutions, rather than transparent background fixes, will go a long way to getting them on track in their new environment.