I’m a huge proponent of internal users groups, which I’ve written about here and here. At a session I attended, Jamie DeSimone of the Independent Electrical Contractors asked how one should go about setting up an internal users group. Here are my suggestions:

  1. Identify the key players, who are typically the power users. On occasion you may want to include CONSUMERS of the data that are not power users (typically senior staff), so they can see what is discussed, and also ensure that staff is working on the things they really need to work on (i.e., are staff objectives aligned with senior management).
  2. Set a schedule for meeting and make it sacrosanct. These meetings need to be viewed as important as any other meeting (e.g., all-staff meetings), and not optional. They should be scheduled regularly (e.g., every other Wednesday at noon). I recommend at least twice monthly meetings to start (and even weekly if there are a LOT of issues) and then you can taper back to monthly meetings once things are running smoothly.
  3. Set an agenda, which should include the following: What challenges are you facing with the data and/or the database now, what are new projects your dept is working on that may have a data element to them, what successes have you had since the last meeting.
  4. Establish discussion guidelines. These sessions are meant to SOLVE problems. So users can bring their complaints, but they must also bring potential solutions. This is not a bitch session, but a solutions session.

Without exception, every one of my clients who has implemented this process has been ecstatic with the results. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you open the lines of communication!