Many organizations today utilize a software program such as a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) to help control important aspects of their business. It’s no surprise that information technology (IT) departments encourage backing up these critical databases, as this protects data and allows for continued operation of the programs. However, fewer companies encourage cross-training multiple users with full administrative access of these programs. The process of “backing up” your champions is equally as important as backing up your database.
If your organization is running software programs that are in any way related to finance, historical records or feature-rich data, it’s likely your IT department mandates the backing up of those databases. This process protects the integrity of the data and will enable continued and viable operation of the program over many years. Having a backup ensures your data is safe in the event of a hardware failure, fire, earthquake, flood, data breach, corruption due to power outages and other potential incidents.
Many software programs provide various levels of access or permissions for users, including the most comprehensive access commonly referred to as “champion” or administrator user status. While organizations may provide software training for multiple employees, typically only one or two employees are selected for comprehensive champion training.
Champions are critical links in the organization. They have control and institutional knowledge of how the software functions. However, it’s the job of the champion’s manager to ensure critical links aren’t broken in the face of changing circumstances, such as someone calls in sick, technology fails, there is a temporary reduction in workforce, etc. Expected or unexpected, these common circumstances can prevent departments from running critical software, maintaining data appropriately and providing program support.
Redundant positions within organizations offer some degree of flexibility, but redundancy may not apply to champions. Therefore, departments should increase their flexibility through cross-training. This also enables others to experience new and more challenging work responsibilities. Department managers should allow cross-trained employees the opportunity to fill in while champions go on vacation or take on additional job duties.
Insist your champion record his or her basic job responsibilities in addition to each of those responsibilities typically in the “all other duties as assigned” category. Ensure the champion be granular in these writings, providing important details. Doing so will provide not only a detailed roadmap for others to follow in order to keep the organization running efficiently but also an opportunity for those hoping to gain knowledge or advance their careers.
As a manager, your first order of business is to direct your champions to make themselves dispensable. As a champion, you should ensure one person on staff is fully capable of performing your job responsibilities in total, especially as it applies to software knowledge.
During my maintenance career, I have witnessed situations in which organizations failed to back up many critical managers. Higher level managers often overlook early warnings of coming promotions or retirements, and consequently scramble to adapt to these situations. In some cases, this prompts an emergency contact with the software developer for immediate training. In other instances, the original software program may be abandoned altogether while a new program is implemented.
Consequences like these can result in considerable financial expense, as new programs, training and other factors will carry significant costs. This does not include the lost return on investment (ROI) from the abandoned software, all of which could have been avoided by simply backing up your champion.
Robert Brieck is a professional services consultant for DPSI, a CMMS provider. He has more than 40 years of experience as a senior level maintenance administrator at a number of organizations, most recently with the Community College of Allegheny County. He has also worked as an instructor for both public and private institutions.