Geekspeak: January 1, 2001

Technology Helps Where Size Can't

No one can afford to scale up user support. we often hear the word "scalability" reverently invoked—as if it were the necessary and sufficient trait of any enterprise IT solution—but there are just too many users, in too many places, doing too many complex things to make scalable user support a cure for anything.

Whats needed is not bigger help desks but a focus on support technologies that dont consume scarce help desk resources. "Tier Zero" solutions, such as self-healing systems, are good choices, as are "Tier One" solutions, such as plain-English support portals that offer education.

If a problem is so complex—or a user so inexperienced—that a staff member must intervene, the Tier Zero and Tier One technologies can still play important roles. Ed Gory (pictured above), director of e-business development at, recommends the use of instrumented user systems that can automatically submit vital configuration data such as the version of the system software on a users device, including any service packs installed.