The question of how to manage power users' use, misuse, and abuse of access to corporate data through powerful reporting, query and desktop productivity tools was the topic of the latest Reg Workshop discussion (here). A whole range of issues have been raised by readers, from keeping track of what users are doing, though the …
Importance of training
It's not quite the same problem as the one you describe, but I think a lot of businesses suffer failing properly to train their staff -- what's the need? Everyone knows how to use Word and Excel, don't they? -- with the result that someone in the office who knows a bit (but not very much) more about how to use the application than does everyone else gets elected as de facto 'power user' to whom everyone else turns for advice.
This has two drawbacks. First, it means she can't concentrate on the job she's actually paid to do because she's trying to answer everyone else's questions; and, second, her solutions -- which everyone else adopts -- aren't usually particularly good ones.
Power User :(
In every job I've ever worked at in the science and medical fields where I was NOT hired as a computer person, I end up being the local "power user" that everyone brings their problems to first (I have a background in IT support). I get asked to look at things because since I am already there, it is cheaper and quicker than making a proper request to IT or wherever.
Like Mr. Glynn says, it sucks. People even bring in their own, personal, computers to work and expect me to take a look at them. When I need to call IT, they brush me off then return the same conclusion to a technical problem that I do- three weeks later. If I try to make a request to buy a replacement part to keep our equipment working, management tells me that I was not hired to do support and I need to wait two months for IT to do it. The reason I put up with this stuff? Because keeping my own gear running is faster and easier than trusting the official people to do it for me. And I'm too nice not to help other people in the same situation if I can.
As I was typing this I just got a call on my cell phone. I am not kidding. Someone with a "dead laptop" issued to them by the University. The solution was to make sure it was plugged in and the power button was pushed. It would be inconsiderate to have thrown this poor clueless user to the mercy of the Helpdesk, but really can we get some IT training opportunities for people like this?
Power User/Local Admin - Whats the diff?
Power user and local admin is basically the same. In a corporate environment people should be kept at the standard "user" group. Less chance they will install some crap that will break/slow down/disrupt their computer/company. The company owns the computer and the employee is there to work; not play games. I know I sound like a IT Nazi but I hate hearing people cry about their computer running slow! It's their own fault for having too many privileges on their workstation!! From spyware to freeware to viruses to root kits; most people don't realize that if they don't have permissions of a power user/local admin most of that stuff wont hurt them... Why?? because it cant be installed! <stepping down from soap box>
Adequate support and training eliminates power users
Power users evolve when organizations don't have adequate technical or organizational support. You need a responsive help desk with a reliable tracking process to ensure help requests aren't dropped. Training doesn't have to be centralized, or even in-house, but it needs to be accessible. Help desk workers are trainers by the nature of their position. They are the face of your IT organization and should be as carefully chosen as your system, network, developers and database people.