Dan Sweet

No, I DON’T want to “open a ticket!”

This phrase often runs through my head and almost just as often includes an expletive that I try hard to suppress.  Of course, IT systems don’t make it possible to NOT open a ticket so I just suck it up and open them like a good little employee.  Enterprise IT blows, opening tickets rarely gets you what you need, and the whole process is generally infuriating.

2 recent experiences from work:
1 – A standard accounting report that I regularly supply to a retail partner had an error in it.  (Still unresolved 12 days later)
2 – LCD panel on my laptop went out combined with multiple blue screens of death.  (Partially resolved 7 days later)

These experiences involved opening multiple tickets, filling out more than one form, sending multiple emails, and working with multiple support people.  I am still not satisfied with the resolution of either of these problems.

The ticket opened to investigate the accounting error in the report was “resolved” within 4 days with an email informing me that the clearly incorrect report is actually correct along with a classic “buck pass” name drop of someone else who might know more.   Now, one other coworker and I have received multiple emails from the individual who “resolved” our problem asking us to please “close the ticket” since the issue has been resolved.  Where is the “are you freaking kidding me!?!” response voting button in Outlook?  There is no straightforward feedback mechanism.  Someone with no understanding of my business thinks they have solved my problem and I am still stuck with no answers for my retail partner.  They can’t close their books and I am left looking like an idiot.  With the help of my coworker, we are now multiple buck passes down the line with multiple cryptic responses prominently featuring random internal numbers generated by various internal systems I’ve never heard of.  Sweet!

I do have a new LCD screen in my laptop (different resolution from original panel).  No resolution on my blue screen of death errors however.  I was offered the classic “I guess we could re-image it again” line.  The annoying part of the harware experience was that I got significantly faster and better service from Dell as a student when I bought a laptop from the Dell Small Business division.  Taking a machine to the on-site kiosk in my work building is an exercise in silliness.  First you need to go online and open a ticket before they will talk to you.  Then once you have opened a ticket online they have a terminal where they want you to enter your info, your ticket number and a description of your problem.  Once those two steps are complete and they are willing to actually converse with you, then they want you to fill out a paper form with all of the same info again.  Awesome!  The loaner for my Core2Duo with 2GBs of RAM was a Celeron with 1GB of RAM that takes 20+ minutes to boot and open Outlook.  On a return trip to the kiosk I talked them into installing an extra gig of RAM to make the loaner usable.  They explained that this wasn’t normally ok/against policy/whatever but did “hook me up” in the end.  Dell wouldn’t have been able to give me a loaner same day, but would have had a tech onsite with the right parts the next business day.  Based on three experiences with Dell service, my problem could be captured in one phone call or IM session and the tech would treat me like a human.  I much prefer being treated like a human over the enterprise IT “rat in a maze” nonsense.

This is a huge business opportunity.  Salesforce.com sucks in many ways (that is another post) and still has built a business with a $15B market cap.  Their equity seems to be “we aren’t in-house IT” and people eat it up just because we have all had such lousy enterprise IT experiences.

We need Stack Overflow or a competitor in the same space to create an enterprise IT support platform and attack this in-house support problem.  Tickets that are opened need to be worked on by people that understand the business need.  If I am working with retailer accounting data I want to talk to someone who understands customers and retail.  I’m sure the R&D engineer wants to talk to someone who gets labs and experiment design.  Let the support people choose what problems they work on.  Use a keyword-based algorithm to tag incoming tickets and route them to the relevant boards/holding areas for pickup.  Make solving more difficult issues worth more.  Get transparent end user measures of satisfaction and compensate support people on the end-user satisfaction levels they deliver.  Gamify the system by increasing the value of a ticket the longer it goes unassigned.  Enterprise IT has the potential to be a real help, but instead we settle for cost savings, roadblocks, and more “tickets.”  Someone will fix this and build a billion dollar business.  Who is it going to be?

Contributing vs. Consuming

I’ve struggled to find the balance between contributing and consuming.  Folks like Fred Wilson write a blog post every day.  That is some serious contributing.  Over the last two years I have read blogs consistently but have never found the time to post consistently.  Serious consuming. Recently, I’ve been striving for a better balance between contributing and consuming.

Over the past couple months I’ve begun commenting on blogs more frequently.  I’ve struggled as I’ve attempted to share my point of view.  It is difficult to balance being concise, sharing your experience, saying something meaningful, using humor, and being persuasive.  I’ve found the experience of commenting regularly (primarily on Fred’s blog A VC) has forced me to think more carefully about how I communicate in writing.  The experience has made me more determined to actually write posts myself and stretch myself further in this area.

Thoughts on writing:

1 – Writing well is a differentiator. (Check the 100+ comment threads daily on A VC.  The same people consistently write the most interesting comments, receive the most “likes”, generate the most discussion, etc.)

2 – Commenting, or posting yourself, builds the skill.  (classic skill-building grunt work here)

3 – The right tools help a lot. (I really like the Disqus/IntenseDebate comment systems.  Avatars, likes, threaded replies, etc.  It all comes together to make the commenting experience much more fulfilling.)

Net, I’m pledging to comment and post more.  I encourage you to do the same and put conscious effort into building this critical business skill.  In that vein, leave a comment below if this post has resonated with you.