Friday, April 26, 2013

The Desk

I had an interesting experience today with the help desk at the company I currently am trying to help. It was so interesting; it inspired me to write a small blog post on it!

One of the things I like about Agile is the core concept of asking WHY. Asking the "why" about everything is a critical first step on many Agile journeys, and it is a step that when skipped, will lead to interesting results. In addition to asking why, one of the things we want to try to be able to do is be helpful. I know I wrote about the negative side of this, but my experience deals with the exact opposite. In fact, if I could summarize the experience I would do so as being a victim of the Ticket mentality.

What is the ticket mentality? Well, let's say I needed help with my new set up, so when I called the "Help Desk" I was advised to "open a ticket"...

I had been at this new role for a bit, and as is customary, had faced some difficulties in getting my system set up. So I was told to call the help desk. These initial interactions were very positive and helpful - and thus set my expectation so that when I called, I expected to be helped by a friendly person on the other end. After a few weeks, with better knowledge of the role and understanding what I needed a bit more, I needed to call again. But now, things did not go as expected.

When I called the second major time, I received some interesting advice - open a ticket. So I did. The first thing I noticed is that I did not have rights to open a ticket. But I put in the info as a guest, and I felt confident that I would get results. And I did, as a help desk representative called me back and explained to me how I had done this wrong. After a 15 minute conversation, he realized what I needed done. And he helpfully walked me through opening an additional ticket, with enough information to resolve the now known TWO issues that I was dealing with. So, I did as I was told.

This resulted in a bit of a mess. You see, if one problem was addressed first, the second would not be a problem at all. Of course, the opposite resulted. The owners of the second issue, having more bandwidth got to their ticket first, but they could not resolve it due to an attachment being missing. They clearly understood what I needed, and what I had to do. How did I know? Well, the string of 12 e-mails with the ticket owner made it abundantly clear that this was the case. I explained that I could NOT attach anything, since I did not yet have full access to the ticket system - but to no avail, the ticket was closed.

At this time, the first group got my original ticket, and closed out right. No explanation, no call no e-mail. Assigned, and closed. Being extremely frustrated, I decided to call. Once I explained the situation to the less than helpful person (it seemed I was getting less and less talented staff) I was asked to re-open a NEW ticket in order to rectify the issues. This time, the ticket got dealt with immediately. They found my profile, looked at the history of the ONE ticket, confirmed I had what I was "asking for" and closed the ticket telling me to "Have a nice day". But they did not change ANYTHING....

When I spoke to my friends about it, I suggested that the department change its name from "the Help Desk" to simply "the Desk". And although they thought this was funny, they reminded me that it very much depended on the person I got to work with. Because at first, the help desk were helpful, and the team had experienced similar run ins with the “not-so-helpful” bunch. Lastly, my team told me what the problem was - I should let the Help Desk people open their own tickets - as when I opened them myself I only caused confusion.

Looking back on this, I reflected on what I am trying to do for this organization. It is very easy to look at the world through a "ticket" paradigm. Indeed, you can see that management is having a very hard time NOT looking at the world through this prism. But as a team, most people here are very helpful - some even resentful that collaboration was "taken away". When I look to a new team or new organization, I like to use the "WHY" question to try to break out of the ticket mentality. After all, our goal is to be as helpful as we possibly can - within reason and with boundaries - so that we can develop a trust relationship with our users. At this stage, I can tell you I do NOT trust “the Desk”!!

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