At this government agency, the contract for PC support changes hands, and ends up with an outsourcer with a fixation on trouble tickets, says a second-tier support pilot fish.
"Almost overnight, the emphasis changed from 'get the job done and keep the users happy' to 'close as many tickets as you can as fast as you can,'" fish says.
"We reported to a nominal supervisor who was one of us. The supervisors reported to a manager at headquarters who was, to put it lightly, clueless about how we worked and what we did -- but boy did he watch those help desk tickets. I would regularly get grief from him over not having enough tickets."
When a new piece of hardware and software comes through from headquarters, there's a whole different kind of grief. It's a bar code reader that interfaces with some mainframe software, and it's intended to be used by non-IT people for inventory: Find the equipment, scan it, and type in the location and who owns it.
Fish and his support cohorts are supposed to install the readers -- usually remotely -- and then users will go off and happily update site inventories. But the bar code readers are notoriously hard to install. The installation procedure has to be followed to the letter, and the software doesn't like being installed on PCs that aren't set up in what headquarters says is the standard way.
Fish manages to get this cranky equipment working on several difficult PCs, and quickly becomes known as the go-to guy for the bar code readers.
So when his supervisor calls fish asking for help with a bar code reader she can't get working, fish accepts the ticket. He calls the user and remotes into her PC to get it set up.
That's when he see it's very non-standard, with several pieces of software that aren't supposed to be on agency PCs and IP settings that are thoroughly messed up, among other issues.
Hours later -- most of them spent cleaning up other problems so fish can actually install the bar code reader and its software -- the reader is working, the user is happy, fish's supervisor is grateful, and the ticket is closed.
"The next day I got a call from Manager Clueless," says fish. "'Why don't you have more tickets?' he asked. Well, I spent most of yesterday getting this bar code reader working for my supervisor. The PC was a mess and it took a long time tweaking settings, uninstalling unauthorized software and so on, but by George I got it to work and everyone's happy.
"Next question from manager: 'But that's just one ticket, right?'"
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