Winning, redefined

This support pilot fish works under contract with a big company, and usually when software needs to be installed, it can be done over the network.

But some installs actually require disks. "One particular program that requires the disks has an expensive license, comes in a number of variations and requires an additional activation code during the installation," says fish. "Without the activation code, it will only make an evaluation version available to the user."

So when a user in fish's care needs the software installed, he tells fish, who trades e-mail and instant messages with the internal IT guy who's the keeper of the disks. The disk keeper dutifully checks the purchasing system to make sure that the correct -- and expensive -- license has been paid for.

Then fish goes to collect the disks.

Fish: "Hello, I'm here to pick up the disks for Megasplot Version X, as we discussed over instant messaging and e-mail."

Disk keeper: "OK, here are the disks and the license document. Now, it's expensive, so guard it with your life."

Fish, looking at the disks: "This isn't Megasplot Version X; it's the development package for Megasplot Version Y."

Disk keeper: "It's the right set of disks."

OK, fish thinks, he's from the company and I'm a contractor, so he wins -- at this company, they always win. And off fish trudges to the user's office to begin the install.

Two and a half hours later, fish has installed the software, but she still can't get it activated. She's tried every option available to get the activation code from the vendor, but keeps getting messages that the application and the serial number don't match.

Fish has tried turning to the disk keeper for help and to other people he has suggested, and finally -- at the disk keeper's suggestion -- her own boss.

"My boss then tells the disk keeper to call the vendor's support team, because under our contract, we're not supposed to call the vendor. The disk keeper didn't think of that.

"He talks to the vendor's support team on the phone, keeping me on IM. He asks me to do things, verify information, and the like.

"Until he said, 'Oh, here's the problem. I gave you the wrong disks.'"

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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