Most of us only think about the customer support team at a software vendor when something goes wrong. We could be trying to configure the product, figuring out a feature, or worst case, the product isn’t working for us. With most vendors, support is readily available and you’re quickly speaking with someone who can resolve your issue. A few days later, you may get a survey to complete and, in most cases, you report your satisfaction. But is that enough? Shouldn’t you get more from your support team, especially when you’re paying annual maintenance fees?
The best way to work is through influence. But how do you accomplish it? It begins with realizing that we all act in our own best interest. It’s human nature. In every situation, we’re evaluating the gains and losses, weighing how we can get what we need. Even when we strive to help others, we do it because it feels good and makes us feel good about ourselves.
We’re all being asked to warm up to IT climate change. With narrowing profit margins, companies put pressure on every department to reduce costs. IT, too long seen only as a ‘cost center,’ is particularly vulnerable. While hardware costs may be seen as more manageable, software and people costs look like better targets. In this ‘storm’ of cost-cutting, you want an umbrella or a shelter to protect you from the risk of a lightning strike that will eliminate your job.
A guest post by Denise P. Kalm – You’ve probably met John Baker, mainframe guru at MVS Solutions. He speaks regularly at SHARE and CMG (and probably a few places I didn’t know about). His smiling face greets you at the MVS Solutions booth. But what you may not know is that he is passionate about volunteering for CMG – Computer Measurement Group.
With the General Chair overseeing the logistics, John is responsible for ensuring that CMG continues to provide quality mainframe content, in addition to the other tracks. Since mainframes are only a part of what CMG covers, John must work diligently to find the kinds of papers people really want to hear. Because of his wide network, he can draw on some of the ‘mainframe stars’ to help out.
We systems programmers love metrics – and we have a lot of them. But in two areas, we struggle: SLAs and KPIs. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) always exist, even in you never agreed to any. The business and end users have expectations and, in their minds, these are SLAs. We may have set them for online, but rarely have more than a ‘suggested’ due-out time.
We don’t generally communicate well with the business, which means being seen more as a cost center than a value provider. I think we can do better, but perhaps we need to look for another metric, one that is useful in reaching across the aisle to the business especially in the area of batch performance.
We’ve all experienced that dread moment after purchasing an item where we open the box and read the words ‘some assembly required.’ For some, it was the night before Christmas and the item was something you expected would be complete, like a tricycle. For me, it was almost every piece of furniture I got from Scandinavian Designs. The easy part was making sure you had all the parts, never a guarantee. But then, you’d have some confusing diagram that was supposed to guide you through a ‘quick and easy’ process to get to your finished product. It was never quick or easy.
As a child, I was always impressed by how Tom Sawyer got other people to do his work for him. Instead of offering a trade, Sawyer flipped the challenge on its head. He made people feel like white-washing a fence was so pleasurable they should pay him for the privilege. I can only imagine what a speaker and salesman he would have grown up to be. What a gift! I think we all feel overworked much of the time. Between layoffs and retirements, most of us have more than one job we’re trying to manage with too many tasks not to our liking. Even in the rarified waters of complex IT projects, there are still tasks that can feel as unrewarding and uninteresting as white-washing a fence. Either it is a task that challenged you many years ago and no longer does, or it is simply uninteresting to you personally.