Support is not Manufacturing: Part 1

Ok, I know I said when I started this blog that I wouldn’t be going into the support aspects of my job much, but I lied. I can’t resist being an armchair quarterback, so I am going to warm up my arm today, and start tossing Hail Mary’s tomorrow. Just remember, this is coming from a tech guy with an eye for process, not a manager in charge of making the tough decisions. :)

 If there’s one thing that has been consistent in my 7 years in support, it’s that processes rule the day. Not the kind that people like to debug, the kind that tells you what you should do and when. 

After some grim time fighting the system, I came to see why they are important. After all, how can you manage and understand your costs when you don’t know what’s going on and why? It’s not like creating a product where you can see something coming out the other end of the line, like software, or toothpaste. So, you need to put some rules around your workflows, and figure out a way to get a very ephemeral and soft result: Happy Customers. I accept that now, even if it cramps my style.

My problem comes from the data used to make some of these process flow decisions. Your choices can only be as good as your data, unless you get lucky. Playing carefree games with your data doesn’t help you make good decisions. Too many people spend a lot of time trying to find the best way to get the data to fit their ideas and preconceptions, and make horrible decisions based on their “findings”. Richard Feynman famously called it Cargo Cult Science.  The result is often a system that doesn’t help customers, and makes employees unhappy to come to work every day.

One of the biggest culture-shock changes comes when someone who is familiar with manufacturing process comes in and tries to “shape things up.” It usually doesn’t work out well, and I’ll go into why I think that is in my next entry.