Monday, April 25, 2011

MOS Workshop: Fixing SRs

So I am heading to Oracle the first week of May (May 2-4) to talk about improving MOS, specifically the SR creation process.

I have two similar previous posts on this topic:

The agenda is:

The Service Request process is undergoing a redesign and a specific customer intensive feedback type session called “The Bridge” is being used to evaluate changes to the design. This process works over a 3 day period with two customers, the business owner, a lead developer, a designer and two facilitors to help the structured process to move forward.

The results are extensive requirements and user interfaces which are tested and approved during these sessions by development, customers, and business owners. This process works because the customers are in the room.

I ask for your help because I am but one person. I have filed a goodly number of SRs, ranging from the stupid to the complex, so I feel comfortable in that I can represent my own thoughts in what I would like to see improved. And I'll detail those ideas below. But if there are other pressing matters that I miss, please speak up! :)

Overall, I want the SR creation process to be easier on me, the client. I see the merit of Configurations and suppling an extra level of detail to the SR Analyst, and I see how the OCM intends to make the collection of such configurations mostly transparent. But above and beyond what is best for the analyst, I want to have a satisfying and confident SR creation experience.

Currently, it takes a minimum of 17 steps (skipping all optional steps) in both the Flash and HTML versions to get to the point of hitting the "Create SR" button (different steps to be sure, but they amount to the same thing). Some of the steps are completely redundant, some are nonsense. I would contend that 95% of those steps can be deferred until after the SR is created - basically, you just need the SR to end up in the right Support group. A note about the OCM - In the HTML version, I found that it was faster (according to the wall clock) to not use the OCM because the pop-up window to choose the system/host can take a long time to churn through the available systems (at least for us). The Flash version is a bit smarter and fills-in as you type, which is perhaps one of the best things about the Flash version.

What information does Oracle need at an absolute minimum to file the SR with the right group? Well, for starters, how about displaying all the possible groups? Currently (in both the HTML and Flash versions), the LOV (list of Values) that populate the "Problem" drop-down menu are determined by the Product that is chosen. Personally, I would prefer to pick an area of Support to send my SR to, instead of having to wade through various menus that play out like a "choose your own adventure" story.

Once the proper group within Support is selected, I want a "File it NOW!" button. All the other information can be entered after the SR is filed. I would even be ok with Oracle spitting out a message like "the analyst is going to ask a lot of questions unless you can provide more details". This makes sense. If all you have done is quickly file an SR without providing the product, version and some details of the problem, what is the analyst supposed to do? Practice ESP?

Next, I want the ability to fill in information that is pertinent to my case. If I use the a configuration, I want a list of configurations that gives priority to usage such that those configs that I use more often would percolate to the top. Same with the product and versions. I want the whole operation geared around getting it done as fast as possible. I want it all to be saved as I go so that if my connection is lost or I timeout (emergency meeting with the boss), I want to be able to slide back into it where I left off with no hassles.

In terms of "Related Knowledge" or other relevant documents, I do not mind if Oracle wants to spin extra cycles looking and filtering for possible metalink docs that might help me out. Just do not be obnoxious about it. Run the search in the background and populate a sidebar that I can click on at my convenience. In fact, I would want all related docs to be here, including any others that the analyst might find and possible bugs.

I want my SR to be filed with an analyst who shares my working hours. I prefer they speak my language proficiently, but initially and more importantly, I want to know that when I am at work, so is my analyst. I want the option of specifying different work hours. There has been a bit of talk about indicating the skill level of the DBA filing the SR so as to get a competent analyst, and this idea has been shot down with good reason. Rather, I want Oracle to provide top quality analysts from the get-go. If you have a newbie who is taking the SR, fine, but make sure there is some oversight from an escalation manager right off the bat. I do not want to escalate the SR simply because I am smarter than the analyst.

Lastly, I want my experience to be completely independent of my browser choice. I realize this is a huge obstacle as HTML "standards" are not standard at all.

Here are some things that Oracle is doing well, and I want the basic functionality to be retained. In both the HTML and Flash versions, there is an attachment link where you can view uploaded files. I like how the Flash version allows you to map a system after filing the SR. Although, I do not like how you have to change other parameters as well just to make that stick. I like how entries in the SR can be filtered and/or sorted. I like the concept of the OCM (as mentioned previously) - I think there is still untapped potential there. I like how the Flash version allows one to navigate the various sections of the SR creation process (the HTML version only has a "back" and a "next" button). Pre-filled values - the more the merrier.

I am toying with the idea of generating a step-by-step example of my concerns. I have already down two recorded webX sessions with Oracle about this, and it would be simpler just to make those public. :) But I did not record them, Oracle did.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

MOS Mashup: the summary or the saga?

Jonathan Lewis started a small conversation; what I gleaned from that thread is he and Tanel (and other experts?) mainly use MOS for "bug hunting" and looking up specific documents. Not so much for filing SRs. Therefore their comments revolved around the utility of the site in that context. However, the general consensus is that they do not use the Flash version, only the HTML version.

Lots of threads on oracle-l - I'll provide the first thread from the freelists and let you read through it if you like.

Robert Freeman "Do you ask the question: How do I work with Oracle Support....?":
Lots of varied comments here, great for "mining" what users are expecting. If I have a ton of free time, I would love to go through and categorize what I find here more thoroughly. In summary, 1 overtly positive comment, 12 negative and 11 on the fence (both good and bad). This thread was mostly about the analysts and not MOS, per se, but a few comments did tickle MOS (negative).

Jared Still "Just my opinion - the move of MOS to Flash is still a bunch of crap":
14 negative comments and 2 "neutral" - I did not find a single person who absolutely loved Flash, let alone MOS. In fact, the majority seem to feel that Flash is REALLY BAD(tm) and the HTML version is passable. General sense that the design was driven from top-heavy management structure, not from collected opinions of the user-base. A little progress seen on fixing bugs, but not nearly enough. MOS still excruciatingly slow.

Yon Huang "Anything Flash MOS can do HTML MOS cannot?":
A number of browser differences ("you got an error in XXXX broswer, try the YYYY browser"). Some comments about how Flash was initially better at creating SRs, but now it seems the HTML version is more robust. With the possible exception of annoying timeouts. As if it would take an hour to file an SR, say it ain't so!!!

Andrew Kerber "more MOS pain":
I think the initial issue might not have been the interface (MOS) itself, but more about how some documents are not published ("unpublished"). I agree, I also find this practice highly annoying. If I cannot see, don't mention it.

Don Granaman "Obtuse errors at MOS":
I also have seen a number of these errors, even recently. This can be generalized into a category of the "Unexplainable", strange messages that pop up for no apparent reason with no apparent solution path. Or like when the entire GUI is in Japanese.

Amit Bansal "Problems with MOS":
Browser and performance issues.

Jon Crisler "Metalink fiasco":
This long strand of messages wandered all over the place and I could not bring myself to read all of them. There are some good efforts to point to specific problems and possible solutions. I am dearly hoping that someone categorized that already.... you know, reinventing the wheel and all. :)

There is a ton more on oracle-l - what I have above only scratches the surface. Not to mention the proliferation of myriad blogs. But two I do want to mention are from the folks at Oracle who have started a couple blogs which have garnered their own collection of colorful ideas.

Chris Warticki's "Support":
I actually took it as a good sign when Oracle briefly pulled the plug on Chris after a noticeably contentious article. Chris knows there are issues with the GUI and Support in general, and he tries really hard to put a positive spin on all of it. Its just that there is only so much positive spin one can put on.... anyway, many of the folks who commented on the oracle-l articles are active here as well.

Support Portal - maintained by members of the Dev team:
I have had a lot of great conversations with Richard Miller, and I am glad he started blogging a bit more. As I blogged about earlier (a long time ago it seems), they have been doing a great job of collecting feedback and Richard did write a series of posts (1, 2, 3) about that collection process. Good stuff. The only major downside is... what did they actually do with all that awesome feedback? How is MOS better for it? *pause* I do not hear anyone singing the praises of MOS.

Whew.... that is a lot of stuff. Here is my Very Basic, Gross Summary(tm).
Customers want the online Support Site to be very fast and they want it to work. They do not want to see silly little nonsense messages. They do not want to jump through hoops and tie themselves in knots to do basic things. Customers want to talk with and interact with humans. Not monkeys reading scripts. Not a cumbersome website. Customers want a powerful search utility that helps them find documents and information quickly. Lastly, customers expect that when they are asked for their feedback, something will magically happen. When nothing happens, the pool of that feedback can quickly turn sour and/or dry.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Heading out to talk to MOS Devs in May

I have been invited to a workshop to talk about enhancements to MOS. I am dearly hoping to collect and possibly organize feedback from the user community in general. So here is what I am looking for:
1) What do you like about MOS? Ie, the things you do not want to see changed.
2) What do you not like about MOS? The more specific the better, and bonus points for suggesting an alternative.

I'll be compiling my own list in the next few days. I realize many user communities have tossed this topic around ad nauseum, so this little effort is mostly my feeble way to gather all that wonderful feedback into a small concise package that can be communicated in a very clear and distinct manner.