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.


Charles Schultz said...

Heard from someone. Basically:
- LOVs are a pain
- Consolidate Problem and Summary
- Provide more space for free-form answers, get rid of all the multiple choices and fill-in-the-blank
- self-escalating SRs?

Joel Garry said...

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.

I've thought this too, since long before MOS, but it doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

First of all, this would bring up a data staleness problem, coordinating between groups that actually exist and the table data. We don't know how stable the groups are, and I suspect even the management overestimates group stability. I suspect there is a major reorg every few years anyways. I suspect there are a lot of groups, and a lot of redundancy, especially worldwide.

Second, you've alluded to skill level of the DBA, and most users of support are not DBA's. I'd speculate the vast majority of support users would not understand the groups even if told what they are. Even in just the DBA realm, most don't know what's really wrong and would be worse than some of the wrong directions we've seen things pushed by frontline analysts.

Third, there's a variety of types of support calls, from simple questions to obscure bugs. Look at a bug report header - it doesn't show you enough info to know what development groups it's gone through, and it shouldn't, those are child details. What support groups should it have gone through to get to those places?

So an SR needs to have a frontend and backend just like everything else. It's an impossible problem to generalize the frontline analyst function. Some customers need their hand held, some need someone to yell at (as if that helps), some hope their problem has already been solved with a patch, some are glad to just dig through notes and never talk to anyone, some want to use support for free education etc.

word: gricun

Charles Schultz said...

Joel, you raise some good points, thanks. In your comment, you do not express any shortcomings or areas of strength with the current process. Does that imply you are 100% ok with it and do not want it to change?

Martin Berger said...

I think the SR creation method in MOS is just false. The many questions at the SR creation might have the goal to collect as many informations as necessary to start the SR resolution directly afterwards, without any long questions/response queues.
Unfortunately it just made the SR creation too complex, without any additional value.
I'd start a redesign by keeping a smartphone application as a target: If you can create the SR with the limited possibilities of a smartphone, it's easy enough for a case where you are on a hurry at the office, oncall, where ever.

Charles Schultz said...

Martin, I would have to agree 100%.