Developers as Front Line Helpdesk Support for their own products

Saw an interesting tweet from a friend today that I somewhat agree and disagree with.  In a nutshell it was: “ALL developers should be required to spend 1 week per quarter as front-line helpdesk support for their own products.

I agree that “some time should” but not a whole week every quarter.  The response to that was “You need a week to get a feel for the issues.  Maybe not quarterly, but just after release, and while working on the next rev.

Again, I agree that you need to get a feel for some of the issues, but you have to look at how much time a core dev would spend doing helpdesk support depending on the scale of the project itself.

Let’s consider the sole one-man shop for a project:

  • Chances are you’re already your own helpdesk, nuff said.

Ok, so how about a small shop with say 3-4 developers

  • Your devs may also still be your helpdesk, but in a limited fashion.  You probably have someone lined up to take front line helpdesk tickets, but your dev’s are actively involved (especially if it is somewhat of a highly utilized application)
  • In this case, all your devs should be somewhat familiar with the features that one of the other team mates are responsible for.
  • Watch for trending issues with a particular feature within the application.  Assign the responsibility of the dev responsible for those features to attend routine “Assistance” to your helpdesk personnel.

So now, a large scale application with 10’s or 100’s of developers

  • Assigning a random developer to helpdesk is probably not going gain you anything, because the chances of him actually assisting someone with the component he is responsible for is going to be pretty slim I would think.
  • If anything, he should be responsible for listening in, and reporting back to the team responsible for the types of issues.
  • Depending on his area of expertise, he may be just as clueless as to the issue or what to do about it than the person calling in.
  • He’s just wasted time listening or trying to help customers who he can’t even help with, than spending quality time fixing bugs in his component, or working on the next rev of his component.

And here are just some random points regardless of the size

  • Not every developer is customer friendly.  It’s just a fact.  There are great developers who write awesome code, but have horrible people skills.
  • I have seen issues go from bad problem to horrific political snafu because the wrong person was on the phone with the customer.
  • Hopefully your organization is large enough, and the PM (Product/Program Manager) responsible is involved in this area to effectively communicate issues back to the developers.

I know there are lots of other points here I haven’t even mentioned, and I’m sure someone will add points or debate the subject.

The bottom line is, you can’t just put a blanket statement that “ALL developers should be required….as front-line helpdesk support” to this scenario, but rather “ALL developers should be required to listen IN”.  Based on experience on both sides of the fence (Support & Development), I just don’t agree it works.

– Keith

It’s not what’s in the Sandwich, it’s who made it. (And Glitter)

This weekend was one of the best weekends I’ve ever had.  I can honestly say that.  Even though it was mostly spent on the road, I had but one mission in mind.  To make a sandwich Smile If you’re a parent, you’ll understand.

Sometimes I let the stress of life, and other things prevent me from remember what the most important things in life are.  Family.  This weekend was devoted to mine….And sandwiches.  A lot of friends asked me what I was doing this weekend, and I told them “Making a sandwich”, and yes there were many curious looks.  They asked me “Ok?”

“Yep I responded, I’m heading down to my daughters to make her special sandwich”

“Ok, so what’s in this special sandwich?” they would ask.

“Nothing special”, I would reply Smile.

You see, as silly as it may sound, the one thing my oldest daughter remembers about growing up, is Dad’s Sandwich.  We all have our comfort foods, and for her…one of them is simply this sandwich.

For the longest time, I didn’t know it meant so much to her.  I was always concerned about not having those special moments with my oldest…Thinking to myself “Man, I should have done this when she was little..” or “We could have done this more…” etc.  But the bottom line is, you never know just how much a simple thing is going to mean in your child’s life.

When I was growing up, my dad would get myself, my older brother and younger sister, every other weekend, and it was pretty much the same story every time…Either a movie, lunch or dinner at Denny’s, or walking around to the music store and browsing around.  It wasn’t that he could not do anything else, it’s just that he had to find a common thing we could all do together, that we would all enjoy.  (Sure, we did other things, but these are the key things I remember).  Regardless, this is the one thing I love and remember about my father.  I knew that when it was our time with him, we were definitely going to see the latest greatest movie at the theatre Smile It was a given.  And I remember and loved it every single time.  It wasn’t really that we were going to see the latest and greatest, it was that this was OUR TIME with him.  For that single reason I still love going and paying the outrageous price for a movie ticket to sit in a theatre through a lot of really bad movies.   It’s the waiting for those few moments when I see an epic flic, and think to myself “That was worth the price of the ticket; the popcorn; etc” and I walk out with that nostalgic feeling and wishing my dad was there with me.

I stopped by my dads house yesterday on the way back home.  It was only oh…about 200 miles out of the way on an already long road trip back home, but it had been a long time since he and I have had a chance to sit, relax, and catch up.  We got on the subject of movies, and he explained how bad he felt that this was mostly all we did when he had us.  I told him, “Are you kidding? I loved those times!”  What I didn’t tell him (mostly because I didn’t know how to explain it) was that it’s ok, because that’s MY Sandwich.  That’s the thing I LOVE and MISS about my time with my dad.  I told him “Dad, don’t worry about it, it’s not WHAT we did, is just that we did it together.

When my oldest was growing up, I was just getting started in my career.  We certainly didn’t have a lot (not that it truly matters), but I wanted to do so much more with her.  On the weekends, when there was nothing else going on, we would make a sandwich; sit and watch goofy movies; and build up memories.  For her, Dad time was Sandwich time Smile.

Sometimes I get that call from her, when she’s had a bad day, and it ends with “I wish you were here to make me a sandwich”.   At first I thought to myself “Really?  You want me to make you a sandwich? What was so special about about a simple sandwich…I didn’t do anything special, it was really just mayo, mustard, American cheese, Bologna, etc…” but to her it was special.  That was HER Dad time.

So this weekend, on my way down she asked what I wanted to do, did we want to plan anything. I told her… “No, I don’t want to plan anything, I just want to come down and spend time with you.  We don’t have to do anything…but the ONE thing I’m doing is, I am SO making you a sandwich”.  So Saturday we go to the store to get supplies.  Fresh sliced Deli meats and cheeses, Lettuce, etc.  I’m making sure I’ve got anything and I tell her “Let me just get some chips to go with these, I’ll try to find something lite” and she points at the Doritos and I say “Oh, you want Doritos? Ok.”  Her response was “Yeah dad, you’ve got to put them on the sandwich!”.   And then I remembered.  Yep, I had always put Doritos on top of everything, and crunched them down Smile.  Ok so maybe there was ONE special thing on the sandwich and I almost forgot!  We got home, I put my special Dad Sandwich makin’ skills to work, and we just enjoyed the late afternoon pigging out on sandwiches full of stuff none of us really need right now Smile but it was timeless.

So what is all this babbling on about?  It’s about not worrying what you do or don’t do with your kids if you have them.  Just SPEND TIME WITH THEM.  In the end, THEY will pick out what’s special to them.

Just remember It’s not what’s in the Sandwich, it’s who made it.

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And if you’re REALLY curious about what was in this sandwich:

  • Bologna
  • Turkey
  • American Cheese
  • Provolone Cheese
  • Lettuce
  • Mayo and Mustard
  • Dill Slices
  • Doritos on top!
  • Love and Care!

Cheers,

– Keith

Update:

Was talking to Kat’s Mom about this, Had to update it to “And Glitter” Smile for something she wanted to start this year too.  Not going to try to explain it, just remember to also try to create those Sparkling moments Smile.

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