Why Bother Documenting My Solutions?

Interesting line of conversation around an internal Help Desk project …

“What exactly is the point of my help desk ticketing system?”, posits the hardy IT Tech. “I, like so many other IT technicians, am expected to solve end-user problems quickly with my infinite knowledge of every potential PC / software combination, not to mention a dizzying array of specialty printers, alternative input devices, smartphones, and tablets. And I, like so many other IT technicians, realize that the most capable, complete, and easy-to-use knowledge base out there is Google (and/or Bing, as my Microsoft friends are quick to point out).

“So why, exactly, does my team lead at BigCo insist that I enter every ticket, with some description of the call, the symptoms, the different approaches that I’ve tried, and he ultimate root-cause problem and solution?”

“I agree”, says the intrepid Programmer. “I am expected to document bugs and their fixes – but more often than not, I am googling (sorry, bing-ing), and relying on Stack Overflow for the answers. What’s the point of trying to duplicate an awesome resource like that?”

Granted – but …

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The real aim of a trouble tracking system is to identify recurring problems. How many times do you want to solve the same problem over and over – wouldn’t it be better to identify frequently recurring problems that generate tons of support calls, and kill those problems dead? This is one of more significant benefit of help desk / request tracking systems – a little pareto analysis to identify the most common problems and fix them once and for all.

(the internal dialogue …) But, I’m wary of running out of problems to solve – maybe BigCo will start laying off IT folks with nothing to do?

Come one – how big is your backlog? There is always plenty of stuff to clean up, improve, streamline, automate. Going through root cause analysis on recurring problems will create lots of time to work on new technology / systems / processes that can actually move the company forward, not just “keep the trains running”. So yes – fill out those help desk tickets and get specific. And when you launch a project to address the root cause issues once and for all, quantify the amount of time you will be freeing up to redirect to other problems (or, better yet, other projects to support new revenue, gain new customers, etc.)

If you are using the help desk system to capture problem resolution steps for balky printers or failing spreadsheets, you aren’t adding much to the collective. But if you are identifying recurring issues with those printers and spreadsheets – and fixing them for good – you are generating a recurring productivity benefit; the gift that keeps on giving.

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James MacLennan

... is the Managing Partner at Maker Turtle LLC, a digital consultancy focused on creating value in ways that align with your strategy and drive engagement with employees, customers, and stakeholders. He is an active creator, providing thought leadership through on-line & print publications, and public speaking / keynotes.