This Week in LIS - 12 October 2012

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Headline of the Week: Support Heroes

I earned my support stripes in my first management job. I managed what was referred to as the “screen team.” It was a level 2.5 support function of software engineers to backup and support the regular level 1 and level 2 support team for a near new product with 6.2M lines of code. The “screen team’s” function was also to “protect” the regular development team from any work not related to defects in their specific code so they could focus on the next new release. Our job was to pass on only real code defects and to route them to the right component owner where the bug was the first time while meeting customer expectations for timely problem resolution. This was a tall order with many customers experiencing critical situations dealing with all the “new”; it was very hectic. The people on that team worked day and night coming up with ingenious ways to crack problem after problem. They were my heroes.

The team served many roles. One was to identify those cases where the product was working as designed but not meeting customer expectations and feed them back into the requirements process for the next release. We would take these patterns back to development for immediate or future improvement. Another task was training either the L1 and L2 support team to help customers make more effective use of the product and also improve their ability to diagnose customer problems discerning more accurately between problems resolved with an explanation on how to effectively use and problems that were indeed defective software. Sometimes our role was to create training modules that could be offered to our customers based on our team’s experience. Another approach was in building diagnostic tools to capture and analyze diagnostic information. An interesting aside is that most every good diagnostic tool ultimately puts itself out of business. After a while you find and resolve all the problems that tool and the information it gathers and analyzes can find. Some problems would only happen intermittently. Some exhibited themselves as only degraded performance. Some appeared to be hardware problems and when the system was restarted with new hardware, no trouble was found in the replaced hardware. They solved customer problems directly but played a crucial role in improving the product over time as well as effectiveness of support and our customers in using the product.

It was transformational. You come to appreciate quality at a big “Q” level. Not just product defects but overall quality including availability, performance, ease of use, cost of ownership, reliability, manageability etc. You never appreciate the value of quality so much as when you know that a person’s job depends on whether they are successfully implementing your product. Knowing someone could be fired for choosing your product helps you appreciate big “Q” quality.

A TWILIS reader that had been a member of our Technology Help Desk team sent me the referenced article this week. It makes a number of interesting points about how clients and support need to work together to get a good result. It is important for clients to get to someone knowledgable and to be a part of providing good information to get the collaboration to solve a problem. Support needs to be patient and match their questions with their emerging understanding of the level of the client’s skill. Support needs to continually increase their knowledge and understanding to solve problems.

Let’s expand the scope of the article and add development to the party. It is imperative that new IT systems and changes to them have input from support. Support are their eyes and ears to the quality of development’s work. There are transformational learning possibilities at the boundary between clients and support that development must learn for them to improve and meet client expectations. Support can see patterns in their calls that can lead development to make different decisions about usability, performance, changes, timing for changes, level of client support and training etc.

Tight linkage from clients through to support and back to development is key to quality implementations and overall quality improvement.

Hats off to our support team! They have been working through a number of changes in staffing and in call volumes since the beginning of the school year. They too are heroes.

Suggested Reading:

What ‘The Chronicles of George’ can teach us about technical support, by Lee Hutchinson.

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LIS Blog Highlights from the Week

The following articles are sampled from those available on the LIS Blog:

Notes from LIS Council

LIS Council is the leadership team within LIS. Among the topics discussed this past week were:

  • LIS Operational Agenda
    • Council members will be reporting on LIS operational views (metrics for processes and status of projects) regularly at LIS Council meetings. This week’s reports included the following:
    • Archives
      • For homecoming the archives team worked with Wendy Stevens on the Hoslett lecture, the Class of ‘87 slideshow and the Class of ‘62 slideshow. Additionally they helped put together a tabletop display on the Preus Gymnasium fire. Feedback was positive.
      • Many things are going on with the Postville Project. They include Sarah working with the Iowa Division of Labor Services and with Ellen on a press release and inventorying the digital collections. Discussions underway about how to prepare for access a large amount of video content.
      • Sasha continues to work on NORDIC where 174 collections have been added.
      • For the Archivist Leadership Institute grant project work is focused on the application for candidates. A member of the steering committee will visit on Friday.
    • Network & Systems
      • Adam presented a “Connected wireless users graph.” It signals there are perhaps more classes that are not labs where the entire class may be using their laptops. This presents significant pressure on the wireless network access points. It is not unreasonable to imagine the need to be able to support up to 30 smartphones, 30 laptops and a growing number of “pads” that will all naturally and automatically look to attach to the wireless network in a classroom at once. This represents a new design point.
      • Internet usage graph showed we are using all 380Mbps bandwidth in the late evening time. At 85% of that point general traffic shaping begins.
      • We examined the sources/nature of that traffic. The top application usage was BitTorrent and Skype. A question was raised about Google and whether “hangout” was a big contributor.
      • We reviewed a graph of transactions for Christmas at Luther ticket purchase from our first online experience.
    • User Services
      • Shared the graph Matt Hughes made of Christmas at Luther ticket sales the first hour tickets went on sale to the general public.
      • Reviewed metrics and patterns of work orders year over year for the following areas: all work orders, Network & Systems only (peaks at beginning of fall and spring semesters), Software Development only, and AV/Multimedia only (increase from last year to this year).
      • Project updates were shared:
        • Mac lab, classroom, and podium workstations will have changes made over fall break.
        • Facilities Services and Book Shop workstation upgrades are in progress.
        • New Katie Version workshops will be held this month for faculty and staff as the changes will be implemented prior to the Spring 2013 Semester.
        • Sophos has been fixed on all Luther-owned workstations following the recent false positive; work continues on the remaining applications affected.
        • Help Desk has been assisting with Christmas at Luther, homecoming, and system outage support.
        • We are reviewing the number of Adobe and Maple licenses we own.
  • Returning Items
    • Annual Report
      • LIS folks should complete their read-throughs and edits soon.
    • LIS Council Meeting
      • Even though it is fall break, there will be an LIS Council meeting next week (Oct. 17).

Upcoming LIS Training, Instruction, and Professional Development Opportunities

Click on the event below for specific information and for a link to register. More information on training and development events is available.

Course Format Date Location Enrollment
Creating a Faculty Website Using Reason Workshop Oct 15 2012 – 2:00pm 4:00pm Olin 301 – Round Table Room Open
TRAC Training Product Demonstration Oct 17 2012 – 11:30am 12:00pm Main 112 Open
TRAC Training Product Demonstration Oct 17 2012 – 12:30pm 1:00pm Main 112 Open
TRAC Training Product Demonstration Oct 17 2012 – 1:10pm 1:30pm Main 112 Open
LIS Workshop on New Katie Workshop Oct 18 2012 – 2:00pm 3:00pm Olin 301 – Round Table Room Closed
ZOTERO Workshop Workshop Nov 7 2012 – 7:00pm 8:00pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Open
ZOTERO Workshop Workshop Dec 5 2012 – 7:00pm 8:00pm Preus Library – Hovde Lounge Open

Training and instruction is provided to the Luther Community through Faculty Development Sessions, Library Instruction Sessions, Product Demonstrations, Skills Training, Workshops, 1-on-1 Sessions, and Online Materials. To schedule a session, contact the LIS Technology Help Desk at x1000 or enter your request online at

This Week in LIS is published most Fridays by Paul Mattson, Executive Director of LIS at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

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