1. Enterprise Service Desk. I waited on hold for 24 minutes after my laptop flashed all sorts of warnings about the impending doom of expiring certificates, to be told, oh no, just call back about two weeks before it expires. I mean if that’s the standard, maybe sync up the automatic warning message to not start flashing red with 41 days to go. But hey, at least I can look forward to pissing away another half hour on hold in the very near future… when I’m entirely confident I’ll be told I should have requested the new certificates at least 30 days in advance.
2. USPS. I’ve largely abandoned the US Postal Service to the extent possible. Some of the places I order from still regularly use them, but for most anything originating here, I look for other options first. The delivery inconsistencies, delays, and downright failures from last winter still rankle. Now I see the USPS has a grand plan to improve itself… by intentionally slowing down deliveries and increasing prices. Yep. I’m sure that will bring people flocking in to their local post office.
3. Celebrity. The amount of time we collectively spend pondering the opinion of celebrities is kind of remarkable. I’m not entirely sure why anyone cares whether a man who’s very good at throwing a ball through a hoop thinks vaccines work. Don’t get me wrong here. I have plenty of favorite celebs. Some are funny, others insightful, and a few are just a pleasure to look at… but what I don’t generally look to them for is subject matter expertise in a field that demands decades of study and practice in which to gain proficiency.
1. Work issued computers. Sure, the bosses want to to be ultra productive and focused on executing key tasks and achieving objectives… but when it comes to giving you a computer that’s worth a damn, that’s obviously the bridge too far. If I were permitted by the great hardware and software manager in the sky to have some basic administrator rights on my machine, I feel confident I could correct a large percentage of what normally goes awry… but since I am a lowly user, all I can really do is call the help desk, put in a ticket, and then tell anyone who asks for something that I’d love to help but my piece of shit computer is broken again and they should check back in 3-5 business days to see if the “help desk” has gotten around do doing anything with my ticket.
2. First reports. News outlets live and die by being the first to report on a breaking story… which is why what you hear as “breaking news” on any given day is almost always refined into something that could be completely different as facts are checked and the truth is revealed. Of course fact check, authoritative stories aren’t sexy and usually don’t come with their own theme music on cable news channels, so no one waits around to see what the real story is before launching something, anything, into the airwaves or onto social media. And that’s how we’ve become a culture that prefers being immediately outraged to one that would rather be informed or educated.
3. Holy crusaders. Over the long span of my career I’ve worked with a lot of people. Most of them are a decent enough sort. Some of them though, are crusaders, determined against all contrary evidence to believe their memos or PowerPoint charts are destined to save the republic. If I’m honest, I can report that I have worked on a handful of projects that were legitimately important or that made someone’s life better in some way when we finished. The rest were mostly some degree of vanity exercises in which we expended vast resources to make sure someone got a fancy sticker on their next performance appraisal. I’m all for showing a sense of urgency when urgency is called for, but nothing in my education, experience, or temperament makes me suited to pretending urgency over something that doesn’t make a damned bit of real difference to anyone.
On August 15th I entered what I thought would be a straight forward request with our computer help desk. Adobe Pro had started throwing errors and since the ability to read, edit, and sign pdf documents is more than than a once-a-day requirement in my job, I thought it might be nice to have that capability back.
I should have known it was not going to be an easy process when the confirmation email I got from the help desk had my name but described a problem someone on the other side of the country was trying to solve on their own machine. Actually, I should have known this process was going to be painful from the minute I discovered I was going to have to interact with the big help desk in the sky. Reducing the local service options and nationalizing IT help might have saved money but the user experience and wait times involved are appalling. At least I’m not paying for this service. Well, not paying for it directly, except for whatever of my tax dollars are being allocated for shitty IT support.
Over the last 13 days I’ve had three separate emails letting me know that Adobe was fixed and all is now well. All three of those emails have proven to be wrong, with the same inability to use Adobe continuing after each “fix.” This morning I was greeted with the 4th “we fixed it” email and discovered that not only does Adobe not work, but that the entire program has now disappeared from my computer. I suppose that’s one way to fix the problem. You can’t report a software error for software you don’t have. Of course I now have a two week and growing backlog of electronic paperwork that I need Adobe to process, so there’s that one small issue remaining.
I’m sure the men and women who work the Enterprise Service Desk are fine upstanding Americans who are doing great things for God and country. That, said, how it takes two weeks to fix an issue I could resolve on my home computer in less than 30 minutes simply leaves me with no option but to conclude that the “help” procedures for enterprise IT are broken entirely beyond repair.
Note: I should point out in fairness that just before I left for the day the issues was at long last resolved. At least tomorrow I know I can start clearing the backlog of Things Which Must be Digitally Signed. Sigh.
1. The “Help Desk.” I converted to Windows 10 a week ago. I immediately filed a “trouble ticket” with the great big national help desk in the sky to address issues that were obvious immediately – I can’t use two monitors, file encryption prevents me from editing and saving documents, and using my computer to project a briefing onto a screen is problematic at best. Fortunately I’m not an information sector employee who uses his computer to generate and manipulate information into a coherent format to be used by others in decision making. Thank sweet merciful Jesus that the ticket has been “assigned to a local technician.” Now if after only a week someone could actually work on fixing the damned infernal machine and make it work properly we’d be all set.
2. News cycle. We have a TV in our office that runs all day every day on one of the major news networks. Being situationally aware is all well and good, but except for a rare moment of actual breaking news, what you find very quickly is the news at 9AM sounds a lot like news at 11 AM which sound a lot like the news at 2PM… and round and round we go. I’m all for some kind of background noise, but by the time I get out of that room I don’t care how compelling a news day it has been, I’ve utterly and completely stopped caring about what’s going on in the world. It seems to me a sane person can only hear the same thing repeated three or four hundred times before it starts doing bad things to their head.
3. Paying by credit card. Every website on the planet wants you to “save your credit card on file so they can auto renew your service next year.” That makes perfect sense for services that I use on a recurring basis. It’s a good theory. In a world where credit card providers have their networks being breached on a quarterly basis, though, in some cases I have three new card numbers assigned long before the yearly subscription runs out and it’s time to auto-renew. So really what I need all these companies to do is to stop giving me the option of saving my account / automatically renewing my subscriptions because we both know I’m still going to have to come back and enter all that shit on your page again since it’s all changed anyway.
1. UPS. I’d hate to think how much business I’ve pushed through UPS over the years. But gigging me for $5 to change the date a package arrives feels a little bit cheap on their part. Sure, it’s only $5 but I’m not sure what the difference is between delivering it “for free” on Friday or delivering it on Monday when I’ll actually be home to receive it – which is only an issue because *you* require an ink signature. I guess they do offer a free option of letting me pick up the package at a location an hour round trip drive away was supposed to be a helpful concession so maybe you’re letting me off easy. I don’t mind paying for a service, but I resent the hell out of getting nickel and dimed.
2. Disappointment. I know a lot of people, but there are only a handful that I would count among my closest of friends – the ones I’d go to the mat for with no questions asked or burn down whole cities for if they asked. You think you know most of what there is to know about them. But then there’s the day you realize you know nothing. It’s equal parts unnerving and sad and disappointing because though they may well go on being your friend, you’ll never see them with the same undiluted affection. Given enough time everything changes, though I wonder why it so rarely seems to change for the better.
3. Windows 10. Sometime in the dead of night Windows 10 was smuggled on to my work computer and promptly went about wrecking everything from my wifi connection to my email archives to my screen configuration and any number of small tweaks that I’ve made over time to make the archaic POS computer a little more usable day-to-day. Some things I’ve been able to fix on my own through the day. Other things can’t be resolved by anyone locally and must be corrected by the great network help desk in the sky… which means I might see resolution sometime around March 2019. Just once I’d like to get one of these official “upgrades” that didn’t end up giving me less capability and require me to spend inordinate amounts of time fixing things that it broke.
A wise old Prussian told us that “Everything is very simple in war, but the simplest thing is difficult.” Of course every strategist’s favorite general was talking about war, but I’ve found that in application it is a truism in nearly every field of endeavor. I mention it because that’s precisely the kind of week it has been so far. At first blush everything has looked so bloody easy, but has turned out to be harder to get done than anyone could ever imagine.
For the last two months the powers at echelons higher than reality have promised that during the most current reorganization, construction, and office move, everyone would be keeping their old phone numbers. It was the one thing that was supposed to be seamless and allow the other changes to happen without disruption to anyone outside who was unaware of the internal organizational churn. This afternoon, moving those numbers was proclaimed too hard to do and instructions came down from Olympus to turn off all the call forwarding and “fall in” on the phone number already associated with our new desks. That too should have been easy enough, except for the part where some numbers had already been moved – which allows the old “ghost” numbers to exist and continue forwarding calls indefinitely.
The only solution was asking the help desk to open a trouble ticket to have it corrected centrally. Anyone who has ever talked to the help desk knows with that one call, we’ve thrown simple or easy directly out the window. Then of course there’s the “new” number we’ve been assigned, which hasn’t actually been assigned to us… and requires a second call to the helpdesk so they can have someone open a new voicemail box and assign our name to the number.
That’s only supposed to take three work days. Honestly. Three days is the estimate. It takes AT&T about 3 minutes to do it when I upgrade cell phones, but it takes the single largest employer in the world three damned days. It appears there’s nothing about this week that isn’t going to be absolutely exhausting, especially the simple things… because they’re the very hardest things to do.
The good news is that a scathing, but entirely accurate comment card submitted to the Enterprise Help Desk gets a bit of attention. That’s basically where the good news stops – unless you count my diagnosis of imminent hard drive failure being proven correct as good news. I feel like that one could go in either column.
The bad news, because of course there’s bad news, is that as of the this afternoon, the local help desk has been tinkering with computer for 10 hours. When I left today there was no sign or signal that I’ll be getting it back any time soon. That basically means I spent the day staring at the ceiling, doing some long delayed shredding, and throwing away post it notes I no longer need. It doesn’t exactly fall into the productive work category.
By my rough math if they hang on to the damned infernal machine until at least noon tomorrow the cost just in lost productive time would be sufficient to purchase a new replacement computer. That of course isn’t how we do things. Uncle, as is his way, has a completely nonsensical way to measure costs and benefits.
I forecast that getting my computer back tomorrow is probably wildly optimistic. Wednesday is slightly more likely, but far from guaranteed. It’s infuriating that this is the standard way of running the business. It’s disheartening in the extreme. I know I do good work… when the damned policies, procedures, and relentless pursuit of mediocrity don’t try to trip me up at every available opportunity. I’m sure I’ve had days where I’ve been more dispirited about the state of my chosen profession, but they’ve been few and far between.
1. Lawn boats. Every morning I drive past three houses that are literally falling down around their occupants. At least I assume they’re occupied because I occasionally see people coming and going. At each of these three houses there are boats on trailers, boats on blocks, and boats shoved back into the bushes. These are obviously not new boats, but I’d estimate conservatively that each one of these homes has at least $100,000 in boats sitting around it. Now that pesky logical part of my brain is just dying to know the thought process for someone who would let their home fall to pieces hanging on to a personal fleet larger than some third world dictators. While I’d never tell anyone how to spend their money, it seems to me that at some point selling off a boat or two and patching the hole in your roof with something other than a tarp would be a good idea. But what the hell do I know about anything?
2. Help desks. Why do we call them that? It’s certainly not a case of a name that follows a function. Given the sad state of customer service in general I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise. I’m probably just a fool for expecting things to work the way they’re supposed to – or maybe I’m even more the fool for expecting anything at all. But in all seriousness, if the standard is going to be a help desk that is essentially unwilling or unable to provide any help why not just throw them over the side. If the official policy of the organization is to cripple individual computers to the point where the user can’t make even basic fixes to settings it strikes me that the help desk should be able to fix the occasional problem that crops up instead of an 800-number designed to give the illusion that something, someday might happen.
3. Foreign flagged “protestors”. When you show up at a political rally waving a foreign flag and then violently attack people who peaceably attended that rally, you are not a protestor. You’re a criminal whose opinion is unworthy of further consideration. In fact once you’ve decided that marching under the flag of a foreign county and dispensing violence in the street sounds like a good idea, the only two things I can consider you are either a) a domestic terrorist or b) an agent of foreign power intent on disrupting the lawful electoral process. In either case, you have proven yourself unworthy of any consideration beyond how to disperse and apprehend you and your fellow travelers.
On May 31st I called the Enterprise Service Desk to request support with an ongoing issue of frequent restarts, freezing, running checkdisk, and random problems within Office software products. This was a follow up to a previous call made on March 9th for a similar issue where I was told to call back if the problem happened again. A help ticket was opened as a result of my call on May 31st.
On June 7th, my ticket was closed because it had been “resolved.” No one from the Network Enterprise Center or local IT customer support contacted me on this issue. In addition to this being a missed 3-day response time under the terms of the service level agreement, it also has the dubious distinction of being blatantly false. My issue has not been resolved and my computer performance continues to exhibit the same behavior.
I once again contacted the Enterprise Service Desk on June 7th and was informed that the original ticket from May 31st could not be reopened. The representative I spoke to then opened a new help ticket and the clock started again on a new “3-day” response time. With a computer under warranty exhibiting these troubles, the “no brainer” response should be issuing a new machine and sending the broken/defective equipment back to the manufacturer. I consider this service absolutely unacceptable. I’m simply appalled that I’m now in the second week of trying to achieve more than a “phantom resolution” to my issue.
I get to the office early most mornings. It’s usually a good chance to catch up before everyone else starts wandering in. One of the challenges is that pretty much no one with any passing relationship to authority is around in the event an employee is feeling lonely and wants to talk. So more often than not, I’m the lucky manager who gets the early morning conversations. This morning was one of those times.
Jeff: Good Morning *seeing “employee” walking over to my desk*
Employee: My computer works now, but none of my files are there. I think it’s broken. *looking at me plaintively*
Jeff: Ummm… Did you call IT?
Employee: Uh. No. I thought you’d know how to fix it. They got it working yesterday but now my files are gone.
Jeff: So you want me to fix something they broke yesterday?
Employee: *looking at me blankly*
Jeff: You’d better call IT since they know what they did to it yesterday.
Employee: They won’t be in for another 20 minutes.
Jeff: Patience is a virtue, I’m told.
I’m not the friggin’ laptop whisperer over here. Put in your help request and wait like everyone else does. My using illicit passwords to go in and tinker around with your settings is pretty much guaranteed to only cause more trouble. If not more trouble for you, then certainly more trouble for me… and that’s a no go at this station.
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of previously de-published blogs appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.