“We’re dead in the water …”

With large companies, you will often have multiple divisions all running their own IT operations, in addition to the Central IT Department.

What invariably happens is that some bright spark will get the clever idea to centralise the divisions’ IT functions to Central IT.  To save money and reduce headcount are two reasons oft given.

The company divisions hate this as they lose control of their business critical IT.  And lose control of their IT priorities.

The linchpin of any centralisation push is “who controls the funds”.  If the divisions maintain the funding, they can still run their own IT shops.  And buy in their own services.

So now you have the background …

So I asked the question in a Central IT all staff forum,
“Will other divisions be mandated by the CEO to purchase our services?”

‘If we think like that, we’re dead in the water …’, replied our chief sales wallah.

Several years later, I was reminded by a colleague,
“If you sit down by the river bank and wait long enough, you will see the bodies of your enemies float by.”  and “The Chief Sales Wallah has been sacked.”.

I wonder how long until some corporate bozo asks for Microsoft Security Essentials

… in order to “save” money.

Once had a customer whinge about the cost of implementing an anti-spyware solution.

Someone told them that Spybot S&D was free.

Technically it was, as I told them, if you didn’t mind the fact that all of your 10,000 PCs would all want to download updates from the internet.

“Oh”, said the customer.

They ended up negotiating a corporate Spybot license, which gave them the option to set up a deployment server inside their network.

Given corporate memory being what it is, I expect some customer bozo will ask us to deploy Microsoft’s anti-virus solution when it is released.

There is, of course, four problems with that:

  1. it’s probably not going to be licensed so you can’t do that legitimately.
  2. it’s not integrated with System Center, so no corporate reporting or deployment points.
  3. cannot be managed by Group Policy.
  4. can’t be integrated with Network Access Protection.

I don’t blame Microsoft for having those limitations.

After all, they’ll have a corporate product which will do that.  It’s called Forefront Client Security.

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This enhanced web-case entry …

In my inbox this morning…

Enhancing your eService experience…

is a commitment from WXYZ Technical Support to you. Our goal is to continually evolve the content on our Support web site to help you get answers to your questions quickly or solve problems you are having…on-demand…7 days a week, 24 hours per day.

Our Technical Support site is designed to deliver solutions to your product related questions. Specifically, the site allows you to search hundreds of known solutions to product questions as well as submit issues to Technical Support. You can also download software patches and documentation and check the status of any cases you have opened with Technical Support.

The Technical Support web site is your solution portal. This site provides a web form that is structured to capture the information we need to begin the problem resolution process. As such, we are requiring that questions/issues for Technical Support be submitted via the website.

This enhanced web-case entry process will allow us to eliminate the use of email as a case submission tool, effective July 20. Phone support provided to our maintenance customers is not impacted by this change.

How will this change benefit you? By submitting a case through the web we can route your issue to the right specialist – immediately. In addition, the structured web form captures the information we need to begin resolving your problem and, you receive an immediate case ID that allows you to monitor and track the resolution progress of your case.

We look forward to continuing to enhance the support experience we provide you.

WXYZ Technical Support

So, they’re removing a way for me to communicate with them, and forcing me to their dubious website.

I’m not a fan of WXYZ.  For the past two years, they have assured us that our yearly license renewal is correct, and when we apply the license file to the server, it isn’t.

I’m not a direct customer of them.  I support a customer who is.  I pity the fools.

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Why Service Level Agreements trend towards BS.

bpc Work with a big enough organisation and you’ll come across the Service Level Agreement (SLA).

An SLA basically says, “we’ll provide you with x level of service, for y dollars.  If we don’t provide you with that service, we’ll give you something in return.”

That “something” might be a partial refund of your y dollars; or a credit towards a future service.

There was one customer organisation who demanded that they have an IT technician based at their head office.  But didn’t want to pay for the premium service.
Big IT Company did the calculations, and said

No, that’ll cost us $10,000 a month to place someone there.  And only $5,000 a month in missed SLA penalties if we don’t.  We’ll take the penalties, thank you.

My, didn’t THAT improve the relationship with the customer.

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Customer Relationship Principles

  • Work cooperatively and productively together to meet agreed objectives
  • Clarify objectives, expectations, requirements and agreements
  • Proactively communicate and share information in a meaningful and timely manner
  • Use agreed processes, procedures and engagement models
  • Know and accept our responsibilities and deliver on those responsibilities
  • Be flexible and prepared to consider innovative approaches to the way we do our business
  • Act professionally and respectfully
  • Agree that when things aren’t working we will seek to fix them

as seen here:
Public Sector IT relying on Private Sector Partners- What does it take to make it work?

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eMail Template: Security vulnerability scan template

Something I collected some years ago, and with rework, I still use it today:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As part of the XYZ Outsourcing Contract, ITCOMPANY Security provides several value-added security related services.  One of these is Vulnerability Scanning through coordination with XYZ IT Security.  We would like to perform this activity in the LOCATION data centres on Tuesday, May 4th beginning at 9:30 in the morning.

These scans are designed to identify configuration issues, operating system vulnerabilities, etc… so that we can make sure that the integrity, confidentiality and availability of XYZ resources are properly protected.  Only devices which ITCOMPANY has management responsibility for are included in this scan.  There will be no brute force attacks or password cracking performed as part of this activity.

As in the past, the scan will be monitored by the ITCOMPANY SERVICE MONITORING TEAM (ISMT)
In the event they see service degradation of any of the servers included in the scan.  We will immediately turn the scan off if notified.  We have successfully performed these scans in the past three years without incident.

The activity will be scheduled, reviewed, and approved by CHANGE MANAGEMENT prior to the scanning.

The notifications (this message and two others prior to the scheduled scan), CHANGE MANAGEMENT approval and the ISMT monitoring are control activities to make sure that this activity is publicized and that we are able to immediately disconnect if any adverse activity is noted.

Please let me know if you have any concerns or conflicts with this timing.

Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions or concerns about this activity. If there are others who should receive this communication, please forward directly to that person with a cc: to me.

Thank you in advance for your assistance and time.

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Sometimes it’s easier to rebuild a system to fix the underlying problem.

Customer reported an issue with some voice recording software, and our on-site support staff looked at it.

Can’t find DLL

And they escalated the call to me.

Finally agreed a time with the customer for me to look at the problem.


So I started up Process Monitor (ProcMon) to see what was actually going on.

And the computer rebooted.  This isn’t supposed to happen under Windows 2000/XP/Vista.

Must have been a power glitch.

Started up ProcMon again.  Reboot.

Sometimes it’s easier to rebuild a system, compared to spending hours on a problem, which the end solution is to rebuild anyway.  Wasted time for the customer, and less importantly, us IT people.

So the customer is going to get their computer rebuilt next week.  We’ll replace the user’s LCD monitor at the same time.  As the LCD monitor has a case of “CRT Burn”.

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On corporate speak

sailing-to-success I was a new employee trainer for 4 years, which means I could talk about my employers strategic direction and Customer Intimacy programs.

Customer Intimate?  I used to bristle at that.  Customer care, yes!  But I don’t want to be intimate with them.

Towards the end of my tenure, we had a Sailing To Success, and then a Sailing With Success customer culture group think program.

We’re all on the good ship SS Customer Intimacy.  We’re negotiating the rocks (our obstacles to success), and sailing past the buoys (our progress).  We’re racing against the pirates (our competitors) to reach the booty.

– New Employee Induction Program.

I’m glad I’m not part of that anymore.

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Acknowledge the user, to avoid the flack

So said a very experienced helpdesk leader I worked with.

It lets the annoyed customer to get all their annoyances out, and they calm down.  Of course, swearing at a helpdesk person is not permitted.

To get the helpdesk staff to remember "Acknowledge the user, to avoid the flack", he purchased some AFLAC ducks.

What’s an AFLAC duck?  Well have a look here:


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