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Shipping an empty box.

Once in a while, the CEO of a large organization, let’s call her “Leslie”, purchases one of our apps.

When she has a problem, the support ticket we get is never from “Leslie”. It’s usually from “Steve”, the assistant to the executive assistant of the person in charge of the IT department. By the time we get the email, it has made its way through 6 people in the organization, 2 separate internal help-desk systems, and is already 4 days removed from the time “Leslie” sent the original email.

We received one such email from “Steve” recently. “Leslie” noticed that our spam filter app wasn’t filtering spam as well as it should. She wanted to know why.

I requested that someone click the “send debug” button inside the app, so that I can take a look at the debug log and find out what’s going on.

Two days later, a response arrived from one of their internal help-desk systems. A ticket has been opened requesting that someone click the “send debug” button.

Five days later, the second response was an update from another internal help-desk system, notifying us that several members of the IT department, and at least two executive assistants were added to the ticket requesting that someone click the “send debug” button.

The debug log arrived 2 weeks later.

The first line in the debug log revealed that the application was turned off.

Thirty seconds after receiving the debug log, I sent a response explaining that the application was turned off, and providing instructions for how to flip the ON/OFF control in the app settings to ON.

Two days later, a response arrived from one of their internal help-desk systems. A ticket has been opened requesting that someone “flip the ON/OFF control in the app settings to ON.”

 

– “Leslie, do you like that spam filter app?
– “You know, the app is great, but you have one problem, and it takes a month to get a response from those people!


At one point, somebody kind of looked at the process to see, well, what it’s doing, and what’s the overhead built into it. What they found is that, [at IBM], it would take at least nine months to ship an empty box.” ~ Rich Seidner, former IBM programmer. Triumph of the Nerds.