At a recent service management event I met up with a friend who is a problem manager, and as practitioners do, they tend to vent about issues that they are facing in their organization. We started talking about just such an issue which was tracked via a problem record and how it seemed it was never going to be closed off. Digging a little deeper, I asked why it was still open.
“You know…the root cause of this issue is still unknown. The workaround is holding it together. In fact, the customers don’t even think that this is a workaround, they think the app is supposed to function this way.”
I could tell that this was going to be a discussion which was longer than one pint of Guinness. I motioned to the bartender to get the next pint going…
Over the next while I learned the following about this problem:
- The application was purchased OTS (off the shelf).
- The IT project manager was instructed by the business stakeholders to have the application modified to fit their current process.
- Before the launch there were several issues identified; however, the business did not identify them as critical, so the application was rolled out on schedule with the business assuming the risk.
- In the first weeks of sustainment it was identified that there were more than a few “glitches.” The sustainment team made a list of the issues, created known error records in an Excel spreadsheet, and passed them along to the operational team.
So to ask the question ‘is it worth fixing?’
The answer might be no.
In addition to the information supplied already I also found out that the application we are talking about was launched 3 years ago Here’s where this changes things a bit:
The application was OTS: The original OTS was so bastardized that the regular releases were not followed, falling way behind in the update cycles, so much so that it was impacting vendor support.
The IT project manager was instructed by the business stakeholders to have the application modified to fit their current process: The people responsible for this deployment have all since moved on to other companies so much of the accountability or understanding behind certain decisions is relatively unknown or not understood. It is possible that at the time there was a reason certain measures were taken or not, but now there is no record of why.
The business did not identify pre-launch issues as critical, so the application was rolled out on schedule: The defects that remain have been in existence for three years since the rollout, and while still on a ‘list’ are not actively being reviewed or addressed. It is possible that this was not captured in transition to operations, if that even happened in the first place.
The sustainment team made a list of the issues, created known error records in an Excel spreadsheet, and passed them along to the operational team: These issues are the problem records that have since been opened but without some focus and prioritization on these issues they will remain in an open problem record until the distant future.
Because of the lack of improvement, or that workarounds have simply become the way to do things, the business is now facing some additional challenges such as:
- The User Experience is bad as the defects have existed since rollout.
- The ability to correct the defects is impacted by an inability to move to new releases from lack of vendor support.
- Additional business concerns have arisen that these fixes will make things worse (loop back to customer experience).
What needs to be done next is assess all the issues and what their priority will be as it pertains to resolving this problem. As stated above there is a whole lot going on and whatever we do to make corrections for this issue we also need to ensure that we communicate effectively among all stakeholders to ensure we don’t end up in this type of situation again.
In some cases, we might find that fixing the issues is simply not going to generate any business value over the long term – the juice isn’t worth the squeeze. That we might just replace the application in the next year anyways so ‘we will just live with it for now.’ The trouble is that unless we learn from the issues we just went through we will be prone to repeating them again