As people, we can learn a great deal from how technology operates. Technology is given a purpose and power and then trusted to do its thing. In fact most of the time technology fails its because we as humans did something, either in development, or in operations, that caused the failure. How quickly do we humans trust technology, yet when it comes to trusting each other its an entirely different picture.
As a support technician working on IT problems, some of the most difficult challenges are when it is required to involve one or more vendors to provide support for their respective technologies. Since the technology relies on each other, each vendor “tests” their end to ensure its working, but cannot find why the system doesn’t work in production. In lieu of diagnostics, logs, or any real idea of what the problems is the vendors usually resort to something like “Well my systems are working so it must be the computer/software/something else that isn’t doing what it’s supposed to”. This will generally result in frustrated clients, frustrated IT people, and frustrated Vendors as we all take part in the frequently called game of “finger pointing”.
I was once discussing with a customer a specific solution they were considering for automating one of their business processes and they made the comment that it seemed like a house of cards relying on too many different moving parts for it to be reliable. I explained that while having one vendor do everything may seem more appealing, the end result is the same, as all technology solutions are really one big house of cards waiting to topple over, and if there were different teams within the single company doing the support the finger pointing game is just as relevant there. The only slight advantage is that you have one executive who can sit the teams down and demand they work together.
This advantage may seem pretty big, but lets consider another option that would make it irrelevant. Instead of pointing fingers at each other, lets try holding hands. One of the techniques I’ve been using successfully for many years now is to accept the blame instead of spreading it around. Yes something is wrong with the computer, that is why I’m involved. If you can tell me what that something is I can fix it. I don’t know your product well enough to know what you need the computer to do so it works properly, but I do know how to make the computer do what you need. All I need you to do, or someone from your team (either higher level support or development team) to do is work with me to identify what your software needs to happen, then I can fix it. Most third party support teams have a specific task, work on your tickets and solve your issues. The idea of escalation never occurs to them when its not something that can be conclusively proven to be their software at fault, so they are stuck with “I don’t know but our software is working fine”. In fact depending on how the support call starts they could be on the defensive from the beginning trying to prevent blame from being assigned to their team and software. Changing the perspective for them, where you’re not calling in to blame them, but calling in asking for help will often change the tone to “Let me see if I can ask someone what’s supposed to happen here”. Try it yourself next time you need to ask for help and see the results you get.
There is a reason why this will usually work so well. People inherently feel the need to be the “hero”, and will happily provide assistance to anyone who asks for it. The lengths someone is willing to go to play the hero varies for each person, tempered by their own personality traits. When working within the capacity of their daily routine however, where they do not have to go to any trouble at all, the opportunity to help someone is something few will be able to pass up. This applies to way more than just technical support! Often times in our lives we will need to talk to Customer Service in general, as long as the ask isn’t too off-putting you’ll often find you’ll get way farther by asking for assistance to resolve a billing issue instead of being accusatory about an incorrect statement. Of course there is always the option of changing tactics later in the event the diplomatic way doesn’t work, but once you start down that path you cannot try diplomacy.
People always come up to me and start off a question similar to “This is really strange but the internet isn’t working when….” and my response is usually something like “That’s not strange, what’s strange is that it works at all”. Technology today has been built to work together and does so everyday in ways we take for granted (to the point where its “weird” when it doesn’t work), yet we ourselves have such a hard time coming together to unite for a single purpose and when given power we often find that it’s corrupting. We should all take lessons from the technology we use every day and make an effort to hold out hands for each other instead of pointing fingers and keeping them at arms length.