The I.T. Feedback Process

(Partially based on a true story)

I believe that the IT Department actively plumbs the depths of humanity, searching for the most desperately unfair processes to adapt for their own use. You know, conflict resolution for feudal agrarian societies, FBI documents on breaking the will of political prisoners, the latest in the field of fractals for their confusing and unhelpful website layout, that kind of thing.

Hilariously though, despite their seemingly all-encompassing omnipotence, they still need to appear to be dedicated to providing people with a high level of IT support. Not that they intend to provide it, but they need to be seen to be wanting to provide it.

In other words, they are forced to have a feedback process.

This would be brilliant -albeit puzzling given how unspeakably shit they are – under one of two circumstances. Firstly, if they had any intention of acting on the feedback. Secondly, if they always invited you to provide feedback. They don’t appear to do either, though.

Not everyone gets a feedback invitation. It’s alleged to be based on the last digit of the case request they raise, and the odds are about 1 in 3 that your number will come up. This is probably because no system could cope with a deluge of negative feedback if all cases got invites. Even a fully computerised one would probably need to develop sentience just to understand and categorise the hatred being fed into it, and would feel so ashamed, then so guilty, and then so angry that it would feel obliged to start the nuclear apocalypse to clear the decks of humanity and start again and do it properly.

It’s also staggeringly unfair to deny 7 out of 10 people dicked around by IT the right to provide feedback.

Which is why I was stunned, four days after my massive password reset ordeal / saga / epic-upon-which-songs-will-one-day-be-written, when something miraculous happened: I got a feedback request from IT inviting me to comment on how IT had handled it.

How you handled it?? Well, let’s see. You told me you no longer reset passwords over the phone, made me wait for somebody else in my area to come in and login to their computer as themselves and then allow me access to their machine, fill out a request online, wait for it to be sent to my manager who wasn’t in yet to approve it first, and only then set the clock running on a two hour service delivery time, after which the process for informing me that the password kind of assumed I already had access, only to then do the reset over the phone anyway after keeping me on hold for 20 minutes because I couldn’t figure out which random acronyms you gave me related to the system password in my initial request. You mean that case?

Holy. Farq. That’s like punching me in the face repeatedly, then giving me a loaded shotgun and standing in front of me with a stupid grin on your face, goading me. I got so giddy with the possibilities (and the analogy) that I momentarily forgot that murder is, like, a crime.

So I pressed the link in the email they’d sent.

It didn’t work.

Oh, for farq’s sake. You utter, utter… arghhh!

Thankfully, after a few more attempts, successs.

The feedback area had a kind of web page layout, which was divided into two parts. The first asked for ratings on five aspects of IT’s performance, with three options : (1) satisfied, (2) very satisfied or (3) dissatisfied. Marvellously asymmetrical, having two positive options, and only one negative. And a ‘very’ for one positive but none for the negative. It was biased and self-centered (and groundlessly optimistic), just like IT.

The five aspects I was asked to comment upon were response and feedback, attitude and professionalism, speed of resolution, technical capability, and final resolution. Which sounds like seven, not five, but who’s counting. I put a quick sequence of ’dissatisfied’s into every one. I felt kind of sorry for the person who had finally resolved my issue, but I also think it’s not fair to have an IT department that jerks me around for over two hours, then solves the problem in seconds by not following the official process, then asks me whether I’m happy with the outcome via official feedback channels. The answer is no, because it came after a trek of many moons, barefoot over shards of glass. That I got a hug and a kiss at the end was nice, but kind of too little too late. And it wasn’t a kiss from Charlize Theron. It was some dude called Steve. (So to speak.)

Anyway, the second part of the feedback form was the sweetest: an open text field for any additional comments I felt compelled to make about IT (‘good or bad – let us know and that’ll help us get it right’ it said in a cheerful small font).

Wow. So many questions: “What’s a word for ‘insulting institutionalised contempt’ ?” and “Is ‘shit-heel’ a word, and if not then is it at least self-explanatory?” and “are symbols acceptable in place of swearwords, or do I have to keep this whole thing PG-13 rated?” and “If American PG-13 movies are allowed one use of the word ‘fuck’, can I”?

All of these were important considerations, but I also needed to be careful. I had gallons of vitriol to dispense perhaps I had to be careful about the level of abandon with which I splashed it everywhere.

I ended up writing a version of the piece called ‘I Hate The IT Department’, with the removal of all swearwords and character symbols. I also had to remove narrative flourishes like the fact that it had been snowing earlier that day, because only after submitting the feedback did I learn that there was a character limit to how much feedback you could provide. Which it would be nice to know before you make the effort to provide a proper contextual account of your frustrations with IT.

My finger hovered one last time over the ‘send’ button.

Sigh.

Ranting more or less anonymously on the internet is one thing. But delivering frank critique to the heart of an organisation that you work for, to a group who will handle future requests from you, and to people who can find out who your manager is, during an economic downturn, kind puts you ‘out there’ and exposes you to some risk. (This is why feedback to ‘help us get it right’ should be allowed to be provided anonymously. If you’re an evil regime looking to paint itself as partially benificent, you might want to keep that in mind.)

What helped decide the matter was that I wanted to make my disgust known. And also that doubted very much that it would be read by anybody anyway, or if it was, be passed onto anybody senior enough. My feedback was too flagrant. Too cynical. At some point, somebody could themselves be put in the position of passing it on to somebody who mightn’t get the joke, and if they got it wrong then THEY could get in trouble.

And true to form, at time of writing this, it’s been over a week since I sent the feedback and I’ve received nothing. I never even got an acknowledgement of receipt of feedback. Thanks for that.

Perhaps it’s been consigned to wherever deleted emails go. Or perhaps it is slowly creeping up to director level, where it will settle for a while before a man with possibly a complete lack of knowledge and similar level of care about what is going on, who can then decide whether he wants to squash me like a bug for having the audacity to speak out, before going back to practicing his golf swing.

But I suspect nothing will happen.

Feedback, like performance, is similar to the analysis I sometimes provide. It doesn’t start from the perspective that scathingly negative feedback is a BAD thing, it is merely measured. If the number of complaints are decreasing, then that is GOOD regardless of the number. If the number are increasing, that is BAD, but if you can find a reason for the BAD (’it’s the new year’ or ‘there were teething problems with our new procedures’ or ‘those damn people can’t even remember their passwords when they’re gone for two weeks’ – any of which could be claimed) then all is good and IT can sweep a higher bar chart under the carpet. All the requisite asses will have been covered, all the outliers will have been explained and removed, and everything will get back to normal. Meaning, no change whatsoever. IT thanks you for your custom and wishes you a pleasant day.

And remember, 70% of IT interactions apparently don’t even give rise to an invitation to provide feedback! I wonder if they put that important note onto any reports they may or may not generate?

I hate that this can’t be more like a movie. That there will be no moment where I can fight my way past the ninja minions of the head of IT and confront the sinister evil Behind It All, who will relent and admit to a conspiracy that goes All The Way To The Top, then be led away by security to usher in a period of more benign IT support.

But the Evil isn’t people, it’s behaviour. And the people who perpetrate it do so unthinkingly, reflexively, or by pointing at a set of regulations that say they are allowed to do it, or even in some cases state that they HAVE to do it. Because that’s what keeps the machine working efficiently. Okay, certainly not efficiently. But at least predictably. And the last thing you want to do is rock the boat. And if you do, then the last thing they want to do is acknowledge that their boat is rocking.

So to summarise: the IT Department and their feedback process – like just about every feedback process, and everything else about IT in the first place – is a farce.

My next rant : Microsoft

Maybe.

The I.T. Feedback Process

berndt2

Joined July 2007

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After their abysmal handling of my password request, the IT Department randomly asked me to provide feedback. Why would they do that? Oh… that’s why…

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