This is a universal problem in information technology (and other technology
domains). It seems to derive from life conditioning which began in youth, where
going to one's parent and proclaiming "Broken!" will result in the sympathetic
parent fixing the problem. Those who had to fend for themselves in early life
tend to be more self-reliant and pursue solutions themselves, up to reasonable
Shops with ITIL structuring and the usual tiered arrangement of help desk,
operations, sysadmin, engineering, and architecture are not immune to this
situation, where lower support levels will often superficially react to a
reported problem and just pass it on to the next level, with attendant
resolution delays for the user as the bureaucracy grinds. Commonly, the
passed-on ticket contains little or no useful information as to what the
problem actually is, as in "My email doesn't work."
An approach to dealing with this is to not readily accept a passed-on problem,
but to insist:
Have you gathered all needed information to ascertain the actual problem?
What analysis have you performed on the situation?
Have you tried reproducing the problem as a means of pursuing it?
Has the user been using this function successfully for some time and now has
this problem, or is this the first time the user tried using it?
Have others been having this same problem, or is it just this user?
Is the user trying to use the function with all requisites in place, and per
our online instructions?
Have you referred to vendor documentation regarding function usage to assure
Is there a coincident system change recorded in our organization's tracking
system which might explain the problem?
Are there historic records of this problem having occurred here before, with
Have you sought a solution or at least perspective in a Web search?
The key is to challenge people, in a good way, to do what they are supposed to
do, and get out of the self-limiting habit of looking to others to always fix
things for them.
Richard Sims, at Boston University