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BAF mode

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Where the hell has this month gone? It feels like just a couple of days ago that I was in England at that customer’s data centre at 5AM. Now there’s just over a week to go before my holiday, and I honestly can’t wait.

The same customer called in yesterday, about a situation on a different machine to the one I had worked on earlier and had little knowledge of. They scheduled a conference call with Microsoft and ourselves to discuss it, for 3PM. We found out about this at 2PM, at which point I had only heard vague comments about the system: it took another half hour to get some logs from the machine sent to me, leaving me half an hour to try to analyze the situation, nowhere near enough. The conference call was short, and another was scheduled for an hour later, in which I had some more information to offer. No-one was really happy with what I said: it pointed straight back at the customer’s inability to follow the instructions they had asked for and been given.

What really ticked me off was the way the whole affair was managed: it was hardly a new situation, and there was no actual emergency at the time: the situation had been improved by suggestions I made last week, and they were actually implementing suggestions made by Microsoft and ourselves to fix the damage. No, this was a combination of hand-holding and post-mortem; so why was I forced into BAF*1 mode? I didn’t lose it, but I came damned close. A whole afternoon lost to management incompetence?

Then, to add insult to injury, the account manager called me at about 5PM, asking what after-hours support I was going to offer them. The thing is: while the customer is treating these systems as “business critical”, the systems in question aren’t sold as such, they have a standard warranty. They haven’t bought a support contract for these systems either, but they’ve managed to get special treatment, such as my site visit, through a combination of whining and vague threats about future business.

So I wasn’t having any: the account manager’s request fell on deaf ears, despite ten minutes of badgering by phone. If the customer had bought the support contract, they would have people to call, but they didn’t, so they’re on their own. I got the impression he was going to ask for my home phone number; he didn’t, perhaps because I stomped on that idea before it started. Or was I supposed to somehow authorize special support measures and give the customer a back door, bypassing the contract validation process? I don’t know if that can be done; if it can, I don’t care to know how.

I followed it up with a strongly-worded email that got me into an argument with my boss this morning. I managed to placate him, but I think he got the message too; in any case, he had already left by the time the phone call came through last night, and missed all the fun.

I don’t think that I would have had the self-confidence, a few years ago, to put my foot down the way I did. I just have to watch that I don’t go too far in the opposite direction, to the point of arrogance. I’m sure that the account manager thinks I’m a prima donna, but the customer doesn’t. They got all the time I could give them last week, but the situation was under control yesterday, it’s just management incompetence on both sides that led to this artificial emergency. Fine: the customer is carrying the costs, after all, whether it’s the inflated prices we charge – because all this support costs money – or in work lost due to system outages because they can’t RTFM.

*1 BAF = Blue-Arsed Fly. Do I need a holiday, or what?


Written by brian t

June 26, 2003 at 7:55 pm

Posted in work

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