Are You Dancing or Wrestling With Your ITSM Applications?

Did you ever notice how working with some software is like dancing, and other software is like wrestling?

 

How do you engage your CMDB, your Service Management applications? Do you dance or wrestle with them?

 

Do they anticipate your every need? Do they try to lead you to the next step, even if you're not sure? Or, must you force it onto the ground and win or lose based on strength vs. mass?

 

Must you use your CMDB in anger or is it inexpensive and easy to go query or integrate something? Does your CMDB keep your data "in jail"? Is everything always customization, or in the "next" release? These things add up!

 

It almost seems intentional sometimes. You can imagine a sumo developer, sitting up in his ivory tower, pondering his product's next feature. He's very good at building traps for unsuspecting or insufficiently expert users that don't measure up to his expectations of a user. He knows enough about the real world to be dangerous.

 

Smiling, he envisions the user face-down on the mat, begging for mercy. Yes, a newbie trap would be very good here, he reasons. Reaching for his keyboard, mentally he begins to wrestle with the user. The poor guy trying to implement it doesn't stand a chance:

  

 sumo_mismatch.jpg          sumo.jpg                        

 

Now of course we have to assume that our developer is very busy, that he can't overcome all the obstacles, that he's limited in his choices, that his budget is already set and he can't really listen to the users just now. And that bothersome product manager is a noob himself, so they're no help. Everything would just be ok if everybody did what I said, he thinks. That's it. My software will impose my will over the users. Make 'em do what I think they need to be doing.   Phooey on their use cases. Mine are better.

 

Now this is admittedly a cynical view. But tell me every one of you haven't used software that made you wonder if something like this wasn't just a tiiiiny bit true.  Tell me I'm wrong.

 

What if we were able to look at our Sumo developer's bag of tricks?    How would he make his product wrestle with his users? What would he do on the odd day he feels merciful and lets the user get something done easily and efficiently?  Even a developer has to give his people and his community a little respect.

 

Let's do some speculation.  C'mon, conjecture is fun! Besides, it's just the pejorative of "guessing". Which is, in reality, why a lot of software seems to be made to wrestle. The developer isn't evil, they just don't know. But let's not let that spoil our little developmental circus. On to the mind of our jovial but evil Sumo programmer:

 

Dancing

Wrestling

Having UIs for all configuration and deployment

Use text configuration a lot. Throw in some XML editing too. Make it all in different formats. For fun, change it every version.  Make configuration UI a low priority.  Make 'em wait for IDEs at least two or three releases.

Low TCO, easy to manage

Cost of integration is greater than the cost of the products

Positive OOBE (out-of-box experience)

Requires a consultant to take it out of the box

Users feel like the interface designer understood and faced the same needs and efficiencies and structures as they

Users wonder if the interface designer has talked to a customer

You have to do so few clicks to do something that the designer must have known this would be a frequently-used path and planned it that way

You have to do so many clicks to do something that you realize the designer never imagined this function would actually be used that way

User doesn't have to remember something between screens

User is required to remember complex names or strings between screens

Path(s) to do things are well-lit and clearly-defined

Path is not intuitive or is overly circuitous. Sometimes there just is no path

Any data entry error erases properly-entered data and forces you to re-enter or start over

Data entry error handling preserves all preservable user work

UI performs well all around

The more important the function, the worse it performs

Server and UI are stable, do not crash except under extraordinary circumstances

You have to do a lot of work and do things exactly right to minimize the number of crashes

Does not make you change your processes or organization to fit technology specifics

Requires obtrusive engineering or processes all it's own to be implemented in the organization

Natively understands ITSM processes and terms

Product feels like a generic platform fitted with ITSM restraints

Security is ubiquitous and transparent, mostly

Secure usage is painful because the Sumo developer wants to develop features, not security.  Security takes next-to-last place in priority ahead only of documentation.

Documentation was a priority. The developers wrote the documentation as part of their responsibility. It's not painful to read the doc.

Documentation was an afterthought. The developers were forced to "write" documentation or face consequences, so they jotted down a few bullets and handed it to the writers. The resulting lack of quality is painful and obvious.

UI is consistent. Menus, dialogue boxes, presentation, lists, right-clicks, etc. all seem to be the same thing

The evil developer bakes UI components based on his mood. Things are situated every which way to keep the users on their toes. For fun, switch around the "yes/no" choices and use double-negative choices ("Yes, I don't want to undo my 'yes' answer" - Huh?)

Diagnostics are easy. Logs and monitoring are easy to plug in and use

You better hope nothing goes wrong

If you do something bad, the product gracefully tries to tell you and help you.

It's easy for the user to crash the product or corrupt data.

The product doesn't allow a basic user to do any damage.

Even a basic user can create big problems for other users

Users smile when using the product

Users blood pressure increases when using the product

Product has expertise scalability - it's easy for both beginner and advanced users to use

New users cannot use the product. Only experienced users can use it. There are no new users of the product.

UI was designed under standard standards

UI was developed according to the developer's whimsy

Can install and manage it's own database, but allows external configuration as well

Either has full control or no control over database installation and configuration

 

I'm sure all of you have encountered at least of few these wrestling matches. But when you find a product you can dance with, it's beautiful. My question to you is, have any of you found a dancing CMDB? A dancing Service Management tool? The Grace Kelly of Asset Managers?

 

Our developers aren't evil. But I'm sure they occasionally entertain naughty thoughts. They're quite talented and for the most part, they're great dancers. If you're tired of wrestling with your ITSM solutions, drop in or give us a call. We'll dance with you.

 

Thanks!

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About the Author
Jody Roberts is a researcher, author, and customer advocate in the Product Foundation Services (PFS) group in HP Software. Jody has worked ...
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