For those who regularly use ticketing systems, it’s clear that not all tickets are created equal. You have your long tickets, your short tickets, and the tickets that simply leave you scratching your head. Sometimes you even just have to say “no” (appropriately, of course). And every so often “the Unicorn” appears in your queue: The perfect ticket.
Let’s explore the bestiary of support tickets.
DEV-618: The Novelist
Description: Many years had elapsed during which 403 codes held no existence for me, when today, whilst I was logging onto the corporate VPN, a peripatetic barista – sensing my distraction – pressed upon me a madeleine. No sooner had the gluten-laden cake touched my palate than a shudder ran through my laptop display and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing transpiring. At once the vicissitudes of login had become indifferent, the latency innocuous, the throughput illusory, and I recalled the villa – without WiFi – when first the pang …
Some tickets are long, even if they have all the right information.
There is the ticket that strives dutifully to enumerate all relevant information for you. But there is also the ticket that’s a stream-of-consciousness narrative of every tangential aspect, in which the useful facts are but rare gems.
Here’s where your soft skills come into play. Users may not have a clear idea of what aspects of their behavior and the system’s behavior are relevant. World-class experts in their own fields may not even grasp the terminology of ours. So patience is needed, as is a willingness to search the wandering narrative for hints of clues.
DEVOPS-5537: The Minimalist
There once was an internal customer who would announce himself in our hallway with a shout of “Framework BROKE. Tools SUCK.” Some minimalists stop at that level of detail. Happily, that customer, a power user, would follow up with precise details about what he was observing.
Other times they turn minimalist — as in a Hemingway minimalist. Entertaining, but not quite useful to solve. Remember to stay cool in this situation.
Description: I deployed the build and the monitoring crashed. The bug is a betrayal, like water in whiskey. The bug is fresh and tough and slimy like a marlin in the gulf. The bug crashes the monitoring.
A ticket from a minimalist calls for a process of teasing particulars out of them.
IT-1966: The Mission Impossible
Description: Good morning, Admin. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to determine which among 57 fielded products are susceptible to the race condition in our heap library. Source code for older library versions only exists on obsolete media in offsite storage in the Arctic. You must convince the product managers, who hate us, to let you access their codebases. The VP wants a complete list of affected products by Friday morning. Should you or any of your team embarrass the department, the director will disavow any knowledge of your actions. Good luck, Maintainer. This ticket will not self-destruct.
Some tickets specify an insurmountable series of hard steps. The hurdles may be technical or organizational.
Sometimes the ticket reporter is right, particularly if they’ve been properly trained. A real mission impossible calls for negotiation and the involvement of management who can juggle resources. But the reporter might misunderstand the underlying problem. Or a different, more practical solution may suffice.
Tickets require an analysis not simply of system misbehavior but also of the user’s true needs.
REN-0911: The Most Important Ticket in the Entire World
Priority Level: 1
A new ticket pops up in your queue. While you read it, a chat arrives (“Did u see my tkt?”), and the ticket reporter shows up at your desk (“Did you get my chat?”). As you begin to speak, an email from his manager arrives (“This issue is blocking our category-1 release”). The phone rings. The CEO’s executive assistant is asking about the release status.
Okay, it’s usually not that bad. Understandably, some problems actually are critical. But some people are determined that you prioritize their problem. In that case, you need a calming answer, an immediate, if generic, plan for getting started, and a quick route to an initial assessment.
HELPDESK-008: The Mystery Ticket
Description: You have entered another dimension, a land of shadow and substance between the pit of your fears and the summit of your knowledge, as vast as the reference manuals and as timeless as an ever-receding estimate. It is a labyrinth of descriptions both suggestive and enigmatic, of misleading priorities and ever shifting symptoms. You’ve just crossed into – the Mystery Ticket zone.
Some tickets leave you scratching your head and muttering.
The problem reporter may have been immediately pulled onto another project or is in a distant time zone beyond a language barrier. What they actually want to be addressed may seem to change radically from moment to moment. And the problem may be very difficult to reproduce and study.
All ghost tickets are unique, and each calls for persistence and outside-the-box creativity.
PERF-707: The Unicorn
The perfect ticket. You sometimes see it. The problem is described precisely and the solution is clear and elegant. It may even be a problem you’ve wanted to address for a long time.
Treasure such a ticket.
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