Episode 8 At some point in every successful IT vendor's lifecycle, their infrastructure gets so vast and monolithic that navigating their support network is pretty much impossible for everyone but the vendor's people themselves – and sometimes not even them.
"So you see," I tell the Boss, "I log in to the site."
"Uh huh," the Boss says.
"And you'll see that there I am, my email, our address, and under this tab is the hardware we have support for."
"And under THIS tab is the software licences layered on top of the hardware."
"And if I click on the Downloads button and navigate to the device, like so, >clicky< >tap< >tap< I can see there are several downloads, including a mandatory update available."
"So I go to download the mandatory update like so >clicky<, and I get access is denied unless I have a support contract."
"Ah, I see."
"Then I'm presented with the opportunity to sign up with the Smart Portal - because up till now I have apparently been dealing with the dumb portal."
"Only I have to REGISTER with the Smart Portal because I have to in some way agree to use a tool that works rather than the default one which doesn't work."
"OK," he says thoughtfully.
"I did this yesterday, so obviously when I click on the link >clickety< it will tell me... that I need to register again."
"We haven't even begun to get odd. So I try to register again, but it tells me I'm already registered. I enter my username - the only username I ever use with this company - and it tells me I don't have a Smart Portal account and I will need to register one."
"..so obviously I will try the 'forgot my password' link >click< - which doesn't work because I need to know my username first, but then I can >clicky< on my forgot my username link and it prompts me for my email. I enter that >tappity< and then >Bing< I check my email and my username is the one I tried before."
"And it still doesn't work. But if I >click< on My Account at the top of a page I get a page like the one I saw before, but this also has a Smart Portal link, which, if I >click< on it BRINGS ME TO THE SMART PORTAL AND I'M LOGGED IN!!!!"
"Finally," The Boss says.
"Except that there's no support contract information on the profile - BUT I can go to my profile manager, which isn't my Smart Portal manager, it's my main profile manager. If I >clicky< on that it says I have a support contract and do I want to convert that to an active support contract."
"It gets better!" I say. "The contract, if I view it, says that support started 3 weeks ago and lasts for 1 year, so the contract is ticking over but it isn't active because I haven't activated it."
"But it's showing up on your account."
"Yes. So I >click< activate it and NOW I need to create an active contract profile in which I lodge all my active contracts. When I >tappity< >click< do this I FINALLY have an ACTIVE contract on a REGISTERED device with an AUTHORISED USER."
"So it comes as no surprise when I can't download the software because I have no support contract."
"Did you call their support line?"
"Yes, but let's do it again."
23 minutes later...
"Hi, I'm Dave at Support Central how can I help?" a voice answers.
"I have a support contract that's showing up under my profile but which doesn't permit me to download any software."
"Is is a Smart Contract or a normal contract?" Dave asks.
"I'm unsure Dave, how can I tell?"
"Well in the bottom of the box that the device came with there will be a piece of paper which has - or doesn't have - the word 'SMART' before the name."
"Was it a red piece of paper?" I ask.
"Did it have the words DO NOT DISCARD on it in large letters?"
"But without it I take it there will be some sort of get-out-of-jail-free clause in the whole contract agreement?"
"I... it's got the contract info on it," he says. "It's intrinsic to the support process."
"Would it be a piece of paper which is extremely similar in look and feel to the Electrical Safety Sheet, the Unpacking This Device Sheet, the Safe Disposal of unnecessary packing sheet - as well as all the above sheets in every language known to man, along with something not unlike the voyager golden record - in case aliens ever get one and we need to kill them with pointless bloody documentation?"
"I... don't know."
"Tell me Dave, why would you PRINT a document telling you how to dispose of printed documents?"
"It doesn't matter" I say. "That page, along with ALL the other pages and the rest of the packaging is now probably buried 2 feet deep in a landfill just north of Leeds - which, incidentally, is an eventuality you should be preparing yourself for if you start telling me about how important licence document management is."
"It's just that we need to validate the..."
"Dave," I say. "I've entered the Key in the system. It's been accepted, and alongside the licence key there's a picture of our device, along with the SERIAL NUMBER - OF OUR DEVICE. Your system KNOWS I have a licence. It will undoubtedly also KNOW if it's smart or not."
"Yes but if it's smart you need to register with the Smart Por..."
"Done it," I say.
"..and then you need to Activa..."
"..and then go to the Downloads page..."
"Tried it!" I say. "And nothing happened. Tell you what Dave; do you want my username and password to see for yourself?"
"I'm not sure I can. I have to check with my supervisor."
"Go right ahead," I say. "We'll wait."
"He's not here today. He was here yesterday but he went out for lunch and he didn't come back. No one knows where he is."
"I know where he is Dave," I say quietly. "It rhymes with Mandhill Borth of Reeds."
>tappity< >clickety< >tap< >tap< >tap< >clickety<
"OK, so I've set you up as a reseller which means that you have access to all downloads for all devices!" Dave blurts.
"Well thank you Dave, that's most helpful. And when will this access expire."
"Never. It will never expire," Dave gasps. "Is there anything else I can help with?"
"No - thank you Dave, you've been a great help."
"And that's how we get the support we paid for," I say to the Boss, clicking on the download button.
"No support contract associated with this account," the Boss whispers.
"Get your car and the PFY and I will meet you in the basement. Is there room in your boot for a shovel, a roll of carpet and two 20kg bags of quicklime?"