It was another exciting week working for The Company. The Cheerleader picked up a job outside the company and I guess my manager is just going to retire. However, the most important thing I learned about this week was the true purpose of Skinny Project — bottlenecking!

As I mentioned last week, gold plating service is public enemy #1 for The Company now thanks to Skinny Project. As such, the goal is to drive the numbers down so that we perform only what is required by Service Level Agreement (SLA), thus providing people for the unemployment line. To accomplish this, Skinny Project has erected an number of bottlenecks in the process to prevent efficiency and thus prevent gold plating. Here’s how The Company and Skinny Project consultants have set things up.

1) Phone Calls

The Skinny Project people told The Company that employees taking phone calls was a bad thing as this wasted employee’s valuable time that could be spent doing actual work. Apparently, the Skinny Project consultants were under the impression that most of the phone calls received were unimportant and should be reduced. The thing is, my department gets the following calls:

  1. Support returning pages. If I paged out a support person, I need their assistance so those are calls that must come to me.
  2. Customers, Help Desk’s, account managers, support people, or other authorized persons call in to report a SEV 1 or SEV 2 issue that requires our support. Again, those are calls that must come to me.
  3. Support persons calling in to report changes they are working on.

That is 99% of our calls. The other 1% might be calls from an account manager wanting some additional information on some issue or someone on the team getting a personal call. I suppose the personal calls could be removed, but that still leaves over 99% of the calls that have to come to us and cannot be reduced.

The Company placed hands over their ears along with the Project Skinny consultants and went, “LA!LA!LA!LA! I can’t HEAR you!”

So, the Router Team was created from all the team leads throughout the various center’s departments. The Routers now take all of our phone calls. While they are getting a bit better on being able to route calls to us, there is still a lot of time wasted as often they either don’t get all the required information or they still end up sending it to the wrong place. As such, we are starting to get some dropped calls from the numbers I’ve seen and certainly we are wasting time. But this does what Skinny Project wanted — create a bottleneck.

2) Whiteboard

How things work in my department is that we have Tivoli Enterprise Console which captured all of the alerts for the various account’s systems and then creates a ticket for said event to route to our queue. There are tools which can generate tickets for us as well as customers or Help Desk folks who could generate tickets and place them in one of our queues. Our team then has a 15-minute SLA to respond to a SEV 1 ticket and 30-minutes to respond to a SEV 2 (using a special code for our problem notes to indicate our response). This has never been a problem and it was a very rare event to miss a respond SLA as it takes seconds to get a response placed into the ticket (10-seconds at most for a ticket, and that number can be reduced with multiple tickets with a copy-paste of the response text into each ticket).

Since Project Skinny needs numbers to justify itself and The Company executives want metrics, an online Whiteboard was created to track EVERY TICKET that comes into the environment, no matter what. Further, Whiteboard entries are supposed to be created for everything we do, even if there’s not a ticket. That way, numbers can be produced to show results, whatever those are supposed to be.

The Whiteboard takes a minimum of about 30-seconds per ticket. That’s because we have to document which department the ticket came to, what account its being charged to, what the severity is, how was the ticket generated, which team is going to work it, who is the ticket assigned to, what was the date-time we started working on the issue, was the ticket an auto-generated ticket or a manual one, was there a bridge call, and any notes (I hope I haven’t forgotten a field). Further, if I have to page out support, I have to edit the Whiteboard to log that time and make other changes (say to flag that I had to get on a bridge or something).

This is a nice bottleneck. Not only does it take a lot of time out of our day that could be spent working tickets, it is a severe headache to keep track of on a busy day. Further, in a case where we get a lot of tickets all at once, or I as a “Rock Team” member am busy working another issue and am not refreshing the queue every few minutes (something we didn’t have to worry about before Skinny Project even with SLA response times) to see what tickets are coming in, making the SLA’s on responds becomes very, very difficult and in the last month, we’ve missed more respond SLA’s that we have my whole 2.5 years in this department.

That’s quality for ya.

3) Teams

In the pre-Skinny Project days, a day shift would be staffed with eight people, 2 of which were on “dedicated accounts” and at night, we had seven with two on dedicated accounts. The dedicated people were not to do anything but their accounts and the remaining staff monitored the queues for issues and worked them. So the shift worked as a team most of the time (sometimes you could get a person who was worthless, but the shifts I worked on were tight). As such, SLA’s weren’t missed and incoming calls from support were quickly sent to the right people.

In the Skinny Project, that’s all gone. For all shifts, 1 person is designated as a “Rock” person and they rock out the SEV 1/SEV 2 issues. For day shift, 2 people are on the “Roll” team (one is so designated at night) who roll out the SEV 3 issues and in theory cut manual tickets that might be required. They are to be pulled by the Rock team whenever that person feels SLA’s are about to be missed or the SEV 1/SEV 2 ticket volume is high. Two people are still on the dedicated accounts, but because The Company has deemed these not true dedicated accounts (meaning the accounts aren’t paying for double the headcount), they are designated “Dedicated Rovers” because their primary responsibility is their dedicated account but if they aren’t busy and required, they can be pulled into the Rock or Roll team to work issues. And for all other shifts, there’s at least one “Rover” who’s supposed to sit in another room and do no real work unless it is an absolute emergency (prime candidates for the next round of layoffs if they aren’t used much).

I’m the Rock team on my shift and I’m always pulling my fellow teammates into the Rock team to work issues (which they have to document because we need metrics to see how staffing is). In addition to managing all of the SEV 1/SEV 2 issues, I have to manage the team and pull resources as needed. Officially, I’m only supposed to pull resources when absolutely needed. Apparently, getting on a SEV 1 issue is not an absolute need, but I reject that and immediately pull someone the moment I get a SEV 1 issue that requires a bridge. I have too much to do when a SEV 1 starts to be worried about the queue.

Anyway, my teammates are absolutely forbidden from touching any SEV 1/SEV 2 issue (Dedicated-Rovers obviously touch their own SEV 1/SEV 2 issues) no matter what until I evoke them. I am forbidden from just evoking them without a valid reason. The result is a bottleneck which keeps the ticket count in the queue at levels they never were prior to the Skinny Project (we used to keep the queues empty or nearly empty, but that’s gold plating).

There are other bottlenecks such as support people being forced to get off SEV 1 bridge calls when they aren’t actively working the issue, which forces me to have to re-page them and slows down recovery time. Skinny Project consultants believe that I shouldn’t be on bridge calls either for very long, but our surviving managers have resisted that change for now.

The result is that days are much, much busier now, sometimes insanely so. I don’t mind busy because it makes the work day go by faster. However, I don’t like how all these bottlenecks prevent me from doing my job efficiently and creates more work and headaches that I don’t need.

Reader Comments

  1. Yo dude, check your spelling. Waisting? Also, thanks for not sending the Star Wars movie to me and Tony. For that little slight, we’re not sending you a Thanks Award. 🙂

  2. The spell checker worked fine. There were no red squiggly lines under what I typed. *lol* Yikes! Thanks for the catch (which is why I need an editor).

    As for the Star Wars thing, I sent that in a hurry and figured Timmay would forward it to you (which he must have done).

    BTW, did you document your time on the whiteboard? ^_~

  3. You also may want to fix ‘post-skinny project’.. as I believe you mean ‘pre-skinny project.’ Know what I’m sayin’?

  4. Yikes. This is why it is difficult for me to be a writer, even though I enjoy it. My brain knows what I want to say, but my fingers end up typing something else (usually because by the time my fingers start typing it, my brain has already moved on). ^_^; Thanks for the catch.

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