Wednesday, February 9, 2011

One girls thoughts on logging a ticket.

I have a support/customer service background and with my current job I started out on the phones, then stepped into a 2nd level support role and then into testing/QA.

I recently spent quite some time helping write up support workflow documents and setting up queues in our ticketing system (ie, going from one to four so bugs can be managed separately to enhancements).

Part of this process was to provide a list of minimum information for each of the four queues so we had all the information we needed upfront. I realised I was writing up the same things that I have asked for many many many times and well basically no one ever listens.

I then realised maybe it is because people just don't know the importance and think I am just a cow when I say that a subject line of "Urgent" really doesn't help anyone. The following is the result:

(Oh..  I have changed the company name to be Jimmy Jams everything else is how I posted it at work.)

While helping get the support proceses written I realised that there have been many requests and documents over the years on what information we need included in the tickets but we have never explained why this information is important.

My examples are based around two of my favourite things, food and movies, because I wanted this to be relevant to everyone no matter their experience with Jimmy Jams. I could have written this in a way that was very Jimmy Jams related and example heavy but I decided against it because we all have different levels of Jimmy Jams knowledge and I didn't want to put you to sleep. I also didn't want to put myself to sleep writing it so it is not in a serious and official tone at all. 

In saying that, if you would prefer a second version of this that is based around Jimmy Jams tickets please let me know and I will happily work on it when I can. Any other feedback is more than welcome as well!!


One girls thoughts on logging a ticket:

So as you know, I am writing this to elaborate on why we have requested 'minimum information' in tickets and why these seemingly small things are actually quite important for us all.

As corny as this sounds, a ticket is like a recipe. How you ask? Well..... we all have a favourite meal to cook, yes?

Let's pretend you are handing over the recipe so someone can cook this meal for you (but you have to do the dishes, that's the rule...)

YOU know the ingredients, YOU know the order of preparation/directions, YOU know the expected outcome.

If you don't tell the cook all the ingredients, even down to what seasoning to add, your meal won't taste right.

If you give all the right ingredients but you don't tell them the correct order of preparation, your meal may eventually come out right but there will be a lot of trial and error (and wasted time) so it isn't lumpy/burnt/cold/mushy/upside down etc.

This is exactly the same as logging a ticket.

In my opinion, to create an effective ticket you need:
  • A clear and precise subject line
  • A brief summary of the issue (one sentence)
  • Explain how to reproduce the problem       
  • The expected outcome   
  • Sign off
Let's break these down further so I can explain the importance.
  • A clear and precise subject line

Ok, so I know you will groan at this example but the movie title:
     "Snakes on a Plane"
is probably one of the best examples I can give on a clear and precise subject line.
From that title you know exactly what the movie is going to be about.
Let's look at another movie title:
     "The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies"
While it still describes what the movie is about, it is long winded and forgettable.
One more to round it out:
This movie could be about a number of different things and unless you already know the movie, you will need to investigate further to find out what it is about.
It can be hard to keep subject lines short and sharp, however this is important because when you have a list of 15 tickets and they are all urgent, what is going to be the first thing that grabs your attention?

  • A brief summary of the issue

We have our snappy subject line entered and now we are into the body of the ticket.
It sounds really silly but start with a greeting!!!
We don't always know who is going to be assigned the work but this doesn't mean you can't still say Hello, Hi Team, Hola, Aloha, Guten tag etc etc.
It also shows that you have thought about the person on the other end and the fact that what you have just typed up will have an impact on someone else's day.
Once you have inserted your favourite form of greeting, it is really really good to summarise the issue.
A summary is one or two sentences that purely explains the problem, it does not list the steps to replicate the issue.
          Let's go back to our subject line "Tangled".
          You don't know anything about this movie and are not willing to pay money to go see it until you know what it is about. So you are looking for an overview of the movie so you can tell whether it is something that interests you and/or people you are seeing the movie with.

This is the same thing for a ticket, a summary should tell the reader what the issue is and who the best person to action the request is without them needing to read through all the replication steps.

  • Explain how to reproduce the problem

This is the most insanely important part of a ticket and takes us back to our recipe.
Even the most simple recipes can be done in a number of different ways and will affect the outcome.
         "Cheese on Toast" for example, what type of cheese, what type of bread, is the bread buttered, do you toast both sides of the bread before melting the cheese or just one? Where and how do I toast/grill? Do I use the grill, a frying pan, a toaster, a microwave, a sandwich press? Do I add seasoning, is this a closed or open sandwich?
We all have our preferred method of making cheese on toast, there is a specific order and specific ingredients needed to make it turn out the way we intended.
We can't assume people know how to make cheese on toast and we can't assume that people know what we are requesting in a ticket. We need to spell out what we are looking at, what we are entering into the system and in which order. We also need to cut out unnecessary information or steps.
We need to tell our cook that we want our bread buttered, but we don't need to tell them to walk to the fridge, open the door, pick up the butter, pick up the knife, put butter on the knife and spread the butter on the bread.
Think about the tone and audience of your ticket, are you talking to people about a croquembouche when you should be talking about a cupcake? Think of the words you are using, are they too technical, are they easy to read out loud?
          A request to "decommission superfluous surface decontamination methods" is the perfect example of an unfriendly request. Read it out loud, it is as friendly as "she sells sea shells by the sea shore she must sell sea shore shells".
Remember that further down the line people are going to have to vocalise your request in planning sessions, daily stand-ups and showcases etc.

  • The expected outcome

What did you and/or the client expect to happen when you finished the steps you outlined above.
          "I expected crunchy toast with melted cheese on top but the bread was soggy and the cheese wasn't melted"           
The expected outcome is important as it often shows us what/where the issue is just by reading rather than physically going through the replication steps.
More importantly, it will throw out keywords. At times these won't match the steps taken to reproduce the problem and will show us that it is actually a training gap rather than an issue.
  • Sign off

If you are logging a ticket in an area you are unfamiliar with, let us know and let us know how to contact you if we need any further information/clarification.
This will also help us tailor our response to you (especially if it is a training issue).
So to wrap it all up:

  • A clear and precise subject line
          Everyone can clearly see what the ticket is about straight away
  • A brief summary of the issue (one sentence)
          Should tell the reader what the issue is and who the best person to action the request is without them needing to read through all the replication steps.
  • Explain how to reproduce the problem
          We can't help if we don't know how to get to the issue or repeat the issue.
  • The expected outcome   
          What did you expect to happen?
  • Sign off
          Thanks for reading, any feedback is more than welcome:)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I forget that sometimes it CAN be simple...

So I have been trying to write my first post for quite some time.

I wanted it to have a bit of history about me and how I got into testing, why I decided to start a blog and what sort of stuff it would be about. I started and stopped quite a few times and well I never felt happy with any of them.

Today it hit me that the need to provide background etc has more to do with my need to understand why we have added an enhancement to the system I test and how a bug was caused/happened/can be found etc. but sometimes going in blind can be just as fun!

On that note, all that is left for number one is:

Welcome to the start of the ramblings trapped in my head for a few years!