Troubleshooting 101: Effective Information


Teach Them to Fish Johann Stoessel, MCP HDI Member Adivsory Board Chair

So, what’s this got to do with troubleshooting technology?

Troubleshooting “. . . the process of replacing probability with certainty.” Robert F. Mager Troubleshooting the Troubleshooting Course

Troubleshooting starts with 5 Key Questions      Who What When Where How

“The quality of the question determines the quality of the answer.” Kim Hankins, The Bergerac Company

Troubleshooting – Who?

    Identify the customer Is the customer an intermediary One or many experiencing the symptom Technically savvy customer

Troubleshooting – What?

  Record the details Get specific ◦ What version of what program ◦ Machine type, operating system ◦ What function is the customer trying to perform

Troubleshooting – What?

   What is or isn’t happening ◦ How long does it take What is on the screen ◦ Is there an error message Can the customer perform similar tasks in other programs

Troubleshooting – What?

  “It’s not working . . .” vs How do I . . .” questions What is the question behind the question

Torubleshooting – When?     When did it start When does it happen Is there a pattern to its occurrence What changed ◦ New or different computer ◦ New software installed ◦ Changes to customer job function ◦ Changes to customer network

Troubleshooting – Where?

 “Any machine no matter who’s logged on.”  “Only my machine no matter who’s logged on.”  “On any machine but only when I log on.”  “Only my machine and only when I’m logged on.”  “Everyone on the east side of the third floor.”

Troubleshooting – How?

   Can the customer make it happen again ◦ Reproducible vs. Intermittent incidents Document the steps to recreate the incident ◦ Is the customer following proper procedure Can you reproduce the incident in the support center

Sometimes it is not what you ask but how you ask it Avoid defensiveness ◦ Don’t rush it ◦ ◦ ◦ Open vs Closed questions Avoid “you” and “why” Is an apology in order to keep the information coming

Develop Problem Statement     State the incident description as you understand it Does customer agree the description is accurate Does customer add new, relevant or clarifying details Restate to confirm

Prioritize the Incident   Determine impact and severity ◦ Does it affect one customer or many ◦ Is a high-value transaction at stake ◦ Is a high-value account at stake How does it compare with other open incidents or problems

Establish 5 Key Questions with your Team     Teach Prove Whiteboard Adapt

Case Study        Who?





Restate Prioritize