Disciplined Agile

Support Mindset

To capture the mindset for effective support, we extend the principles, promises, and guidelines of the Disciplined Agile® (DA™) mindset with philosophies.

Support Mindset

Figure 1. The Disciplined Agile (DA) mindset for support (click to enlarge).

The following philosophies describe a Disciplined Agile Mindset for Support:

  1. Avoid problems to begin with. The most effective support calls are the ones that you didn’t need to have in the first place. You can reduce the number of problems that people encounter through better user experience (UX) design during development and by building a trustworthy  infrastructure. It is critical to recognize that any money spent on support is addressing failures as opposed to adding value.
  2. Solve the problem. When end users decide to contact your support help desk, the support engineer should take responsibility for the problem, explain what happened and what the process is to resolve the problem, and then see it through until the problem is resolved to the end user’s satisfaction.  Ideally, you want to get to the root cause of any problems so that you can identify where improvements need to be make.
  3. Proactive support. Self-monitoring systems can now detect many problems as they occur in real-time, and often recover from those problems before your users even notice. But, in some cases it may be likely that the end user has been affected by a problem. In this case you may choose to apologize for the potential problem and ask the end user if they would like help from a support engineer.
  4. You build it, you support it. The DevOps philosophy of “you build it, you run it” applies to Support activities too. In small organizations, or at least those with a limited number of products, it is common to see the delivery team itself staff the support desk for their solution. 
  5. Embrace feedback. Learn from the feedback, improve the system, improve your process.
  6. Two-way conversations. A key skill for anyone doing support is for them to strive to have real conversations with the end users that they’re helping and not just be order takers capturing a problem description. The idea is to find out what they are trying to achieve by using your solution, to identify what is working well, what isn’t, and what is potentially missing from the solution. In other words, get a sense of what end users want to accomplish so that you can better deliver value to them. Support engineers are often some of the best stakeholders for a solution delivery team because they have the most contact with actual end users and therefore will have significant insight into what they need.
  7. Self-service support. With the advent of free online software such as Google Mail, Facebook, LinkedIn and more people have effectively been trained to support themselves in many cases. These techniques, such as providing online information and online discussion forums, can be employed for both customer-facing as well as internal-facing systems. Providing robust self-support options can both dramatically reduce the number of requests to your help desk and improve end user satisfaction with your solutions. A very good strategy is to post online videos describing ways to get better value out of your solutions or to address common problems that people run into.
  8. Automate, automate, automate. There are many opportunities to automate the support process, including artificial intelligence (AI)-based solutions such as chatbots, ticketing software, escalation routing, knowledgebases, and business intelligence (BI)-based customer intelligence gathering to name a few.