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Art of Software Support, The

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The first complete, real-world guide to building and running help desks and software support centers.

Quality software support is now a fundamental differentiator in satisfying both your ext


  • Copyright 1998
  • Dimensions: 7" x 9-1/4"
  • Pages: 352
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-13-569450-7
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-13-569450-3


The first complete, real-world guide to building and running help desks and software support centers.

Quality software support is now a fundamental differentiator in satisfying both your external and internal customers. And in today's high-pressure, heterogeneous computing environments, it's more difficult to deliver quality support than ever before.

The Art of Software Support' gives you proven, best-in-class integrated tools and techniques for structuring and operating a customer-focused support organization—and for overcoming the crisis mentality that's so common in support organizations. Whether you're starting a software support or help desk organization, or seeking to improve the one you already have, you'll find invaluable guidance on:

  • Choosing and implementing the call management model that's right for your organization.
  • Selecting tools—including phone systems, fax systems, knowledge bases, customer tracking applications, and other software.
  • Measuring support center performance.
  • Packaging support programs that can make your organization a profit center.

Learn when to outsource—and when not to. And discover practical, easy-to-implement ideas for every stage of the software lifecycle, from new product planning and testing, to managing software bugs and fixes. The Art of Software Support also gives you time-and-money-saving tools you can use right now, including:

  • A sample user's guide.
  • Call resolution checklists.
  • Worksheets for determining staffing levels and justifying budgets.

Perhaps most important, The Art of Software Support offers practical help with the tough challenge of supervising support people. You'll learn how to determine staffing levels, hire the right people—and keep them, even in difficult times.

Whether you manage software support, or you're a support engineer working “in the trenches,” The Art of Software Support will dramatically enhance your effectiveness.

Sample Content

Table of Contents

1. Introduction.

2. Call Management Models.

Achieving Customer Satisfaction. Call Flow Models. Other Call Management Considerations. Escalations.

3. Call Management Implementation.

Hotline Support Basics. Phone Interface. Call Routing. Escalation Management. Non-phone Based Support. Disaster Recovery Planning.

4. Measuring Support Center Performance.

Important Process Metrics. Customer Satisfaction. Analysis Metrics.

5. Packaging Support Programs.

What is a support package and why create one? Defining Successful Support Packages. Pricing and Selling Support Packages. Sample Support Offerings.

6. Support Organization Structure.

Do I need an organization dedicated to Support? Third-Party Support: Outsourcing. Reporting Structure. Do I need more than one Center? Internal Structure of the Support Group.

7. Managing Support People.

Planning Support Staffing Needs. Hiring Support Staff. Managing Support Staff Performance. Retaining Support Staff. Managing Morale.

8. Managing Software Bugs and Code Fixes.

Definitions and Models for Bug Fixing. Bug Fixing Process. Fixes for Third-Party Products.

9. Tools for Software-Support.

Choosing, Justifying, and Implementing Tools. Phone System. Fax System. Call Tracking System. Bug Tracking System. Knowledge Base System. Proactive Customer Communication Systems. Customer Tracking System. Problem Reproduction Environment. Call Center Management Applications. Facilities.

10. New Product Planning.

Planning for New Products. Training for New Products. Testing for New Products.

Appendix A. Sample User's Guide.

Appendix B. Call Resolution Overview.

Framing the Call. Problem Solving. Creative Brainstorming. Checking Satisfaction.

Appendix C. Determining Staffing Levels.

Deriving a Staffing Level Knowing the Service Target. Deriving a Service Level from the Staffing Level. Effect of Call Length on Service Level. Theoretical Proof of "Big is beautiful".

Appendix D. Creating and Justifying a Support Center Budget.

Justifying a Support Center Budget. Building a Support Center Budget.





This is a book about the design and operation of software support centers and help desks. It is a book primarily for managers, but also for executives and support engineers who are involved in the world of software support. In it we take you through the important areas of concern that every support operation must address. We cover the major principles of designing a customer-focused support operation to help you put your customers first as the cornerstone of your strategy for business success. Throughout the book we offer detailed, practical prescriptions and recommendations for structuring and operating a Support organization that can be used either to help you build one from scratch or to help you improve an already existing one.
As an executive, you will gain the background you need to make the solidly informed decisions on proposals brought to you by support managers. As a support engineer, you will gain a window on the larger world in which you work and see what lies in store if you choose to move into management as a career.
In writing this book we had help from many people. We are grateful to them beyond what our words can tell.

Our thinking on management has been greatly influenced by Fernando Flores of Business Design Associates. From Ken Williams at Intel and, later, Ingres we learned much about the art of people management. Barry Shamis contributed his expertise in that most important of management skills, recruiting. Sue Shields shared with us the fundamentals of world-class support as practiced by Hewlett-Packard. We benefited from many conversations on customer service with Ron Kaufman.
Our colleagues and associates at ASK and at Sybase provided much of our learning. They gamely accepted our experiments and questions and always generated more.
David Aune, Chris Davis, Chris Doell, Richard McIntosh, Roy Moore, and Darcy Van Vuren reviewed the manuscript, pointing out errors and contributing their experiences and insights where ours was lacking. Special thanks to Richard and Roy who went through the entire book and, especially, to David whose detailed suggestions contributed much to its final content. Sumi Sohari and Rafael Coto of Action Technologies, Inc. assisted us with the Basic Action Workflow( Process Builder software used for the Basic Action Workflow mapping in Chapter 2.
Many thanks to Bill Rose, the ultimate and tireless advocate of software support as a profession, with whom we consulted when first starting out to redesign support at Ingres and from whom we first heard the richly descriptive phrase for the start of every day in the support business . . . “It begins.”
We thank also Sandy Emerson of Sybase Press who encouraged us in this endeavor and helped us find our publisher.
Mark Taub, our editor at Prentice Hall, took a chance on two unproven authors. We are grateful for his trust and his straightforwardness in working with us.
Our warm thanks to Eileen Clark who patiently and thoroughly reviewed our manuscript and turned it into a book.


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