Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year Wishes for Providers of MySQL Support Services

Three years ago I shared my wishes for customers of Oracle's MySQL Support Services. There I basically asked them to report any problem that they suspect to be caused by the bug in MySQL software at http://bugs.mysql.com.This year I want to share wishes mostly for myself (and other providers of MySQL Support services).

I have a job of MySQL Support Engineer for almost 10.5 years. I did it in MySQL AB, Sun, Oracle and Percona. I had enough opportunities to see all kinds of approaches, types, kinds and qualities of services. But I still have some dreams in this area that I'd like to see fulfilled for both myself as a provider of service and for customers of such a service:
  1. I wish to see MySQL Support mostly done in an asynchronous way, via emails and (when absolutely needed and possible) remote login sessions.

    In most cases it's enough for customer to know that she will get a detailed, best possible answer to any her initial question (or problem statement) or any followups question or request in a predictable, well defined time. There is no need for engineer and customer to always work in sync, by talking on phone, chatting or doing a shared screen sessions.

    Support should work the same way UNIX operating system does: by sharing all available resources (engineers) among all tasks (support requests) at hand, allocating resources for the task for some small amount of time and then forcing the resource to switch to other task, either when time unit allocated is ended or immediately when we have to wait for something to complete. Surely this mode is beneficial for support providers (because of ability to work for more customers concurrently than they have engineers online), but customers also get clear benefits. They can move on and work on something else until they get email back (or time to get a reply passes), and they may get a reply based on concurrent (but asynchronous) work of several engineers ("fan-out").

  2. At the same time, I wish each support provider to have a well defined SLA (time of getting a guaranteed useful technical reply, either a solution, suggestion or further question) not only for the initial reply (as we can see here and, honestly, almost everywhere), but also for the followups, for each and every customer email.

    Ideally both sides should be able to negotiate the date(time) of the next reply (even if it's different from formal official SLA), and then make sure to meet this deadline in 100% of cases. Some steps towards this goal are visible here, but so far no well know Support provider is perfect with followups in time, based on my knowledge.

  3. I wish Support engineers to never be involved in phone conferences with customers without a clearly defined agenda related to MySQL and limited time to be spent on phone (see item 1 above for the reasons).

    Sometimes somebody from "services" side should be "there", in case of questions during some long discussion. I think this is a job for customer's TAM (technical assistance manager), Sales Engineer (if the topic is related to purchasing some service or software) or anyone who is paid per hour (like Consultant).

  4. I wish Support engineers, no matter what Support provider they work for, to always report upstream MySQL bugs at http://bugs.mysql.com/ and fork-specific bugs at their public bug trackers, as openly available (public) to all MySQL users.

    Some bugs may be repeatable only with customer-specific and confidential data, and some bugs may have security implications. Ideally, Support engineers should always work on a repeatable test case or otherwise well grounded bug report NOT containing customer data. As for security problems, there is always a way to explain in public important details of the possible security attack vector and list versions affected, without giving enough details for "script kiddies" to just blindly copy-paste the test case to get unauthorized access or crash well-managed public MySQL server.

  5. I wish Support engineers to present their work and share their experience in public.

    We all should try to share knowledge we have and get while working with customers, not only internally to our colleagues in services or via internal knowledge bases, but also in our own blogs, articles, on public MySQL forums and on MySQL-related conferences.

    MySQL Support providers should encourage support engineers to make the results of their work public whenever possible. Not only bugs, but problem solving approaches, code written (if any), experience gained should be shared with MySQL community. This will give us all customers who known more about MySQL and will help us not to re-invent the wheel.
 
To summarize, I wish our customers in the New Year of 2016 to get a simple, but well-defined, responsible, and reliable 24x7 Support service provided by the engineers who are well known to the Community based on their public work on MySQL (via blog posts, bug reports and conference presentations). I wish all MySQL Support Service providers to deliver what they promise (or more) in 100% of cases. I wish myself to work for MySQL Support Provider that cares about my wishes and tries to help me to see my dreams expressed here coming true.

Happy New Year, MySQL Community!

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