Sunday, 18 August 2013

Make your ticket system work for you

If you don't have a proper ticket system for your team, get one. By proper ticket system I means one that handles multiple teams, has email integration, customizable metadata for tickets, and notification of events. Anything else is not really worth wasting your time with. I've heard reasons why a 'good enough' ticket system can be improvised using Excel, Sharepoint, a whiteboard, a perl app knocked together in 27 seconds, etc. But, to be blunt, all the reasons are rubbish. I can't even be bothered to go into the reason why they're rubbish (unless someone really wants me to). There's enough free and affordable systems for any company to get something for fit for purpose.

But if you're one of those people who feels that logging every change you do is an overhead which you could do without, or that you know so much you don't need to worry about tracking anything, here's a few of the core benefits for engineers.

1. Solve incidents faster

Many incidents are related by changes made by the team. If you've got a system where you can easily find out who changed what and why, resolving incidents will take a fraction of the time.

2. Work more efficiently with your team

If you try to keep abreast of everything that's going on in your team with conversations, you'd get very little done. Tickets systems allow you to keep up to date on what's going on without interrupting your colleague and you can selectively choose what you want to know about. Many tickets systems allow you to subscribe to queues or selected tickets by email or RSS feed.

When you have a better idea of what's going on, you can proactively help out on issues you've had experience with, see potential problems on the horizon, and coordinate your work with others.

3. Make it easy to track important tasks

There's often a lot going on and it's annoying when something you know you should have done, comes back to bite you later. Logging tasks enable you to review things regularly and prioritise as appropriate. It's much easier for computers to remember something than for you to try and keep it in your head, don't waste the effort.

4. Remember how you fixed it

When I'm working on a system regularly, it's pretty easy to recall the command line options to perform a task. But when you stop working on that thing for a period of time, you begin to 'forget' how to achieve certain tasks or why something is configured in this way. I find this is particularly true when programming.

You haven't really forgotten but the information has moved out of your 'cache' of quickly accessible facts into longer term memory. If you log notes about what you've done in a ticket, these notes, while not being complete details of the actions performed, act as 'pointers' to elements in your long term memory and it's easier to recall facts. Without these pointers it will take much longer or you may never remember exactly what you did to fix something.

Remember, a well designed ticket system will work for you, allowing you to get more done, and get home on time.

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