The cake is a lie

| By:
Brett Cheloff

Let’s be honest, automation has no finish line—it’s a lifestyle. Before coming to ConnectWise, I managed 250 out-of-state time and material (T&M) clients. The workload was incredible, often requiring last-minute airfare for on-site work and staff training.

During business hours, all work was billed by how long we worked an issue or request. While after hours…the real fun began. During non-business hours, any call under 15 minutes was ignored for billing and overtime (OT), while any call more than 15 minutes was billed as a full hour and we would get paid an hour of OT.

While on-call, we were required to carry our laptop and never be more than 10 minutes away from an Internet connection. The company was so serious about this that they bought a USB aircard for each tech—so when the help desk connected us, we could drop everything and help out.

Normally, we’d know within seconds how long the call would last. And because we didn’t get paid for any call under 15 minutes, password resets were the bane of our existence.

You might see how these rules got abused, but I’ll spell it out for everyone else. On the business side, our agreements forgave minor issues that occurred during non-business hours—in this case, anything that required less than 15 minutes of work.

In reality though, when you were on-call, customer service became priority number one and we’d always ‘stay on the line’ while the user verified an issue was resolved…so the call lasted longer.

It’s simple, we kill the reset

During my first on-call rotation, I realized all 250 of our clients ran 24/7. During business hours, they’d be staffed with managers who could handle simple password resets, but once the on-site managers left, we’d get an average of three password requests EVERY night.

It’s an easy request to fulfill, yet the continual interruptions for an annoyingly simple issue quickly got to me. Every. Single. Night.

After that first rotation, I brought up the idea of a password reset feature our help desk could use. My manager laughed and said that was a battle she’d already fought and lost. There simply wasn’t any business reason to add functionality for a ‘quality-of-life’ issue.

When she told me that, it became my mission to sell the business on a fix for this issue. In retrospect, my attitude was a bit childish, but what occurred over the next year set me up for the position I’m in today.

Every week, we had a team meeting to talk about updates, share news, and voice concerns. Each week for the next year, I brought up this password reset topic—making small improvements to my pitch every time.

I started tracking, and admittedly influencing, how many password requests took more than 15 minutes. After 10 months of tracking, I’d built a business case that showed 25% of our overtime was directly related to password reset requests.

Word of this got to our Account Managers, who flew into a rage about nickel-and-diming clients for simple issues—something that completely goes against the value of our services. Our Director of Business Development called me into her office and asked for a 5-minute pitch on why and how we should address this.

None of her Product Managers could work on non-revenue projects, so I was tasked with building the requirements and working with our Web Development (WebDev) team to create the solution—a simple password reset page for our 24/7 help desk staff.

Expectation meets reality

Even though I’d never managed people or processes, development was relatively quick and easy. And once development was done, training the help desk was a breeze—they were all familiar with ‘Forgot your password?’ options. It was a personal moment of triumph.

We’d automated a fix to improve the lives of every on-call tech in the organization. Within a week, call volume from our help desk dropped 40% and our clients were getting back to work in approximately 90 seconds. It was everything I dreamt it would be.

Until my next on-call rotation, when I realized every call from the help desk was going to be a time- consuming issue. After a year of championing, hope, and determination, the feeling of dread from that ringtone was worse than ever. It took me another year to realize why I was depressed and finally move on.

Once you taste that high of creating change, improving the lives of your coworkers, and making a real impact…you can’t go back. You can’t automate one thing, kick your legs up, and pat yourself on the back. It’s like a drug.

For anyone passionate about IT and making an impact, automation that truly matters has no finish line. There is no cake. It’s a lifestyle that drives you to automate more and help everyone around you become more efficient than they ever thought possible.