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Then Stop Doing It That Way

April 28, 2021

I’m responsible for over 2000 computers across 7 states. Oh, and three data centers, but they aren’t important to this story. I’m not actually responsible to fix the computers. But, when they break, either individually, or in large groups, I’m responsible for making sure they get fixed.

The outages that affect a lot of computers all at once are easy. An entire team gets on a conference bridge and stays on the bridge until the issue is fixed. We’ve spent as long as 48 hours on an outage bridge. Many have been as short as 30 minutes.

But, when an individual computer breaks, the process is different. The agent creates a ticket with the servicedesk and the ticket gets routed to a technician or an engineer to work on it.

We use a softphone. In other words, a phone that is an application on the computer. There are actually multiple applications that need to work together in order to allow the phone program to work. And like most software programs the manufactures issue updates regularly. But, with something as complex as a softphone, especially making it work with the client’s CSR program and in a virtual environment, updates have to be handled very carefully. It’s not like your Windows computer that updates in the middle of the night by itself.

We recently had to update a program called WXME from version 10.0.7 to 11.0.2. It was kind of a big deal and we had to figure out how to push the update out to all our work at home users at the same time. And we did it. . .mostly. There were a few that got missed.

Sure enough, the ones that didn’t get updated gave errors. . .sometimes. And sometimes they worked fine. But, eventually they broke. And when they broke the solution was to reinstall the WXME application.

And that was supposed to fix it. And it did. . .sometimes. See, when someone is working from home, our engineer can’t it directly. Instead, they have to remotely push the WXME software and make it install itself. And it typically works. . .sometimes.

If it doesn’t work we have to do the process again. If the agent is working in a brick and mortar building, we have more options. The engineer can work directly on the broken computer. We can also move the agent to a another computer.

Unfortunately we’ve been playing whack-a-mole with broken WXME files for weeks. (Probably months, but being the guy responsible for making sure stuff doesn’t break, I like the idea I’ve only been struggling with this for weeks rather than four times that long.)

And it’s really frustrating. Sure, it’s frustrating for me, but it’s even more frustrating for the agents who are not able to do their jobs. We’ve tried working through it. We’ve tried involving more people. We’ve tried several things.

Finally, we had a meeting about it today. We talked over the problem that we all knew existed. Of course, we knew it existed we’ve been battling it for months. (I mean weeks: Weeks!) And what we’ve been trying hasn’t really been working.

Rodney, 100% of the time when we get this error on the softphone it’s because of a bad version of WXME.


Every time.

I had a thought. Our computers are not unique. In other words, an agent can use any computer. They can move between computers without any issues. And if they can move between existing computers, they can use a brand new imaged computer. When we image a computer, we put a fresh version of everything on it, including WXME. It’s the “new” version.

Here’s an idea, what if instead of “fixing” the computers by reinstalling WXME, what if we just have the agent swap out their computer for a freshly imaged one?

It was a question so obvious that no one bothered to answer. I was even a little embarrassed that it was only after weeks (okay, maybe slightly longer) that I finally thought of it.

I was so stuck on making the way we’d always done it work, that I missed looking at a new way to do it.

We are now going to stop doing it the way we always did it.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

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