One of the fun parts of my job is problem solving…. I wont lie… I love it.
Step one in problem solving is always the same: define the problem.
Step two: get the data needed to solve the problem.
Step three: solve it!
One of the reasons IT gets it wrong again and again is simple: the assumption of perfect knowledge. We assume that with one sentence or even worse, one screen capture, we have described the problem with enough depth that it can now be solved. That the team now perfectly understand the problem and that the solution they supply will be…. wait for it…. you guessed it…. perfect!
Don’t get me wrong, I love screen captures (using my favourite tool, Snagit). In fact screen captures are one of my number one tools for writing documentation. When I worked on IBM Redbooks (one of IBMs greatest free gifts to the IT community) I often found some chapters were more picture than text… and that was ok. People need to see what it is you are talking about.
But when it comes to describing a problem, in the vein of a picture is worth a thousand words, a screen capture can be the devil itself. The issue with screen captures is simple: they contain information that cannot be easily searched or indexed (apart from with your eyeball). They may show the problem or just barely validate that the problem exists, but they rarely help in SOLVING the problem.
Last week I got my favourite kind of screen capture, the one taken of a screen with a phone (with the reflection of the photographer clearly visible in the shot). Apart from giving me the ability to rate that person’s fashion sense, these kinds of shots are among the worst. Amusingly when I asked why I didn’t also get logs, I was told the customers security standards would not allows logs to be sent. Yeah right… this is the same customer who doesn’t mind you standing in the middle of their computer room taking photos of their displays with your phone?
So the next time you plan on sending a screen capture, stop for a minute and consider… is this enough for a perfect solution? Are there no logs I can send along with this picture? Has the vendor supplied a tool I can use to offload data? Or even better automatically send it? Am I doing anything more than just describing the problem itself?