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The credibility of end-user support departments depends upon the ability to solve day-to-day problems. Having a strategic vision is admirable but if executives are unable to print a memo, you lose their support.
You know how it begins. The user turns on the computer, Murphy steps in and creates a problem. It could be any one of a thousand failures.
The monitor does not work, the printer won't print, the file won't load or the modem won't modem. Now what?
Where do you begin? Is there a sequence of steps you can follow? Or do you randomly change things hoping they will somehow get better?
There is a strategy that will, without fail, lead you to the problem.
It begins with the simple question: "Has the PC ever performed this task before"? If the answer is "Yes" then it is possible to find the problem.
If the answer is "No" then things can be a little bit more difficult.
The key lies in comparing the current condition of the PC to when it was working. You ask two related questions: "When was the PC last able to perform the task?" and "What has changed since then?"
The correct answers to these questions actually take you part way to a solution.
The purpose of the two questions is to gather information which you use to create two images. One is of the working machine, the other is of the malfunctioning device.
What differences exist between the images? The strategy does not guarantee a solution...it only guarantees that you can identify what is causing the problem.
What differences are important? All differences.
For example, if you have moved the PC from one side of the desk to the other, or changed the toner cartridge, installed ,a new version of Windows. Any and all of these are possible causes.
You exclude nothing from the list of differences. Of course, some are more likely than others to be the reason for the problem
Once you have a list of differences between a working and non-working PC, the goal is to examine each difference by itself. You do this by removing the differences one at a time. If you remove more than one, you run the risk of solving the problem, without knowing which difference was the cause. One major flaw in the strategy is we do not always have an accurate picture of the correctly running machine.
We usually do not pay attention to things that are not broken. Do you know exactly how you have configured your PC? What about all the PCs you are responsible for?
An alternative is to compare your malfunctioning PC to a working PC. (This is also useful if the machine causing the problem has never performed the task before.) The goal is again to reduce the differences until it works correctly.
Troubleshooting maybe an art but it is also a science. The science is in having plans to follow. The art lies in knowing which plan to follow first.
Peter de Jager is a speaker, writer & consultant. Contact him via [email protected]
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