Linking Solutions / Cases / Change Requests
One of the features available within a Clarify / Dovetail system is the ability to “link” cases to solutions.
What this essentially means is that we’ve noted the particular solution that solved the case at hand. For example, if we have a case titled “How do I configure VPN on Windows 7?”, and we have a solution that answers this question, then we can link the case to that solution. In database terms, it simply means we’ve related or joined the case to the solution.
Well, technically, a solution can has one (problem) description and can have many workarounds, so we’re actually relating the case to one of the workarounds, but don’t worry about that for now. Just think of relating the case to the solution.
Obviously, having re-useable knowledge is beneficial to an organization. We can re-use, rather than re-create that knowledge. And we can expose that knowledge to everyone in our organization, and even to our customers, if we so desire. But that’s Knowledge Management 101. Lets get back to Linking.
In addition to linking cases to solutions, we can also link solutions to CRs (Change Requests). Not every case gets resolved immediately, so we may have a solution whose resolution is “this is a bug that doesn’t have a workaround”. We link the case to that solution. From the solution, we create a CR, and link those. Now the CR can be dispatched to the engineering queue to be worked, independent of the workflows of the case and the solution.
A case can be linked to one solution, a solution can be linked to many cases.
A solution can be linked to many CRs, a CR can be linked to many solutions.
With linking, we gain multiple benefits.
Most used knowledge / Most reported bugs
We learn which knowledge is being used most often. This allows us to the opportunity to closely address these particular solutions, and dive into why this knowledge is being used so often. Perhaps it’s a product defect – now we have real data saying that this is a common problem and should be resolved soon. Perhaps it’s a documentation issue – now we have real data saying that the current doc is inadequate and needs to be expanded. Perhaps it’s a platform specific issue – now we know that we need better testing or support for this platform.
When I worked in Technical Support at The MathWorks, my boss had the notion that he wanted to charge back to product development long-standing bugs that cost us money. Because we linked cases to solutions, he could say that we’ve had 100 support calls on this one issue in the last month. And at a cost of $40/call, that means that bug cost us $4000 last month. Hard to argue when you have that kind of data to back it up.
Because we have everything linked together, we can now use business rules and notifications to close the loop.
When the CR is fixed, we can notify the owner of the Solution that the CR has been fixed and that they may wish to update the resolution accordingly.
In addition, we can notify the owners of all of the linked cases (remember that we may have many cases linked to that one solution). From the CR, we can get to the linked solutions, then to the linked cases. And because they’re linked, Rulemanager can traverse these relationships. The notification may tell the case owners that the CR has been fixed, and that they may wish to contact the customers.
We could also notify the customers themselves. When the CR is fixed, we can get to the customers by traversing form CR (bug) –> Solution –> Case –> Contact. So we could have the system notify the customers that the bug that they opened a case about has been fixed. Pretty cool.
One of the other neat things you can do is create a dynamic FAQ. Because we have the links, we can easily query for the most linked solutions. It could be the most linked of all time, or most linked in the last 30 days. Limit that query to the top 10, and now you have the top 10 most used solutions. And, of course, this list will change as new knowledge becomes available, and knowledge use changes. Post this list of solutions on your Support Portal web site, and now your customers have access to a list of actual frequently asked questions.
Not linked notifications
Another use of linking that I’ve seen used is the “not linked notification”. If a case is closed, and it does not have a solution linked, then a notification is sent out to the case owner – with a gentle reminder that ideally every case be linked to a solution – and perhaps there’s either an existing solution that can be linked to – or that perhaps that there was some knowledge gained from within the case that would be useful to other agents or customers – and a new solution could be created from this knowledge.
Your usage and ideas?
Do you link cases to solutions? Solutions to CRs? Would it make sense to? Have some other ways that you use this data or see other benefits? Leave a comment and share your ideas.