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Limits on support scope and commitments: An analysis of the public documents of Penn's computing organizations

November 1, 1995

The Task Force to Restructure Computing Services across Penn commissioned an analysis of service inventories and other public documents of Penn's computing organizations. The intent was to learn how these organizations delimit support scope and commitments. The "General Observations" section is reported here.

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

1. Resume language effect

In many documents, units describe their roles and activities in language that makes them appear busy and valuable (naturally). They imply wide capability and even competence across each unit's scope. They often don't differentiate between what they do well and what they do less well; this creates expectations in the reader/user that may not be fulfilled.

2. Follow-up to the death

Most units that set limits do so mainly by setting expectations about the kinds of requests accepted. The strong implication is often left that for accepted requests, commitment of time and effort needed to reach customer satisfaction is unlimited. [This may be a definition of good service from the customer point of view.]

3. Between the stools

Some units show the interfaces between the services they offer and those of other organizations; more could be done here. But there's almost no guidance on what to do if the customer's need doesn't fall within some unit's scope. [For example, help with Adobe tools like Photoshop is limited to a vendor phone number in a Penn Printout article]

4. Specificity

There was wide variation in the degree of detail given about "support" and "supported products." Those units that spelled out software versions included and/or specified levels of support did a better job of setting expectations and conveying competence.

Note that these observations and the notes below come from an assort- ment of sources that vary in purpose and completeness from unit to unit. Some omissions may be corrected in additional sources.


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