Does Your Company Fix Problems or Prevent Them?

My daughter works for a large e-commerce company. She is one of the people who makes sure its Web site functions the way it should.

She recently told me that, about a year ago, her employer created several new positions of Incident Manager. When something goes wrong, an IM is responsible for fixing the problem.

The types of problems an IM addresses might range from a server constantly running out of memory to the Web site crashing when someone adds a new page.

I asked my daughter whether it is also the IM’s job to take steps to ensure that the problem doesn’t recur. The short answer is no; that might be the job of a software developer.

I know next to nothing about software programming, and I suppose it is inevitable that sometimes a Web site will encounter problems. But from my perspective as a lean advocate, the concept of the Incident Manager set off all kinds of alarm bells.

I’m sure the IMs are good people who are skilled at rapidly putting out fires. But first and foremost, the goal should always be to improve the system to prevent problems from flaring up in the first place. If there are enough problems to justify the company having people work full-time to solve them, then I can’t help thinking there are some serious quality issues in the design of the Web site.

Also, while I didn’t ask specifically about this, I got the impression the company does not have cross-functional teams working on continuous improvement. It sounds like they need them.

I may have this all wrong. It may be that there is a lot going on at the company to prevent recurrence of problems, and I am simply not aware of it. It may also be that I am na├»ve about the volume of problems that occurs on a Web site, even one that is well-designed. However, I can’t help being skeptical.

Does your company have the equivalent of an Incident Manager? Is your workforce focused more on firefighting or fireproofing? Post your comments below.

1 comment:

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