Archive for May, 2012

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Another SEPG conference in Europe…

May 31, 2012

The time has come for another SEPG conference in Europe. This time, we are going to Spain. Once again, I wonder whether I should go, is it worthwhile, why do I bother, but I know that, whatever happens, the decision has been made a long time ago: I will be going. This is one of the highlights of my professional year: I can have fun, meet old friends, listen to interesting ideas, express myself – and all this in the name of work.

As (possibly? probably?) the only person who has been to every SEPG conference in Europe, from the first “European SEPG” all those years ago in Amsterdam, through the transfer of the conference from the ESPI Foundation to the SEI and the change of name to “SEPG Europe”. The format has changed a little, not a lot – but then, so have many of the speakers. Some new speakers, new ideas, some old speakers (like myself) repeating again the same leitmotiv, still trying to persuade the world, some excellent speakers, some tedious. A mix of consultants coming to sell themselves (guilty) and some people who have tried it and succeeded or failed – unfortunately very few of them telling us about their failures, some SEI folks filling the gaps.

I expect to meet up with some old friends, meet some new ones, miss a lot of them. Many of my former colleagues have moved on, a few permanently, many to other jobs.

So, why do I keep on going? Because this is the moment to learn lessons, measure the temperature of our industry. I am based in Europe and am not keen on the travel expenses to go to the SEPG conferences in the US, Asia-Pacific or South America, so this is where I see the industry demonstrating itself. Will we have the same number of attendees as 7-8 years ago in Amsterdam or London? Will we have as few delegates as a few years ago in Prague? What are the interests of the market? Is the focus on process improvement, on Agile, on something new? What is happening at (to?) the SEI? This is also the opportunity to find out the brilliant solutions that people have identified: what works, how did they overcome the obstacles, how did they snatch victory out of the claws of defeat? What is the new approach being suggested by long-time favourites?

There are some great speakers present to whom I want to listen. Some of them have something new and original to say, others I know will speak in an interesting and challenging way – even if I know what they are talking about, I look forward to hearing the way in which they present it, what are the new gadgets that are being used to maintain the attention? We have had remote control helicopters, flying monkeys, comedy film clips, people dressing up, provocative titles… there is always something/someone who will change the picture for us.

Of course, there is the frustration of the parallel tracks. This has been the case since the first conference. Why do we have times when there is nothing interesting going on (in my opinion), then three great speakers or topics at the same time in different rooms? If I planned the conference, I would get this better spread out – naturally, that means that other people would wonder the same thing as they are not interested in the same topics as I have. I am afraid that is a problem without a solution (actually there is a solution: join your local SPIN – they do one topic at a time).

Hope to see you there, hope to meet you there. The weather in Madrid looks lovely for the next week and Spanish food must rank among my very favourite in the world.

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Customer Service and ASUS

May 14, 2012

One of the key items in my line of business is trying to explain to people that the purpose of their work is not to satisfy standards and models but to focus on customer service and quality. Quality is the only thing you have to sell – all your products and services can be found somewhere else, and can be found cheaper, but your quality is your trademark and is specific to you. This is even more important when working with products like “CMMI for Services”.

It is therefore particularly frustrating when I come across service and quality as bad as that offered by the computer manufacturer Asus.

I was looking for a tablet PC which would allow me to do my work and have graphic (drawing) capabilities to allow me to illustrate and highlight items. I needed something that would run Microsoft Office and would allow me to connect a keyboard, mouse, overhead projector, etc. After some research, I decided that the “Asus Eee Slate EP121” (http://www.asus.com/Eee/Eee_Pad/Eee_Slate_EP121/). The slate I received had the stylus stuck in its holder and could not be removed, however this was exchanged under warranty (by Amazon), the second one I received had a backlight that did not work, so the screen remained dark – this was replaced under warranty (by Amazon). The third one worked correctly.

As I travel a lot for work, I decided it was safer to purchase a spare charger and a spare stylus, however I could not find anyone selling these separately. It seemed that they did not sell spares and the charger was not replaceable by another as the combination of the size of the pin and the voltage where not compatible with other chargers commonly sold.

Then, beginning of April, the charger stopped working. I had not moved the laptop, and was working on it so did not realise that it was not charging until it booted down because the battery was empty – even though it was plugged in. I contacted Asus and they said they would replace the charger and arrange for collection, they also gave me the information for a reseller in Sweden who sold spare parts. So I finally managed to order a spare charger and stylus, while my existing charger was picked up to be replaced as promised.

That was beginning of April. I have not been able to use my Asus computer since then. I have received no information from either the Swedish retailer (www.asusparts.eu) or the Asus repair centre.

When I contacted the Swedish retailer, I was told they would ship the same week (two weeks ago). When I contacted them again, I was told that they hoped to ship end of May – nearly two months after they took my money.

When I contacted Asus customer support, I was told that they had determined that the charger had suffered “customer induced damage” and I would be contacted to ask if I agreed to pay for the repair. Two weeks later, when I asked what was happening and when I would hear something, I was told that they had determined that the charger had suffered “customer induced damage” and I would be contacted to ask if I agreed to pay for the repair!

I will never purchase an Asus product again and strongly recommend others to avoid their products as well.

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