Geekspeak: January 1, 2001

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2001-01-01 Print this article Print

Technology Helps Where Size Can't

No one can afford to scale up user support. we often hear the word "scalability" reverently invoked—as if it were the necessary and sufficient trait of any enterprise IT solution—but there are just too many users, in too many places, doing too many complex things to make scalable user support a cure for anything.

Whats needed is not bigger help desks but a focus on support technologies that dont consume scarce help desk resources. "Tier Zero" solutions, such as self-healing systems, are good choices, as are "Tier One" solutions, such as plain-English support portals that offer education.

If a problem is so complex—or a user so inexperienced—that a staff member must intervene, the Tier Zero and Tier One technologies can still play important roles. Ed Gory (pictured above), director of e-business development at, recommends the use of instrumented user systems that can automatically submit vital configuration data such as the version of the system software on a users device, including any service packs installed.

Peter Coffee is Director of Platform Research at, where he serves as a liaison with the developer community to define the opportunity and clarify developers' technical requirements on the company's evolving Apex Platform. Peter previously spent 18 years with eWEEK (formerly PC Week), the national news magazine of enterprise technology practice, where he reviewed software development tools and methods and wrote regular columns on emerging technologies and professional community issues.Before he began writing full-time in 1989, Peter spent eleven years in technical and management positions at Exxon and The Aerospace Corporation, including management of the latter company's first desktop computing planning team and applied research in applications of artificial intelligence techniques. He holds an engineering degree from MIT and an MBA from Pepperdine University, he has held teaching appointments in computer science, business analytics and information systems management at Pepperdine, UCLA, and Chapman College.

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