As one of the original developers of CompleteBilling, I often get asked why certain parts of our solution don’t do something that seems obvious. Sometimes it’s because we had a good reason to not include a feature like it would have taken forever to program and we didn't think it was worth it. Often it’s because nobody ever asked.
This happened a few weeks ago with one of the Billtrust Implementation Managers (I.M.) whose job it is to help customers Go Live on the Billtrust solution. We have a setting in our system called Customer Approval that allows customers to review their bills before they get sent out. Most customers start off with this option when they initially go live but then quickly turn it off when they realize that we've got quality under control. One of our customers who had been live with their invoices for a few months was about to go live with their statements. The I.M. mentioned what a pain it was that they had to put both invoices and statements on Customer Approval to accomplish this – a big headache for the customer because they now have to review and approve each of their invoice jobs when all they wanted to do was review and approve their statements. I wasn’t even aware there was this problem. It took about 15 minutes to fix and add a new feature that provided a more granular level of approval – probably less time than it took to explain to the customer why it stinks the way we had it. To top it off, this had come up several times before.
So I asked the I.M. - What's the Case Number? (Like most technology companies, we have a Case Tracking system to keep track of all feature requests, modifications, and bugs in our system. We use a product called Fogbugz which is poorly named for a very feature rich tool. It can process incoming emails, automatically assign case numbers, do workflow and it doesn't cost a fortune.) Guess what? There was no case number, it wasn't in Fogbugz. At this point my palm set a record for least amount of time to go from keyboard to forehead accompanied with the mini-rant "how can we fix things if we don't know they exist?"
When stuff like this happens, I usually fire off an email to the entire company declaring some brand spanking new policy. This one looked something like this:
I have said this to some people before, but I now hereby declare the following policy:
The problem doesn’t exist unless it has a Case Number
It now has become a bit of running joke (at my expense I believe) to ask What's the Case Number for just about everything? Boy us software guys know how to have fun.