Sunday, March 13, 2011

Reader Comment – FAQ Numbers

I had an interesting anonymous reader comment posted to my blog from yesterday about the latest new Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) that was listed on the CFATS Knowledge Center. Anonymous took exception to my statement ; “With that low number, this was a question and answer that was planned a long time ago”. Anonymous wrote: “The numbers of the FAQs are arbitrary and they are not sequential.”

Now I can’t imagine anyone outside of the management of ISCD taking the time to make such a post, and even then I can’t think of a reason why they would want to contradict that statement. My comment was certainly not intended as a criticism; I think that any information developer that takes an honest look at their product and makes guesses in advance about what might be misunderstood or incompletely comprehended is to be congratulated. This is especially true when they provide a mechanism for answering those questions like the CSAT Help Desk.

If I were in charge of such an operation and knowing that the answers such a Help Desk might provide to the regulated community might be used to make compliance decisions, I would also want to make sure that the timely answers provided by such personnel were fully reviewed and vetted in advance. I would not want incorrect interpretations to be provided to the regulated community. My lawyers would not want that even more.

In short, the way that I have previously described the operation of the FAQ system (and was embodied in that blog post) is the way that I think that an intelligent and competent administrator would set up such a compliance assistance tool.

The FAQ List.

Since I have been writing about these FAQ questions in some detail since their inception and I am a reasonably observant person (and I have tracked and maintain copies of all of the questions and responses) I have made the following observations:

• The FAQ numbers did not start with #1; up until Friday the lowest number was #42.

• When a new CSAT program or tool is published the FAQs are updated with a number of new questions and answer and they are always in sequential numbered FAQs.

• There is almost always a variably sized gap between the previous high numbered FAQ and the first newly issued FAQ when a new program is published.

• New FAQs are frequently published in the previously described number gaps and invariably refer to topics associated with the previous FAQ in that sequence.

• Not all new FAQs on previous discussed topics are assigned numbers in those previous gaps; those that are not are typically assigned to a higher number FAQ than highest currently listed FAQ.
Now, I must make clear one thing clear, no one in ISCD has explained to me how they manage the Help Desk or their FAQ list. As I said earlier, I have been observing the operation and assuming that the management of ISCD was intelligent and conscientious. Based upon those observations and assumptions, and colored by my experience working in a variety of organizations, I deduced what I believe to be the general outline of how the FAQ system works. I have shared this deduction with my readers on a number of occasions to help raise the level of confidence that they have in the answers provided by the Help Desk and the FAQ list.

New Management

I have been nearly uniform in my praise of the personnel and the operation of the this system, with infrequent constructive comments made about oversights such as the failure to remove two of the Ag Survey questions that I mentioned in an earlier blog. And typically those oversights and very minor, inconsequential errors are corrected; as one would expect with any professional organization. And certainly not all error corrections undertaken by the Help Desk over the years have been the result of my observations.

Now, if as part of the recent changes to the organization of ISCD, there have also been significant changes to the operation of the Help Desk and the way the FAQ list is operated then I suppose I will have to observe, deduce and report on their affect on this very successful part of ISCD.

If this authoritative sounding comment was, in fact, issued anonymously by a member of the new management team (and again I can’t imagine anyone else making the effort), I accept the challenge that was perhaps inadvertently issued. I like watching little things like the infrequently issued or revised FAQ statement and trying to deduce what they tell us about the internal workings of the overall organization.

Now if I am over reacting to a simple observation by someone, like myself who has their own observations and conclusions about the ISCD CSAT FAQ list, I apologize. I just don’t think that is the case. If I am misinterpreting the submitted comment, subsequent clarification from the submitter would be appreciated.

1 comment:

acontractor said...

Please keep up the good work. We appreciate your comments and assumptions about the DHS program.

I am a contractor for DHS and I work a little on the CFATS program. It is very interesting and helpful to see all that you derive about the program. I find myself looking to you at times for sources of information that are not communicated well across the CFATS program.

As a contractor, I have noticed that DHS has quite a few other contractors. Do you have any opinion on or know the percentage of contractors in the CFATS program?

I know you have received some negative feedback recently, but I wanted to let you know that a lot of us continue to read and support your efforts. Please keep up the good work!

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