So, this happened last night…
What to expect here:
While I discuss Smartsheet , this isn’t a post about Smartsheet. It is about me and includes:
- An example of one of my ‘customer types’
- An example of a problem, the solution, and the journey
- This is part of a series of posts 1, discussions with friends and family, and journal entries on the state of my “consulting thoughts” that have been at the forefront of self-evaluation over the last few months.
So, this happened last night…
I had just gotten up from an unexpected 2 nap. One of my customers 3 had sent me an email to inform me that his new Smartsheet Report was exhibiting odd behavior:
” … Apparently this has been an issue for well over a year, as that is when I saw a post on the forums for it. Have you figured out how to solve this? Kind of need to see milestones as marks in the sand, not as bars.”
(emphasis mine – and one of the reasons I spent so much time as you’ll see below)
The Community post to which he referred was this one:
I had never seen this behavior myself but knew from my notes 4 that it had not been fixed (as far as I was aware). I let him know that I did not know of a solution, but would start investigating.
The first test results showed what I would expect to see — if the Report was working.
An aside: I have what I call “the curse” 6. This is an example. The customer (whom I will refer to as TC here) had not told me which Report was causing problems. He had not implied, but I had inferred, that ALL of his Reports were exhibiting the same behavior. I knew it could not be ALL Reports, everywhere, or there would be more than two posts 7 on the Community about it and I would have seen it before. Since he did not tell me which Report was offending him, I pulled up one of his Reports at random, to check it. If I had seen what he had seen, I would likely have spent a few minutes, poking around and then submitted a bug report, updated the Community Post and gone onto something else. But I didn’t see what he saw, which annoyed 8 me.
So I started checking. I won’t bore 9 you with the details. But, after an hour, I had not determined why some Reports were showing this behavior and some were not.
I sent TC an email telling him that I had not found a cause and requesting permission to continue investigating 10. I didn’t hear back and then … this happened: I noticed another new email.
Coincidentally 11, between the time I read TC’s email and the time I was ready to submit a bug report and move on, I got another email from an employee 12 at Smartsheet about an unrelated matter I had reported directly to them ten days ago, about a bug I may have uncovered in a recent release. They were letting me know 13 that the investigation was continuing, but wasn’t complete yet. I thanked them and asked if by chance they were aware of the issue I was investigating for TC. A few emails back and forth and it was obvious that this was new to them.
Dang it. If they had said “That’s a known issue” or “I think so” or something along those lines, I could have, again, wrapped up and gone on to something else. Of course, expecting this person to have a catalog of the reported and open DR’s in their head is pretty naive. And if they did, this one was likely pretty obscure. It was also after-hours in Washington state and even if it wasn’t, I should not expect them to do a DR database search. It was probably not a nice thing for me to ask the question but I did. And I wasn’t off the hook yet.
I did some more digging without success. One by one, I went through a list of things that I thought it could be, and a few things I thought it couldn’t be too. No success.
I did a video, took some screenshots, documented what I had done, what I hadn’t and fired off a bug report to Smartsheet.
I got up to refill my glass and came back to my computer. One of the screenshots I had taken was still up on one of my monitors
That first task looks odd. The others (4 PDF sheets of them) mostly exhibited the full day appearance. Dang it. This clue led me to check a things I had not tested before, a few of which I pointed out Smartsheet support and a few I hadn’t. But it wasn’t too long before I reached the end.
What you are searching for is ALWAYS the last place you look, because when you find it, you stop looking. Or should 14
I probably would have found this sooner if I had done this instead:
- Check Report – and seen ♦
- Checked another Report – and not seen ♦
- Made copy of (2).
- Checked (3) – and not seen ♦
That’s because I did a lot of my testing, bouncing between (1) and (2) and I was not an Admin on Report (2), so could not / did not access the Project Settings until later in the testing. Or maybe I just overlooked it. I could have. Some answers seem so obvious once they are known 15
I verified (twice) that swapping the [Start] and [End] date would cause this behavior. I fired off an email to TC letting him know the good news. I also told him how much time I had spent and verified with him it was billable. 16 His response:
All of it. Please.
My responsibility to TC completed, I went back to the Community and updated both posts with the answer, sent an email to the Smartsheet employee, and responded to the auto-message from Smartsheet support that the issue was found 17
Why am I bothering to write this?
First, I don’t intend to blow my own horn although there is an element of that as soon as one writes anything and posts it to the world.
Recently, I have really been struggling with the less-fun aspects of what I do for a living. A few months ago, an opportunity arose that appeared to possibly be a lateral shift in careers and it set up a series of events that have not ended yet. The opportunity did not ultimately materialize, but it will likely go down as one of the forks in the road of my work-history that will be noteworthy when I look back.
Writing this down in this format requires me to review it and that helps me clarify my thoughts, which I hope will lead me closer to my goals. Even if it is never read, it will have served its purpose.
If you do happen to read it and it elicits any sort of response, I’d like to hear it, even if it is “that was a waste of my time”.
If you are new to Smartsheet and want to check it out, click here. If you have questions about this post, add them below. If you have questions about something else in Smartsheet, post on the Community. I occasionally stop by to answer them and so do a lot of other talented people.
1. Mostly unpublished
2. I had fallen asleep watching Jeff Glor on the CSB news.
3. This customer has engaged us to provide guidance as he and his organization learn to use Smartsheet. The engagement was for a few initial hours where we went over his plan for what he wanted to do, why he wanted to do it in Smartsheet, went through a list of questions he had, solicited advice on things to watch out for and things to think about. An engagement of this sort typically covers the tool (in this case Smartsheet), project management, people management, and/or philosophy. The suggestions and recommendations provided got them started on their journey. He went away with lots of homework. He was also given a Smartsheet sheet to document further questions or issues. The Questions sheet sends an email notification to me which I would answer as time permitted and urgency demanded. A while later, he and his team having completed their homework, we had a few more short meetings to go over his design and prototype (which is pretty fantastic by the way, and I’m not blowing smoke) and work out any remaining issues. The engagement is now down to an infrequent question or two, often about a formula he’d like to build (I’m pretty good at that). Two thirds of the formula requests (before last night) took only 15 minutes of billable time. For one question, he found the answer before I could get to it a few hours later. I don’t know how much of the intervening time he’d spent looking for it. I really enjoy this sort of engagement. His questions are often thought provoking and he’s responsive to both my queries and my suggestions. And I get paid.
4. Every time I start to the think that I document too much, the Universe slaps me upside the head with a reminder. This wasn’t a slap, but the Universe did start to raise its arm. Sometimes it slaps me to remind me I don’t document enough.
5. Confused ‘huh’
6. There is some debate on this with people I share with. I can see both sides. Sometimes it is a blessing.
7. Here’s the other one:
8. Annoyed like “The Princess and the Pea”, not angry-annoyed.
9. At least, not on purpose and if you are reading this, I hope I didn’t.
10. In regards to Smartsheet, I’m a SME. It took a while for me to get to the point where I would say that about myself, long after others starting using the term on/for me. I’m pretty good at it. But I don’t know everything (nor will I). I’m also really good at finding bugs (whether I am looking for them or not – another curse symptom) and not quite as often, but fairly often finding root causes. I asked for permission to continue (on his dime) because I had reached the end of my Smartsheet SME and was venturing into the figuring-shit-out SME domain. Excuse the language. Once a sailor and so on. There’s a line there for me and while I’ll happily figure out possible solutions to problems that I don’t know the answer to, I want the customer to understand that I might spend time (on their dime) and NOT find a solution.
I don’t think I’m normal.
11. Another symptom of the curse. In this case, I’m pretty pleased with the appearance of this one. When I am ‘out of whack’ with the Universe, this happens less frequently. So this may be a sign that whatever I did earlier this year or late last year has been forgiven. Or mostly so. Karma’s a bitch. Then again, I was one paragraph into this post when WordPress stopped working unexpectedly and it took 20 minutes to solve the problem. I still don’t know why that happened.
12. Who is one of my favorites and has my deep respect. I will endeavor to keep their name and gender hidden.
13. Because they are awesome.
14. That’s not completely true. Sometimes, there ARE things to look for after you find what you are looking for, especially when dealing with bugs and troublesome code. For example, one of the things that differentiates me from some of my peers is evaluating what I have found and determining if there is not some further underlying issue that should be checked and could be prevented. I am certainly not alone in this, but I think it is a good practice and worth mentioning it.
15. To most people, for many questions, I hope.
16. I really don’t think I am normal.
17. Given recent experiences with Smartsheet support, I am pretty confident that having the employee in the loop will likely result in a fix for this. While the cause could be dismissed as “operator error”, and I suspect that is the answer I would get from Tier 1 or 2 support, there should likely be a debate on if there is ever a time when the earliest date and the latest date should be reversed. I don’t think so, as I could call the two dates by any name. What is important is their values and in a Gantt chart, reversing them makes no sense. It is also weird why a 0 duration task has a length of non-zero when the dates are reversed. To me, definitely a bug and a fixable one.