09 March 2010

Bad news should travel faster - Google Mobile Sync

I'm a bit of a Google fanboy - I find many of its services very useful. The relationship is a commercial one, because in return for Google's services I give Google a set of eyeballs to look at advertisements. These services are not free services - either for Google or me.

One particular service makes my iPhone a useful gadget - Google Mobile Sync. This allows an iPhone to synchronise almost instantly with my contacts, email and calendar (all of which are Google services). This service is expressed to be in beta, although so was GMail for a long time and people relied on it.

Unfortunately, Google Mobile Sync has been flaky and unreliable for some months, and Google has, to the best of my knowledge, mentioned it ONCE on the Internet. This mention was on a support forum, and provided little information; in fact it was misleading as people had had the issue for many months before.

There was a semi-scheduled outage on 5 March 2010, but it's not clear if this has solved the problem.  Oddly enough, this issue nor the outage has been mentioned on the Official Google Australia Blog, the Apps Status Blog or any other blog that I'm aware of. I really can't understand why. An educated guess is that this has affected more than a million users, many of whom are expressing confusion as to what they've done wrong. Many, like me, have fiddled endlessly with our phones, trying to 'fix' them.

The lesson in all of this is that bad news should travel fast. If you're responsible for IT services then please don't hide your problems, hoping that no-one will notice. Tell your users that there's an issue, and if you can, tell them when it might be fixed. If you don't know, then tell them that too. Be up front so that users can make plans to work around the issue. If a user knows the expected outage time then he can either delay an activity or find another way to do it. He'll get really frustrated if he finds out too late, so that he is unable to achieve his goals some other way.

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