Over a year ago I wrote a post entitled Gatekeeper or Roadblock?
At the time I was working as a Production and Development DBA for a small shop. People would show up with requests that sounded legitmate to me. Usually these requests would take 30 minutes of my time and provide data to an individual or team that they could use to continue their work for days or weeks.
But the oddest thing would happen. My boss would happen by and ask what I was working on. When I told my boss what I was working on, my boss would inevitably frown. Then my boss would look cross and say something akin to "You should not be doing that for him / them." You may think I'm exagerrating, but I assure you I am not.
Hence the post.
Fast forward some...
I'm doing some consulting for a large-ish IT team for a large-ish company. Team members can't find things. They cannot connect remotely to work from home or while on vacation or away for training or business trips. A lot of stuff that Just Works at most IT departments simply doesn't work here. And no one can figure out why.
As a result, the IT department morale is dropping faster than the Congressional approval numbers because no one can get away from the office for more than a fraction of a weekend. Talented people have been recruited and paid an excellent salary with excellent benefits (including lots of unused vacation). These folks stick around for six months or so and then leave - often for equal or less pay and benefits.
Word is getting out on this place locally. Recruiting efforts are moving farther and farther away.
Network performance is awesome, but very little is actually able to run on the network due to "security policies" (hence the stellar performance). The network department consists of Bill and his very-high-turnover network engineering staff.
Bill's been with the company for years. If you ask him, he'll tell you he "keeps things running around here" and "doesn't know what those colleges are teaching kids these days - none of 'em are worth a tinker's damn."
A long time ago, Bill cobbled together a solution that exceeded management's expectations. He saved the company hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting and implementation costs. His network did everything those high-falootin' college brats said there's would do, and it didn't cost the company anything other than what they were going to pay Bill anyway. "Just doin' my job," Bill answered when asked about it by an executive. The executive was so impressed, he basically promised Bill a job for as long as he wanted to work there.
The system Bill put in place did, in fact, meet the immediate needs of the company. And it didn't cost as much as the consultant-proposed system.
But it also won't scale. At all. Ever.
Bill's learned this. He's tried to make it do more, but the system simply won't.
Bill has a few options.
- He could go to training, learn about building scalable systems, and implement a better version of his solution. After all, everyone knows you need to spend 25% of your time training in IT just to keep up.
- He could hire people with more recent experience and work with them to build a better version.
- He could admit that although he thought his solution was better for the company, it was really just a short-term patch and they should've implemented the consultant's solution instead of his.
Ok, I put that last one in there to see if you were paying attention.
Instead, Bill has locked down the network so every possible wavelength of bandwidth is available for his out-scaled solution. He doesn't need training, he has tenure. A guarantee. He still has an executive's ear - an executive he helped get promoted by saving all that money all those years ago - an executive who both owes him and cannot afford to have the truth come out.
As new people rotate into the department and get close to discovering the issues with Bill's outdated solution that won't scale, they're summarily dismissed. The executive backs his every move. "Bill knows what he's doing. These kids obviously don't."
And so, things do not change.
Except - all things change eventually.
In this case, the company's marketshare dips to an all-time low as productivity remains steady at a 1998 level for Bill's company - while the competition begins gaining marketshare using systems that scale.
When rivals reach the same marketshare, executives muse "they're topped out now!" and wait for the inevitable. After all, if their system won't scale beyond this point, no one's will. Right?
And then the competition's system does continue to scale. And in a few years Bill's company is bought out by their competition and the innovative IT department of the purchasing firm curses Bill's old system as they try to work through the hacks to get at something that resembles business rules.
In the end, I suppose the executive and Bill both parachute out into the business world, seeking another hapless company to victimize. They're richer, no wiser, and have left talent-devastation in their wake as they unceremoniously ended, wrecked, or disillusioned dozens of careers.
What a depressing post! For a good laugh, you have to go here and read the post and comments - very funny.
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