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Re: Management that just doesn't understand

by tonyday (Scribe)
on Oct 25, 2001 at 12:08 UTC ( #121391=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to Management that just doesn't understand

I've read through the replies and they all give sound advice about how to work the system. There is however a lesser known path to follow which I'll call the "secret way". To be precise, there is a vast underground of technological personnel like yourself that effectively bypass the status quo. Let me explain with my personal story of finding the secret.

Phase 1 - the problem emerges

It began with the decision to outsource the development of our back-office processes. Basic maintenance issues from user land (where I live) were either ignored or funneled into the spec development for the outsourcing solution. Suggested improvements to the existing process got you into a lot of trouble as this would have weakened the case for the outsourced solution.

Phase 1 of the "secret way" began with non-sanctioned quick fixes by a few of the remaining developers. Usually we would sticky tape a spreadsheet dump of data to an existing process which would patch the system. A few of us in user land clandestinely took VB courses and put some logic to the information flow. Users taught each other about good spreadsheet design, how best to reconcile data and a host of valuable skills.

Despite our best efforts, the process was decaying quickly. Bosses in user land were becoming scared with stressed employees and no news on the outsourced solution.

Phase 2 - The Prototype

We got lucky. The new BA we got in to help write the specs for the outsourced development wasn't interested in writing specs. He was an acolyte for the secret path and thus interested in helping us find solutions to today's problems. I began to have conversations like this...
BA: "I think that if you put this data in a database you'd save a lot of time."
me: "But we need the data by 9 am and they wont let us logon to the mainframe till after some backup process finishes at 11 am. It's gonna take 6 months to get this agreed to"
BA: "Have you ever seen Access, they don't put it on your menu but you can get it here *click* ... You get the data in by doing this *cut* *paste*. You can get the answer by running a query which I wrote this morning *click* ... there you go"
me: "Wow, so this job will take 10 minutes rather than an hour - great stuff"
BA: "Actually you could automate this and those other things so that it would be done automatically when the data arrives"


As for the specs, we reasoned with management that doing spreadsheets was the easiest way for a user to explain what was needed (everyone knew that users couldn't write specs properly). What we were doing was building a Prototype using those baby toys like excel and access *sneer*. It's not going to actually work or anything *laugh*.

Phase 3 - Back to the Future

The two years were up and it became obvious to one and all that the new system was delayed. Well not actually delayed but rather not yet started. How was management to know that the system they were shown in the slideshow didn't exist. The project lapsed, the outsourcers left the building never to be seen again.

The only thing left holding us all together was now the prototype. In the minds of management, chaos reigned and the gods of capitalism would descend to exact retribution. But they didn't - new IT guys came in and announced that we needed some serious inhouse development to replace all those spreadsheets and user databases. Management concurred. This time we were ready...

Phase 4 - And now...

There are a few golden rules we acolytes of the secret follow:
1. When IT develops a shiny solution at great expense say "thank you, may I have another"

2. Dont tell them the shiny solution isn't used for at least 12 months. They get a tick for the development (no user complaints) and a tick for identification of redundant processes.

3. Protect identities of fellow travellers. Never ever send emails saying there is a better way or that someone did 6 months development in a day.

4. If you're on the inside of the status quo, use the bloated schedule for good by helping users in the know. We will reward you with "official" projects that can be used to spread the way.

5. To the status quo, disparage your solutions as prototypes or hacks that are obviously flawed, violating every known design rule and will ultimately doom the entire company. Just get them to agree that they should remain in place till they arrive at the proper solution.

I assume it's the same everywhere so shifting jobs may not help. Let yourself be known as someone who can quietly help get the job done. The secret way is always recruiting ;)
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