Monday, August 4, 2008

The Inmates are in Control, Part Uno

Over the years I have worked at a variety of different places some small, some megalithic in size. In that time I have come to the not surprising conclusion that all companies are dysfunctional. And to paraphrase Oscar Wilde (?), all companies are dysfunctional in their own unique way.

This list includes a variety of issues and ills. One small startup company suffered from some major delusions of grandeur. An international conglomerate was more religion than multi-level marketing company.

Currently I work for a medium to gigantic (it depends on how you count) corporation. It suffers so many ills that it’s hard to know where to start. It’s equally hard to believe.

My latest trials and tribulations will have to serve for now.

Recently, I started (or tried to start) the process of ordering a web server and a database server. I’m pretty sure these can run on the same piece of equipment. The web server will host a help/training solution for our Enterprise resource planning (ERP) package. I don't expect a lot of heavy usage of this small help system, except at the beginning of the implementation.

The file server would house the shared content for developers to work with. The application is a process capture/playback tool that will (possibly) hook into the ERP. I know the fileserver piece will host a SQL database. But beyond that I’ve had difficulty discovering the actual hardware requirements. The associated installation documentation never deviates from the procedural style: Click this, Type that, wipe my butt. I think you know what I mean.

As I pursued this simple item, my encounters confirmed my worst suspicion: The people here have their heads so far up their asses they can watch their dentist at work.

All I want is a web-server/file server. I know nothing about writing hardware specs, but how hard can it be? A friend of mine does it for a living – and he used to be technical writer. Anyway -- Friday I met with an engineer who also knows nothing about writing any kind of hardware spec. He had talked to one of our managers in the infrastructure services area. He said we needed to talk to another manager (let’s call her Ginger Lynn) in his group who does database stuff. Of course, she was on vacation until today.

When Ginger Lynn got back she sent me a reply to my meeting request (which she tentatively accepted). It was classic SOP for this company:
Unless there is (sic) any database requirements for this software, my team would not be involved. You probably should ask Tera Patrick* (windows) and Ron Jeremy* (unix) to review the technical specifications. If there is (sic) staffing resources needed to implement and support this product, you would need to send the request to Rocco Siffredi* [ed. note: her director].
I replied with some more background – trying to explain this simple task. Her reply to that was also more red tape.
You will need to get the Windows and Unix teams included for these areas. I can only represent the database team. I think it would be best to put this request to Rocco Siffredi for his group involvement. What is the priority of this project? With other projects, security incident and the ERP go-live [ed. note: I did mention in my request that this was for the ERP implementation], resource availability for John’s team is limited. What funding is available for hardware/software for this project? Is this a product for which we are licensed [ed. note: WTF?]? What about using product X [ed. note: Again, WTF? Product X is a tool a different department purchased 2-3 years ago to track temporary employee’s hours for state reporting purposes. On an ironic side note – this has yet to be implemented, because they don't have a server!]
She goes on:
What do you plan on achieving in this meeting? I don’t have a space available that can hold more than three people. You can ask Bree Olson* if she knows of a room available or your admin. assistant.
If I weren't so angry, I'd cry. And trust me, this is very typical. In fact, the infrastructure group is so screwed up they seem to think every web application needs to reside on its own web server hardware. The other problem this request faces is something I've never heard affecting a company, especially one of this size -- most server requests are currently on indefinite hold because we don't have the power to support the servers we already have.

Then of course we have the other idiocies - Rocco Siffredi filled an entire room with server racks only to find out they are too small (or maybe too big) for our servers. Also, I'm pretty sure that the security incident referred to above was related to a DNS flaw -- the hacker was able to mimic a DNS and redirect traffic or something like that. This is just a hunch, but I think that flaw was publicly exposed and documented more than a week before the breach was discovered. The most annoying thing for me is, I don't think anyone will even be written up for this, never mind fired. Our CIO has really fostered a culture for accepting failure as standard practice.

I feel like a true idiot for working here.

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