Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Corporate IT is Often a Jerkwater Town

Some companies have wonderful, helpful, capable IT organizations. They are current with modern operating systems, networking, file sharing, caching and proxying, security, etc. They provide a high level of customer support to the business and software development. They rock, and work well with people.

Other places, the corporate IT thinks they are "the show" and the job of the organization is to follow their lead. They own the environment and are kind enough to allow developers and business to inhabit their world, provided they stay within the rules.

Okay, that's unfair. It's often not really arrogance, it just seems that way from a distance. In reality, IT (especially corporate IT) can be a very insular world. They can specialize in the systems that the company used to have, and be open to extending -- say to the latest Micro$oft technologies -- but they just don't have any reason to know about OS X, Linux, Unix, or tablet devices. After all, everyone they know uses Windows. In this way, they're like a jerkwater town; they're humble, kind, hard-working folks who are just a good distance back from the leading edge. They're good at what they do, but what they do has become narrow through a lack of connectedness to the outside world.

An example might be useful here.

I was working at a client a while back. I had my Macbook Pro and a linux netbook. I could access the guest network once my sponsor put me through a process and filled out the right forms to get me a password to their mainframe system, whose peculiarities defined the password and user id scheme for the company still. This password let me on the local wifi network, but limited my access to company assets.

After a while I needed access to more of the company's information, specifically their online code review  system (I know, "ewww"), I found out that I needed a special security token to get that information. We put in a request and waited a few weeks (yikes!) and got an email with a link to follow to request the security token. When I clicked the link, I found out that it lies in the realm of the network that you can only access from inside the network. In other words "only members are invited to join."

It was even more fun when I found a machine inside the network I could use, because the web site I needed to access did not support all of the popular browsers. I understand it supports IE perfectly, but not Chrome.  It did work okay with firefox, so it wasn't too much of a problem.

If I filled in the form, the system would send me a series of windows executables that I could run to get access set up on my machines. All my machines are Android,  Linux, and Mac.  Unless I use a virtual machine, none of them will run windows executables.

Somehow, even though the calendar says 2012, and the company was large and deservedly respected, capable company, their IT system thinks that the world is composed entirely of windows desktop and laptop machines. There is no Mac, no Linux, and no mobile device in their worldview. They don't need to acknowledge or interoperate with anyone else.

It's like stumbling into a remote village where they're debating whether they should try electricity.

It's not because they're jerks, or idiots, or monsters. They've just been too insulated from too much of the world for too long.  Mind you, most of them own iPhones and android phones and other devices that are non-windows.

My decision? Since I'm temporary on-site, I decided to not deal with IT anymore, putting my time where it's valuable and ignoring unhelpful or uncooperative groups outside my primary mission.

It turns out that half the staff had made the same decision years ago.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Flash A Friend

Over at Agile In A Flash blog, Jeff and I have announced a new contest called "Flash A Friend."

You can win one deck for yourself, and another for a needy party you nominate.

Winners will be chosen by purely subjective criteria, basically how much we are moved or intrigued by your nomination.

Of course, the decks are also available at a reasonable price via pragmatic programmers.