Now Slaughter McTone Regis' troubleshooter has had his plans for the IT department's relaunch put on hold, he was able to spend his time dealing with other, less important matters
It has been rather pleasant to have a couple of weeks where the problems were technical and hence required little thought. As the BritBreak board has put the IT department's relaunch on indefinite hold, I was able to concentrate on minor matters. I found it difficult to follow the board's argument that it is sheer madness to launch a glossy campaign at a time of austerity, but I have to go along with their view until I can put a different spin on the idea. They actually suggested reproducing all the launch documents on plain paper, even though we'd already paid for the glossy ones. Strange.
You will have gathered that my most pressing technical issue was persuading the IT security group not to encrypt the company's Web page. I was close to a breakthrough when I arranged a meeting with all three security managers, but unfortunately I was unable to get to the room they had booked as it was in the data centre, and I didn't have the security clearance to get in. We have rebooked for a fortnight's time.
It would probably seem strange to an outsider that someone with my limited training should influence highly technical decisions. After all, many would consider a GCSE in domestic science insufficient technology background.
However, as network manager Brian Finlay, himself blessed with an O-level in woodwork and a degree in politics, never fails to point out, choosing a product is not about technology. It's a matter of supplier viability and the quality of their bribes. (Little joke: I mean the quality of their customer service.) Buying software is no different to buying potatoes.
The first decision was over the operating system for our new travel agent service. I listened patiently to a panel of experts arguing the benefits of NT's advanced security model against OS/2's superior IBM connectivity.
When their arguments had sunk from detail to insults, I threw a copy of Byte on the table (I can't read the thing, but it impresses the hell out of techies) and said the advantages of Linux were so clear I wasn't going to bother to list them. No-one seemed to realise that the advantage was singular - Linux is free.
The second meeting required more of a judgement of Solomon. The choice was whether to develop a system in C++ or Visual Basic. There was no obvious basis for the decision as there was no real cost differentiator. I listened bemused as the C++ camp berated Visual Basic because its approach totally besmirched object-orientation. One protagonist became red in the face when describing the offensiveness of a language that did not recognise polymorphism. It was then that I hit on a solution. I counted the syllables in the key terms used in each sides' arguments and chose the shorter.
Visual Basic won the day by an average of six syllables to 15: no contest.
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