Something of an embarrassment this period. On my MBA we were always told that a good consultant achieves a balance of triumphs and hidden errors. Triumphs to keep us popular, hidden errors to ensure we get more business in the future. Of late I seem to have majored on the errors without managing to keep them awfully well hidden.
Before my review, requests for new PCs were scrutinised by three technical committees; after streamlining it now takes four working groups and two task forces. This wasn't how it was supposed to be. I hoped at least to have thrashed out the Web page issues with IT security by now, but they're spending much of the month in the Seychelles. It seems they're pretty hot on virus prevention and firewalls over there. And I've had no joy with my attempts to persuade IT management that they need self-presentation courses. According to Arnold Potter, the DP manager, the art of management is in fooling the staff into thinking you care about them. I'm not convinced he has bought into trust and openness.
My only tactical success came out of a meeting with Ralph Cram, the company's purchasing director. I had wanted to meet Cram as he was rumoured to be unhappy with IT performance (he is supposed to have compared the department's performance unfavourably with a three legged mongrel trying to mate with a large cactus, but then he is a northerner). At first I thought Cram had a genuine interest in improving the department's performance, but his agenda proved to be somewhat different.
He has brought in a freelance programmer to knock up a couple of systems in a week and put the fear of God into those hopeless buggers (his words, not mine). Despite his provincial bluster, he is quite a smart operator.
He asked if I thought that consultants represented good value for money - I could hardly say no. He then pointed out that his contractor did what he, the customer, wanted, not what the IT department wanted. Again, there was no argument. What was more troubling was his leap from this to assuming that we should let each division of the company buy its own IT services, wanting me to support his proposal to the board without informing his IT colleagues.
Superficially the concept is attractive, overcoming central overheads and putting IT costs into the context of the local operating budget. But unfortunately only a centralised department would feel motivated to bring in such expensive consultants as Slaughter McTone Regis. Small, functional groups just get things done, rather than producing policies and standards - an anathema to us. Accordingly I made a full report of Cram's idea to the IT senior management. They might not like my initiative on improving their people skills, but they know a threat when they see one.
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