Challenging Process

Many people have heard the analogy with the monkeys-ladder-banana’s, if not, here’s a refresher:MonkeyAnalogy

I’m not going to discuss the merits of whether the experiment ever happened or not, I always thought it to be an valid parable of what happens in many organizations.  Certainly if you have been in IT long enough, you’ve probably hit upon a process that no one knows the “why” of it.  Challenging in this case is a verb, not an adjective.

Case in point:  I was working a large multi-Ministry Exchange consolidation project using Quest, and we finished migrating all the mailboxes from Exchange 2003 to 2007, BUT, there was a report still being run based on mechanisms that were no longer available in the new Exchange environment.  For 9+ months we were not allowed to shut down the retiring Exchange server as a developer could not be found to re-engineer the report.

Server maintenance gets costly, plus the box was a little flaky, time to go GenX on this and find out more about this report, so I went on site to discover more.  First stop, talk to the person who receives the report, lets just say it’s Bobo.

“Bobo, what data or information are you needing out of this report you receive every week?”

“Oh, I don’t look at it, I forward to my team lead Bubbles”

Ok, off to visit Bubbles.  “Bubbles, what data or information are you looking for in this report you get forwarded from Bobo”

“oh, I don’t look at it, I forward it to Koko”

Ok… off to visit Koko.  “Koko, what data or information are you looking for in this report you get forwarded from Bubbles?”

“Oh, I have a rule that autoforwards that subject line to George, I don’t actually look at it”

I’m sensing a pattern here… George sends me to Clyde, from Clyde to Kong.

“Kong, this report with 6 fwd’s on it, what do you do with it.”

Kong: “I delete the darned thing, I wish people would stop sending me this useless report”

The Exchange 2003 environment was decommissioned shortly there after.

Seems like a funny story, it’s actually sad and costly.  I believe the Ministry was getting charged by an outside vendor ~$1500 a month for the server, support, storage and backup.

Lesson summary, well there are a few lessons here.

  1. Whether its a family tradition, or corporate process, without knowing the meaning or the why, it is often rendered useless.
  2. Not every problem requires a solution.  Sometimes the problem is the problem itself.
  3. As a Consultant/Contractor, clients are paying us good money for our experience and value.  Sometimes that value is having “outside eyes” looking at issues that have blinded internal users.
  4. Sometimes there is a forgotten “why”, I’m not advocating blindly trampling processes like a bull.  Be the 800 lb gorilla willing to talk about the elephant in the corner.

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