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BOFH: When non-IT people make IT decisions

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Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Episode 39

It's going to be a bad day, I can just feel it. All it'd take is the Boss to walk in with...

"Hi, could you cast your eye over this?" the Boss asks, placing a large folder on the desk in front of me.

"I...I'm rather busy," I lie.

"But I told the guy we'd look over it," the Boss says.

"And everyone loves a man of his word," I comment noncommittally.

"It does look pretty good..." the boss wheedles.

"No it doesn't," I respond, seeing the huge pile of paper entitled Pinnacle of Content Management Devices.

"It does. And anyway, the guy's coming to see you after lunch," the boss blurts, moving back a couple of steps.

"What?!"

"Well he wanted to explain some of the technical details of it to someone."

"And the cleaner was busy?" I sigh.

...

And wouldn't you know it, the guy, justcallmejohn, is so bloody nice and the product's so crap I almost feel like I'm kicking a puppy as I pop his business card into the shredder...

...just as he walks back into the office to offer me a one time discount.

"?!" he says wordlessly.

"Ahhhhh, I was just...uhm...using the first thing that came to hand to clear a paper jam," I say.

"Oh," he says helpfully. "You can just press the reverse button. >prod<"

...as the last half of his shredded brochure slides out

"That was... ah...the first thing I used to try and clear the jam, but unfortunately..."

"It's okay," he sighs, sitting down brokenly. "It's crap. We both know it's crap. The manufacturer knows it's crap - but they went out of business, so we bought all their stock and rebadged it - and it's still crap. You'd have to be an absolute idiot to buy it!"

"But the brochure says..."

"The brochure's crap too. We just reworded and reformatted a competitor's blurb. The only technical spec that our guys could work out was that it runs on 110V."

"Not 240?"

"No - it took a machine to find that out."

"Well, I have to say while I appreciate your frankness I can't see how it will help with sales."

"I think we both know there's not going to be any sales," he sniffs.

"Sooner or later you're bound to get someone who's keen," I say, trying to cheer him up.

"It's unlikely."

"Well, my Boss was keen!"

"That's just because your CEO and my sales director went to school together."

And it all starts to make sense - the Boss's wheedling, his saying how good it looked from the brochure. One truth of computing is that the crapness of a product is proportional to how high up in the organisation they start to market it. This really is a chunk of...

"We'll take two," I say, awaking from my thoughts.

"They're expensive," John warns.

"Yes, you're right, better make it three."

"But they're crap!"

"Even better," I say as the PFY wanders in.

"What have we bought?"

"Something the Boss was keen on," I say. "Two of them...plus uh...one for... redundancy!"

"What is it?"

"This," I say, handing over half shredded brochure.

"Ohh looks nasty. Hey, it only runs on 110! Why are we buying it again?"

"The CEO is keen, and he's expressed his keenness to the head of IT, who's expressed his keenness to the Boss, who's expressed both this keenness and the virtue of this product to us."

"But it's a piece of crap!" the PFY says.

"It is," John concurs.

"Yes. but every now and then you have to buy a piece of crap - or three - as an example of what happens when non-IT people make IT decisions. So I'll just say mildly disparaging things about the product and meantime the CEO will pressure the head of IT who will in turn pressure the Boss who will in turn pressure us. We'll buy and install them, they'll fail within weeks - if not days - and we'll move them into the basement with all the other foolish IT purchases including the non-upgradeable SAN device, the 100+ brand new 10 Meg 24 port hubs and the automatic potato peeler."

"Potato peeler?" John asks.

"Don't ask," the PFY sighs.

...three days later...

"My, but that was a quick delivery!" the Boss gushes as the three boxes arrive. "Shouldn't we install them straight away?"

"No, I thought we'd run some checks on them first - you know H&S and all that," the PFY says, executing stage one of the great setup.

"Nonsense, plug one in and lets see what it does!"

"It's a box with a switch, a couple of network ports and a green LED - what are you hoping to see??" the PFY asks.

"Just plug it in!"

>plug< >click< >CLACK<

Stage One Complete...

"What was that?" the Boss asks.

"That was the power going off to this set of desks," the PFY says.

"Oh - do you think it's using too much power?"

"More than 10 amps?"

"Yes."

"Yes, that'll be it." the PFY says, disguising his sarcasm well. "Hang on, we've got the UPS tap which is rated at 80 Amps continuous - should we run it off that?"

"Why not?" the Boss says, still caught up in the excitement.

"We could plug them all in at the same time?" the PFY suggests evilly.

"Sure."

"I think I'll just get the tester," the PFY says.

"Just do it!" the Boss Nikes.

Stage Two complete!

>plug< >rustle< >plug< >rustle< >plug<

"Ready?"

"Yes"

>click<

>CLACK< >CLACKETY< >CLACK< >CLACKETY< >CLACK<

"What was that?" the Boss asks from the darkness.

"Well, I could be wrong" the PFY says. "But I'm guessing it was the unfused tap to the UPS back-EMFing the mains with an unsynchronised phase - tripping the building breaker."

>woop!< >woop!<

"And that will be the smoke from the blown 110 volt supplies in this expensive, un-safety tested, destroyed kit, tripping the oxidation detectors in the smoke alarms, in turn causing a building evacuation."

"And that," I continue, "will cause the inquisition into who signed off the purchase and authorised the untested installation."

>Slam!<

Stage Three complete!

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