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Beancounters and bricks don't mix

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Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications

Episode 11

Things have taken a strange turn - the Boss is trying to broker some form of peace between us and the Beancounters...

"I'm just trying to understand the animosity," the Boss says.

"It's historic," I say. "It goes back centuries."

"It can hardly go back centuries - computers have only been around for half a century, and you've only been working for a few years!"

"It transcends mere computing," the PFY chips in. "It's about expertise, trust and experience."

"It's timeless," I add. "Stone Age man was the same. One would have the ability to hunt animals, skin them and cook them to perfection, while another would harp on endlessly about how the windows security policy was affecting their ability to save a document to their desktop."

"Ay?" the Boss asks.

"Some can - and do, while others can't but keep the dream alive by rabbiting on about it," the PFY translates.

"I'm not sure I get your point..."

Sigh.

"Certain occupations," I say, "have for historic reasons had a head start when it comes to computing. Accountancy, for instance, was one of the first areas of business to adopt computing in business - because of the need to jiggle large amounts of numbers around at the same time..."

"Yes, I appreciate that..."

"...and as Beancounters started using computers before other people they were often held to be experts by the non-computing unwashed they ran into on a day to day basis."

"I... I see."

"To a point where they truly believed the hype," the PFY adds.

"And so you don't get on with them because...?"

"Because they're not experts, just idiots who've not been caught out yet," I explain.

"And what do they think about you?" the Boss asks.

"That we're irresponsible children who'd bankrupt the company with expensive computing equipment, that we prevent things from happening with overly restrictive firewall and security rules, and that our quest for perfection is as out of place and irrelevant in a business environment as Steven Seagal at a MENSA meeting."

"Well I'm sure none of this animosity is likely to be addressed unless we can find some common ground. I think we should have some sort of meeting and thrash out some ideas."

"A geeky Camp David you mean?" I ask.

"Er... something like that," the Boss says slowly. "I just feel that if we meet with them we can maybe find some common ground and set up some form of demarcation that ensures we're not at cross purposes."

"Yeah, well.."

"I've already organised it! AND I've organised an independent facilitator."

"It's not some fruity trouser bandit who's going to have us doing ‘Trust exercises’, ‘Paraphrasing’ and ‘Reflective Listening' is it?" the PFY shudders.

"No no, these guys are professionals!" the Boss burbles.

. . . Two days later . . .

"I can't believe you let him fall!" the Boss snaps at the PFY and myself as an injured Beancounter is carried out by a couple of burly ambulance men.

"We weren't ready!" the PFY said. "He should have said he was falling backwards”.

“THAT WAS THE EXERCISE!” the Boss snaps. “THEY SAID, ‘NOW FALL BACKWARDS OFF THE TABLE SAFE IN THE KNOWLEDGE THAT YOUR TEAM WILL CATCH YOU’!"

“Yes but to be fair. it was a Beancounter,” the PFY says, “and they never do what you tell them!”

“Perhaps a change of exercise?” the Boss prompts the facilitator.

. . . Fifteen minutes later . . .

"So what you're saying," the PFY says to his partnered Beancounter, "is that we should relax the restrictions on the VPN so that virus-infected home machines can still connect to our network?”

“It’s just a bit of spam...” the Beancounter says.

. . .

“...and so we decided to do a one-on-one trust exercise,” the PFY explains to me moments later as another beancounter is helped from the room. “He was going to lean forward and I was not going to hit him in the head with the first heavy item that came to hand. Only he leant too far forward - because he didn’t trust me - and a brick which I found in my suitcase came into contact with him.”

”So when you look at it from a trust exercise viewpoint it was really his own fault?” I suggest.

“Yes, I suppose you’re right.”

“And the incident with the half brick was a by-product of us trusting them to trust us?”

“It was a whole brick when I started, and yes, true.”

“Tell you what,” I say, grabbing the spare half brick, “Why don’t you do some reflective listening with that chap over there who thinks we should let him send full-length movies in email while I go and talk to the one who wants us to use Gmail as the company email system.”

. . .

“And so in effect,” I explain to the Boss. “We trusted them too much.”

“We thought we could trust them to trust us,” the PFY says sadly. “But they let us down.”

“I’m not sure the facilitator would share your interpretation of events,” the Boss observes dryly.

“Well there’s the interesting thing,” the PFY replies. “Before he slipped down those stairs he told Simon and myself that it might be beneficial for us to re-establish trust with all users who feel in some way underserviced by our expertise.”

“So we’ve programmed the lift so that when those users swipe themselves into the lift at home time, it’ll bypass the ground floor and go straight to the basement where we’ll be waiting in the company van to do some quick trust exercises.”

“I... don’t think that’s a very good ide...”

“What, you don’t trust us?” the PFY asks, reaching for his brick...

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