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Pushing the gold envelope

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Episode 16

“We should enter one of those Innovation in IT awards!” the Boss burbles one day, sidling up to the PFY and myself in a pseudo-ingratiating manner.

“We should what now?” the PFY asks.

“IT awards. We should enter one – it’s a great way of raising the company’s profile.”

“Oh, the company’s going to some awards?” I ask.

“No, just me – representing the company,” the Boss explains.

“I see. So what you want is for us to come up with something that we could get an award for so that you can attend an awards ceremony?”

“The company can, yes.”

“So instead of doing our job you want us to fabricate something that we might win an award for?”

“I’d have thought you’d already done something you thought would be innovative?”

“Nah! What award ceremony are you talking about anyway?”

“I just noticed this one looked... um... interesting,” the Boss mumbles waving a magazine vaguely in our direction.

“We don’t do anything innovative,” I grunt, letting the mag fall into the bin once I saw the ceremony didn’t have an open bar. “Leastways not something we’d get an award for. Possibly something we’d get a ten year stretch in Belmarsh for.”

“Can’t you just... uh... make something up? I could get our PR people to...”

“Polish the turd?” the PFY says. “Refabricate a friction reducing rotary transportation instrument using the algebraic equation x squared + y squared equals radius...”

“Beg pardon?” the Boss asks, sounding excited.

“The wheel,” I mumble “He’s talking about the wheel.”

“Oh, right,” the Boss responds, deflated.

“Indeed. But if we’re honest that’s what half these Innovation awards are - finding someone with the cojones to go up on stage and claim an award for implementing a cross-company document standardisation platform to increase productivity and reduce document translation anomalies with a view to vendor independence and license consolidation...”

“?”

“Install Microsoft Office on the terminal server,” the PFY translates<./p>

“Surely no one would...”

“Don’t you believe it!” the PFY says. “All those plebs from IT marketing who for years tried to sell us some lame pieces of software which did the same thing as public domain programs are now working for other companies, trying to scrape up kudos for even more work that they didn’t do.”

“But still, they wouldn’t...”

“They’d front up for an award for wiping their backside after crapping if they could think of wording it properly,” I point out.

“Yes,” the PFY says thoughtfully. “Something about log-based carbon emission paperwork would do. You’d need to work emissions trading into it though - given it’s a buzzword now.”

“So you think we could... get an award?”

“Course we could,” I assure, leafing through an industry paper till the ubiquitous glossy brochure falls out. “Bingo! Here’s what you’re after! Innovation in IT into the 21st century. Open bar, celebrities and three-course meal.”

“And you think we’d win something?”

“Trust us,” the PFY smiles. “Half the people that judge these IT awards have back episodes of Beyond 2000 on Beta tape behind the couch. Still, they’re highly placed in the industry - and that’s what you need to legitimise an award.”

“See, being at the forefront of IT is a bit like having the yellow jersey in the tour-de-France,” I explain. “It’s a lot of work to get there, a lot of work to stay there and sooner or later the performance enhancing drugs - in this case the lager - will catch up with you. So it’s far easier to buy a yellow jersey, sew a couple of foreign-sounding bike name badges onto it and agree with anything anyone on a moped says.”

“?”

“We’ll bluff them,” the PFY clarifies. “We’ll think of some weaselly words which sound like we’ve split the IT atom...”

“When in fact we’ve just cut some cheese,” I finish.

“But won’t they...”

“Nah, we’ll slap it in as a late entry with 4000 pages of supporting code cut and pasted from sourceforge and they’ll just take it at face value - if you can get PR to supply some fancy screenshots of space age applications...”

. . . Four days later . . .

“Thank you, thank you very much,” the Boss slurs happily as he stumbles down from the podium with yet another resin-encased motherboard on a plank.

“What was that one?” the PFY asks, returning from the bar with three more pints.

“Blah blah blah, aggressive processor scaling to achieve unprecedented power consumption reduction in low-use scenarios, etc.”

“Ah right, switching your machine off when you go home, gotcha. So what’s left?”

“I think that’s the lot,” the boss gurgles, putting the award down on the table where it joins a stack of others.

“No, no, one more left.”

“No, I’m sure that’s the lot,” the Boss says, squinting at the programme.

“Just a second...”

“And the award,” our pimped-up celebrity pipes, “for enhanced collaborative virtual private networking in an out-of-hours time window between an awards event organiser and event nominee...”

“Breaking into the awards organisers computer network and replacing the winners with us...” the PFY murmurs.

“...goes to...”

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

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