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BOFH: Our Excel-lent new boss and the diagram plan

I didn't say it was your fault. I said I was going to blame it on you...

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Episode 8

"Okay, I get what you're saying, but what does it mean precisely?" the Boss asks.

"It means that we're giving the app support people a VPN connection so they can login remotely, and we'll put them on their own VLAN with firewall pinholes to permit them to access the App server and Database server, as well as having limited query ability to the domain."

The blank look the Boss gives me reinforces my original idea of telling him we were just going to do some magic and it would all work out well.

"Could you..."

>wait for it...<

"...just draw a diagram of that?"

>there we go!<

We have a new Boss after the old one accidentally got locked in the toilet during an automatic cleaning cycle. Not that any of our toilets actually have an automatic cleaning cycle, but it's impressive what you can improvise with a hole saw, a gallon pail of degreaser and a firehose while PFY's got a screwdriver jammed in the "Vacant/Engaged" keyway...

In any case, the new Boss is NOT a technical manager. Despite an "extensive career encompassing all areas of IT" (according to his CV) he barely has the technical wherewithal to interact with a parking meter.

Which leads to his favourite things: diagrams and KPIs. If you're going to lose sight of the underlying business then you may as well have some nice charts to keep you company, and this is where we come in. For instance, I tell him we're going to the local curry house for a team-building exercise and he'll ask me to whip up a quick diagram of who's going, what they'll do when they get there, how it will affect morale, and then ask for some KPIs to measure whether the whole thing was a success.

By the time we're halfway through giving ourselves vindaloo and lager poisoning, the Boss will have a Visio diagram and Microsoft Project document prepared, along with an Excel spreadsheet and graphs plotting Morale v Course, with X-Axis values of Pre-Meal, Pre-Meal-Drinks, Entre, Pre-Main Course Drinks, Main Course, Post-Main Course Drinks, Dessert, Post Dessert Drinks, One-for-the-road Drinks, Every-Pub-on-the-way-back-to-work drinks and finally Post-Meal drinks.

Using the Excel prowess he got from having someone read Excel for Idiots to him, he will interpret the trend line of the above graph, realise that Morale reaches a peak at the point just after Post-Main drinks and just before people realise that they're going to have to go back to work when this is all over.

We'll have a meeting about it where he will present his findings and then have a round-table discussion about how we might achieve the same morale boost without the lager and someone taking a dump in the pot plant inside the company foyer...

"Okay, so this box is our site, the box inside it is the area protected by our firewall," I say. "The box inside that represents our domain and these lines represent the types of connection we will let through. Think of it like if we wanted to let someone outside the company phone you or send you snail mail, but prevent them from emailing you – whereas we don't mind what people inside the company do."

"I'm not sure I'm with you. Perhaps you could use some different-coloured pens."

Yep, different-coloured pens will crack this baby...

"How about I try?" the PFY asks, pulling up a chair, grabbing some sheets of paper. "These boxes here represent the phones in this building."

"There's more phones than four in the building..."

"Yes, but see there's a dot-dot-dot and a gap between the third and fourth box? That's so I don't have to draw 300+ boxes."

"Ah."

"So maybe we want to allow people to phone in for a financial reason to the company - so we let calls come in to any of the finance people, but block calls coming in to the rest of the company."

"I think I got a call yesterday," The boss chips in.

"Yes but this is an analogy," The PFY says testily.

The PFY's first mistake was in getting involved in the discussion when he didn't need to. The second, and larger, mistake was adding an analogy to someone who is patently overanalogised. It's a bit like flushing a blocked toilet – you think the extra water might help clear things out, but in reality you just end up dealing with someone else's crap.

I sit an wait patiently while the PFY pulls the proverbial chain another couple of times.

"Ok, say you lived in a house with 300 entrances."

"That would be a castle, not a house, surely?"

"Okay, what about a maze with 300 entrances."

"Why would I live in a maze?"

"I didn't say you LIVED in a maze, I SAID what if there WAS a maze."

"No, I think..."

"Perhaps I could help," I say, directing the collective view at some documents I've hastily tapped into the Boss's computer. "I've just typed up a rough outline of the K-Project, which I fear is about to be triggered."

"The K Project?"

"Yes, the K Project. Here's a Gantt chart outlining the timing of the major steps. You will note that the tasks 'Anonymous purchase of a 40lb bag of quicklime', 'Location of a roll of carpet & shovel' and 'Identification of a landfill destined to remain untouched for 40 years' are already marked as 100 per cent complete..."

"Ah," the Boss gulps. "What are you suggesting?"

"I'm suggesting we instead activate project L."

"Project L?"

"Yes, that's your project, so I'll let you take the keyboard. >shuffle< Okay, so if you go New Project and in the resources I want to add your name."

"Yes. And?"

"AND, that's it."

"But I'm not doing anything."

"Precisely. Actually, create a new task called 'Sign anything put in front of you', assign 100 per cent of yourself to that task and make the length 365 days."

"Then what?"

"Then, when 365 days expires, extend it for another 365 days. If it helps, put a line in for Project K and make it's Predecessor Project L. So Project K starts when Project L stops..."

"I'm not sure I follow."

"I didn't think you would, which is why I prepared this Excel graph >clickety< of your life expectancy against the PFY's annoyance level. I suspect we're at this point on the graph, and you'll see that we're very near the point where the plot line crosses the X-Axis. Activating the K project."

"100 per cent of my time to Project L you say?" the Boss says.

Who says I can't use diagrams to explain things...

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