Networking

What happens when management insists that you "work dumber"?

Centralized system management is one area where the disciplines of user support and network administration overlap. Implementing systems management solutions effectively can up your productivity and provide stability for your users. So what do you do if you can't sell management on the investment?

Centralized system management is one area where the disciplines of user support and network administration overlap. Implementing systems management solutions effectively can increase your productivity and provide stability for your users. So what do you do if you can't sell management on the investment?

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In his June post for the Windows Insider column over at Redmondmag.com, Greg Shields shares 5 Rules for Managing User Desktops. Greg's points are good reminders of the best practices for those IT pros who use (or are thinking of using) tools for the central management of multiple computers. It was his fifth rule that really struck home with me: "Moving desktop management from reactive to proactive will initially involve more work than less."

It is only after a long design and implementation process that IT and the help desk can start to take advantage of central management tools. This is worth remembering, since it is all too easy to get caught up in the eventual efficiencies one can gain from such a project. Any significant change to your environment is going to have its own difficulties.

I noticed, though, that Greg is taking for granted that IT has management buy-in for a centralization effort. In one case I encountered, that was my trouble. The difficult front-end work was not in getting a system up and running, it was in trying to convince my boss of the project's value. His response showed me there was a limit to where I could go in his organization, and that he had a very limited idea of what a support tech should be doing.

The little company that employed me at the time did not have any automation in place when I started. The network was about as decentralized as it could get. Each user was an administrator on his or her machine, and each computer was run as a fiefdom. Software was installed without regard to licensing agreements, and virus infections were rampant due to imprudently downloaded e-mail attachments. I was hired to be the full-time tech support person, and I soon realized that I was in for a lot of work.

I took this job early in my career, before I learned to recognize the signs of an organization that has let its network go fallow. I was young, though, and I wanted the experience, so I rolled up my sleeves and set about putting things right, or at least "righter." As I started to look at rolling out antivirus software and putting user controls in place, I realized that it was a prime moment to implement systems management using a Group Policy Domain with Window Server. Such an infrastructure would allow me to tighten up the existing systems and run them in an efficient fashion, all while making sure we weren't, you know, breaking the law.

I prepared a project plan, priced out a couple small-business class servers to use for our Primary Domain Controller and Backup Domain Controller, and scheduled a meeting with my boss, the organization's director. I thought I had hit it out of the park with that proposal. I included an accounting of the projected savings we would see from implementing a systems management tool kit. We would see less downtime for users, and I would have more time available to work on forthcoming projects, since I would not constantly have to put out fires. I thought the company would make back the investment in hardware and software in less than a year, due to the increased productivity.

My boss flipped through the proposal, and then looked at me. He said, "This looks like you're saying we should spend this money to make your job easier. Why would we want to do that? We're paying you to do all this stuff."

It was clear to me then that the position I had was a dead end. I started looking for something elsewhere.

Point being, Greg's article is useful for the tech who's got the green light to centralize the management of the company's machines. There are managers out there, though, who see user support and network management as two exclusive disciplines. They won't be inclined to let their PC tech spend a lot of money on management systems so he can have some more free time.

The adage goes "work smarter, not harder." Competent managers will help you do this. If you encounter someone who wants you to "work dumber," you should run the other way.

Source: http://redmondmag.com/columns/article.asp?EditorialsID=2635

22 comments
mikifinaz1
mikifinaz1

I always get a charge out of "if your boss or if your company" articles. Simple answer quit and don't let the door hit you in the ass, it's a free country. If you don't like your employer just get to step'in, instead of all the gnashing of teeth and hand wringing. When the coffee gets cold or I don't like the situation I hit the road and (even in this economy) get another job. IF you are really good at what you do there are employers waiting in a line for your talent.

mark.silvia
mark.silvia

There are times when a manager may not have you nor the organization's best interest in mind. In those cases, you simply need to go up the chain. This may piss your manager off, but it beats working for a self-serving moron.

jdclyde
jdclyde

And no, the boss's should not care about spending money if it is only to make your job easier. You did a poor job of selling it. They don't CARE about how it benefits YOU. What profits will increase. What expenses will go down. Why they need to change what they are doing that SEEMS to be working now. Put it into a ROI format, and leave out how it benefits you.

shardeth-15902278
shardeth-15902278

disclaimer: I wasn't there, so I don't know the whole of the conversation, so this may be entirely off base. However, he does have one valid point, assuming he misunderstand some elements of your presentation, or was just wary, having been burned before. He may have been trying to protect the users, and ensure that your proposal was a true net gain. There have been many cases of sysadmins who have so aggressively locked down systems - for the sake of their own ease - that they have rendered the users nonfunctional, left them no room to innovate. And there have been cases of systems which have simply shifted workloads to others, often creating a net gain in unproductive work. I saw a purchasing system implemented once that had this effect. It was supposed to centralize and streamline the purchasing problem, reducing errors and misappropriations, while at the same time, "allowing" users to generate their own requests. The real result; it offloaded many purchasing functions from purchasing to the end users, but now the users were all forced to learn and handle complex details about the corporate accounting. The result was the Sales, Marketing, IS/IT, etc... groups were now wasting time doing work that was outside of their area of expertise, taking longer to do it and creating a very large net loss in productivity . As I say though, I don't have all the details, so I could be entirely wrong in this case. edit:fixed a few glaring typos

vjb4501
vjb4501

It's one thing to approach a manager with a vague idea, but when you show up with a real cost-benefit proposal and do that to you, the are idiots. A businessman works by the numbers. If you plan to exist as a business until the break-even period and are not making major IT infrastructure changes you only lose money by saying no.

jackintheback
jackintheback

we can't wear an ipod, not supposed to wear jewelry heck, they didn't have helmets when i was a kid. i'm not tellin' you to go at it without protection. after learning that: "if you stand on the home plate the ball is going to hit you pretty hard", (I could easily amend this line to state many facts)(about this dynamic but it will not assist how) you overcome the fear of facing a speedy projectile. Yes, the object of the batting cage is to make the "speeding projectile travel in the opposite direction". With the confidence that holding a stick to hit the ball, one feels empowered and brave. And Home Plate. . . it looks like the right place to be, we can just picture ourselves standing on that home plate, with our stick, feeling all brave and what not. . . try telling someone that their ingenuity has put them in a precarious position. this is the initial cofrontation and I totally took one to the gut I don't much like the batting cage especially when you gotta pay to play. . .

reisen55
reisen55

The company you describe is ripe for outsourcing. When and if you leave, be sure to introduce Affiliated Computer Services or Computer Sciences Corporation to your former boss - or just call either firm to let them know of this this sales lead. Your story is incredible but all too indicative of the dumb view American management has of IT in general. A former marine once told me that if management drives you crazy, simply " work more slowly." Stories like this make me actively hate this career field I am in and envy, to a degree, those IT drone units in Bangalore who are, at least, geographically removed from the sheer hell they cause far away. Good luck in your new job when you find it.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

At least, that's how I read this line: "I took this job early in my career..." Time to brush up on the old Evelyn Wood... ;) Edit: missing word

david.shane
david.shane

I've been living this scenario for more than a decade now. The only thing that has kept me is a union pension plan. Yup, that's right I'm an IT pro with a union card. I must admit that my usual gut reaction when I am asked to "Dumb down" is to say to myself, "You want me to be stupid, I'll show you stupid." But usually that only lasts a moment. And I remind myself that the mission is not my responsibility. The responsibility for the mission lies with my leadership. And I work to serve them. Regardless of the mission statement, it's their interpretation of that statement that really counts. So we all need to balance our personal needs with pluses and minuses of the culture our employers provide. And being the old school IT guy that I am, it is my responsibility to ensure that my immediate manager understands my concerns. But I can't choose who he or she will be. It is up to me to be able to communicate based on their ability to understand the concepts I have to deal with. Ultimately we all have to live with ourselves. And a job, like any other relationship will effect who you are going to become. If you not the person you want to be. If you can't treat others the way you want to. Maybe it's because you're trying too hard to protect yourself from the threats you perceive. The solution might be to leave the job. Then again the solution might be within. And then while the solution is always within, it might be easier to find in another job.

tiredoftechrepublic
tiredoftechrepublic

"If you encounter someone who wants you to work dumber, you should run the other way." I totally agree! There is no time to waste on stupid managers.

egrondin
egrondin

One problem I face is breaking free of the help desk. For too long I took advancing my education and going for certifications for granted. I knew the materials but never went for the little piece of paper. I got comfortable and just hopped around and gained great work experiance. 8 years later i am at a great company, but still stuck on the help desk. (moving to texas, I went from Supervisor status/level 2 to entry level) I recently recieved my Network +, MCDST, 70-270 and 70-290 (of course i had the A+) and then recieved my associates degree. My company reimbursed me for all expenses, but the only atta boy i got was on my yearly review, they said oh you got these certs...thank you... and that was it. One problem i have is that when I see a good job, they always want to down grade me to helpdesk instead of placing me in networking. Currenly i work (Saturday only) at the local Army Reserve as a network technician, building servers and imaging computer and basically a desktop / network support... There have been positions that i applied for that stated very early on that they do not want or accept any suggestions on how to make things better until the end of the 1st year, that never made sense to me since i am pretty good with help desk, all of its functions, and ect... Anyway, the quickest way to get a promotion, or get a raise is to find another job. I am about to take the Secuirty +, 70-291 (finish the MCSA) and CCNA this year.. then start working on my MCSE and CCNP or CCSP (have not decided which way to go yet... I have a good sallary, easy job, and they reimburse like crazy (no limit - seriously) so i can stick around until its just stupid for me to stay...

williamjones
williamjones

In my most recent blog I recount an instance where my supervisor denied my request for necessary resources. Have you ever had a manager who seemed to be trying to hold you back? How did you handle the situation?

nick
nick

It's an old story, King Arthur watching a spider climb a wall or build a web or something like that. After several attempts the spider achieved its goal, but not on the first attempt. The message was don't give up keep trying. In my opinion there seems to be an expectation that we will always get what we want when we want. That just doesn't happen in the real world. As IT Professionals we need to evaluate the needs and put the business case forward in terms that the decision makers understand. In the story above it does seem that williamjones did all of that. After the refusal he should have questioned why his proposal failed. Was it poor timing? was it ignorance from the decision maker? was it a poorly presented business case? or not in a format the decision maker understood? After that evaluation, update the content or presentation and then put it forward again. Keep trying. After all it is the squeakly wheel that gets the oil. I see that almost daily, the person who is annoying or complains or makes a nuisance of him/her self gets dealt far more quickly than the polite person.

XnavyDK
XnavyDK

I work in a great company, I hired on as a safety guy initially. Someone else read my resume and seen some of my computer experience and I am now in charge of the network/systems/tech support. So as the saying goes you get what you ask for. I'm a rookie network admin/ sys admin/ trying to learn as fast as I can. Everything from configuring vpn to basic firewall set up. I am still trying to secure our network as some of our users do have full admin rights and wouldnt you know that those people with full admin have the most problems. I cant lock them down, but they do accept that I'm trying to help. So they dont install crazy apps anymore. phew! The cool thing is they know I'm rookie. they pay me $20 an hour +overtime to learn. we having fun yet?

XnavyDK
XnavyDK

I sure wish I can make the kind of money you are talking about. I know some people think its chicken feed, but as some of you guys pointed out, my cost of living is low. I need to work on my certs and I am really having a great time, sometimes frustrating because I have the attention span of a flea. I really can?t complain though, I?m being paid to learn. Plus a raise is not out of the question, my boss definitely knows I could be making more somewhere else, but like I told him, I?m happy. I?ve landed the perfect job for me. Since I landed, I got the domain server set up (there were still using workgroup and the server was in a box.) Symantec endpoint as my s/w firewall/virus scanner, backup exec, I got all the employees sharing files from network drives rather than cross sharing from machine to machine via the workgroup. Still need to work on network security. We?ve come a long way from the way things were. I have to slow down some because I am making so many changes they are having a hard time keeping up. Thanks for the input folks. (by the way anyone know how to set up a firebox?)

XnavyDK
XnavyDK

Im very sorry this whole segment I posted is kinda off topic. What I meant to say is. My company has not really been resistant to change. Its been tough though, ever seen a monkey with a hammer? around here its welders, machinists and that lot is a tough crowd to sell on "computer geek stuff". I have to write up my proposal then show the reasons why and how this will improve our bottom line. These guys are nowhere near as dumb as I make them out with the monkey with a hammer comment. They are very skilled in what they do and I am impressed how hard they work. My job is to make their job easier. End I will try to stay on topic LOL, Im a scatter brain

reisen55
reisen55

Help desk people make that kind of money. I am glad you are learning but, friend, you are being USED by this company. My recommendation is to learn all you can as fast as you can and get out while you can. $20 an hour is chicken feed. At least here, of course in Bangalore it is a whole different level of economics. LOL.

buddyfarr
buddyfarr

where I live the cost of living is low also. I have 1.5 acres of land with around 4,000 square foot home and it is worth around $180k. In New York it would be running $500-$750k.

XnavyDK
XnavyDK

My boss definitely knows Ive done a lot, I think a raise as I learn and do more is not out of the question. We have discussed it already. Thanks for your input

GSG
GSG

Note that he's in Texas with one of the lowest costs of living and you are in New York with one of the highest costs of living. $20/hr is not totally out of range for a sys admin in that part of the country to start. That's about what a sysadmin will make where I live and general tech support will make considerably less. A home going for $500,000 in New York will go for $120k around here and have a large yard to go with it.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The cost of living there is less than half what is it in Manhattan. http://www.bankrate.com/brm/default.asp. (I used New York, Houston, and 100000) There's a lot more world beyond those bridges and tunnels; out here, $20 an hour is nothing to sneeze at, and from his post, that "chicken feed" is paying his bills and making him happy. Here in the South (even Atlanta), level 1 field techs, usually considered a step up from help desk, start between $11-$13 an hour; $20 an hour is a reasonable [u]starting[/u] wage for a sysadmin. Now if he doesn't get raises as he learns and progresses, that's a different story. Edit: bad link. Added good link and reference data

Locrian_Lyric
Locrian_Lyric

Our masters wanted us to create XML, but they did not want to spend a penny on any XML tools. HTML kit to the rescue.