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Downward Spin

By Jim S. ·
I've been working for this company for 13 years, when I started they didn't have a IT department let alone a network. About 10 years ago I more or less took over the duties myself and began doing all the IT work, and over the course of one summer I had networked two buildings separately with a fddi link between them, installed 25 desktop computers, 5 servers and added 10 notebooks.

Everything was going well through the years, I got upgrades when ever I felt the network needed it, replaced desktops on a 4 year cycle, replaced the servers on a 6 year cycle, did a conversion of our MIS solution from unix box the a SQL box. Flew out to Vegas on a yearly user conference for the MIS solution we used, I know, sounds too good to be true, well it all came to a screeching halt 6 months ago, we were acquired by an investment group, but before this had happend I had been interviewed by different people from this group, and came away with a feeling that I was going to be getting a very nice IT budget; NOT!

I have submitted 3 projects in the last 6 months that are needed, plus my user conference is no longer an option. It seems like they have invested into the company, but not the IT deparment. Has anyone been through a acquisition and is this normal? I been thinking about jumping ship and getting the blazes out of here.

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Holding companies.

by DC Guy In reply to Downward Spin

I've always said that Adam Smith would barf at the concept of a corporation. The "free market" he envisioned consisted of buyers and sellers on more or less equal footing, not individual consumers and employees dealing with virtual persons with the power and wealth of Liechtenstein.

But he would have renounced his views on capitalism if he had foreseen the rise of the "holding company." A corporation that is not in the business of producing anything, serving customers, or contributing to the GDP, but merely of owning other corporations. To them, your industry is a board game that they will play until they get tired of it, your company is a pawn in that game that they will sacrifice if it makes business sense, and you are just a mote of dust on that pawn.

Because of the leverage of directorate pyramids, your firm may be under the effective control of an MBA who directly owns one percent of its stock and who knows nothing at all about its business.

Having made my point, I'm quick to add that "survival of the fittest" applies even at this rarefied level. There are some stunningly good holding companies who mind the business of their acquisitions wisely, care about their legions of employees, and use their leverage to help companies in trouble weather financial storms instead of tossing them to the scavengers. You'll see the names of their leaders near the top of the list of the world's richest people, giving faith that there is some justice in the universe.

Still, you don't know which kind you've got there.

On the average, many of them only track performance on a quarter-to-quarter, or even year-to-year basis. They depend on the executives of each subordinate company to keep them abreast of operational details, and executives are notorious for being out of touch with IT.

Other things being equal, I would hang on for a year and see how they react to the results of corporate policies. If things start to fall apart because of short-sighted budgeting, their response will tell you what you need to know.

Unfortunately the results may not be immediate. Things may not start to fall apart until 2009. In that case your executives need to be more proactive and explain to their new bosses that there is a future beyond next year's financial statements. The way they react to that will REALLY tell you what you need to know. Of course the way your own people deal with it may tell you something you don't want to know about them.

My company was bought by one of the "good guy" holding companies several years before I joined. It has been a sweet ride. From having been in deep trouble, we are now an industry leader and have one of the most content staffs in the country.

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Word of Caution

by jdmercha In reply to Downward Spin

Don't stop the requests. Even if you know they will be turned down. Keep a record of everything that has been turned down. That way, when things fail you will have documented evidence that you were turned down and that failure was inevitable.

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needed projects.

by TonytheTiger In reply to Downward Spin

It could be the management style. Some believe that IT department respond only in answers to requests from other departments, and do not initiate projects on their own (personally I share this viewpoint. Luckily I guess, I'm not the decisionmaker :)).

Or maybe you're technologically ahead of the new company's other holdings, and they think the requests are unreasonable.

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RE:

by Jim S. In reply to needed projects.

If you don't initiate the projects, then who does? That is one of my responsibilities, know the trends and predict what is best suited for the company?s IT infrastructure to stay competitive.

As for the ?new? management style, based on what I have seen so far, if the new CEO had his way computers, cell phones and blackberries would be outlawed, he has trouble using all 3, he?s your typical ?I don?t even know how to program a vcr? type.

Here is what I had to deal with when he first came here?.

I had a notebook already setup and waiting, the day he started he asked me to set it up so he can check his email from his ISP provider, I of course said no problem, all I need is his user name and password, so he calls his wife and ask for the info, so he?s talking with her and he is explaining why he needs it and so on, hangs up the phone and turns to me and say never mind, my wife says it can?t be done, you can?t check email from work.

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Who decides what is "needed"?

by jdclyde In reply to Downward Spin

you? Your manager?

What is the ROI of doing that project?

What will be improved if that project is done?

What will happen if the project is not done?

Go back and give yourself a rough working over and honestly answer these questions. Remember many IT projects that we feel are important are turned down because they don't generate revenue. If something is working and you just want to make it better, how will that translate into profit?

A good business man will always ask these questions before making any purchase. If you spend the money, it is the same as if you never made it.

Bean counters are IT's worst enemy. 4 year cycle? Did it still work? What was done with the old systems? What was gained by the replacements? Was their an increase in productivity?

Profit, while not an evil thing, is often the only goal for some, and they forget that while a certain part many not bring a profit, maybe that is what made customers go with you in the first place? It takes a few years to see the customer dropoff, but it will happen.

I would after re-analyzing your turned down project, update my resume and get it out there. Easier to find a job if you have a job. Leave under your terms.

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Re: Who Decides

by Jim S. In reply to Who decides what is "need ...

Well I decide what is needed, I am the one that over sees all of the company's IT needs.

ROI is not an issue for us. (thank gawd)

Improvement, well for one, we will stay in business, second product will increase.

Here are a few examples of what is needed:

1.) Replace of a software firewall that is currently 3 versions old running on hardware that is in the least 7 years old. I was having so many problems with this I actually downloaded eval copies of W2k3R2 and ISA 2004 just so I could give myself some lead time to get them to approve my purchase, and I also explained that as of right now we were on borrowed time.

2.) Replacement of PBX that is 10+ years old and failing, I had 48 ports when new, now I am down to 44 no spares left, this system is so old that that parts are nolonger available, my phone vendor and I both have been stressing the need to replace it, and still no decision and this was my first request, and most important.

3.) All of my MAC's are in dire need of replacment, users are complaining and I don't blame them that they are old and slow, newest one is a 733mhz G4, submitted request, no action taken

This is why I believe more and more that this is going to be like a hit and run, buy, boost profit margin, sell

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Very likely

by jdclyde In reply to Re: Who Decides

First thing, I would find a local geek that knows linux and have them setup a firewall for you. A midgrade PC will do this nicely and go a long way towards protecting you while keeping costs low. Not the route you want to go, but it is always crazy to not have a HARDWARE firewall. Less vulnerabilities and less things to go wrong. more specialized.

Second. PBX. If you are still getting calls in and out, they will probably not want to soak up this expense if they are looking to turn a profit by selling in a bit. It is a hard sell even in the best of times. We have been trying to update our PBX for a while, but because it is so expensive they keep putting us off. Calls are still getting in and out afterall.......

Third. Mac replacements. I thought Toys-R-Us just had a sale? :^0 (sorry!)
Try to up the memory where possible. Not the best solution, but it can help get a little more life out of them. Again, this is a big expense for someone looking to turn the company. Having MAC's instead of PC's just makes it a harder pill to swollow because of the added more expensive hardware. What is it your users do that they need a MAC instead of a PC? Was this just what you went with or was there something special they are using?

User Complaints. You first of all need to get the "requests" in writing instead of them verbably beotching at you. You then need to forward the VALID requests to your boss, with an explaination of why they are valid request.

The other thing to look at is "trickle down". This is how we do our systems. If a new hire comes in, they don't NEED the latest greatest most often. The power user of yesterday gets the NEW system, and the old system gets reloaded and given to the new user who is doing basic computing. This keeps the new hire that just does email and word proccessing from having the most powerful system.

Good luck.

Thanks for taking my post as the self-analysis post it was meant to be instead of getting defensive and attacking. You seem to have the professional mentality to get through this.

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RE:

by Jim S. In reply to Very likely

I'll clear the firewall up, I do have a managed firewall through my service provide, but I always use a second one as well, can never be too safe.

The PBX, I worked on this deal for 3 mos so hard that what I worked out was that with the new phone service and my new low price for my T1's that is was going to pay for it's self. I got the services for half of what we were paying and the cost savings was the monthly lease of the new equipment.

Don't be sorry about the Mac comment, you should hear what I say to the users LOL.

I do the trickle down on the desktops, I still have one running NT workstation out in the plant, for the life of me I can't understand why that one has not died yet, i know it is 10+ years old, I think it's a 1st gen pentium lol.

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First Gen peniums

by jdclyde In reply to RE:

I THINK I just pulled the last one off of our network about a month ago! (sigh)

When it costs more for the memory to allow it do load the software than it does of a new system..... MAYBE it is time to replace it?

Note, I work on a Celeron 600, and it does every business application I need it to. The slowest on my network now should be a PII 400, and only a few of those. Dropping like flies! ;\

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Thoughts to consider

by oneamazingwriter In reply to Downward Spin

Is your paycheck being affected?

At present you are THE MAN. Are you prepared for a lesser position with someone else in authority over you?

What is your relationship with the people you serve? Are you prepared to deal with those who will be sizing you up before they trust you?

What is the job market in your area? Are there openings? Will a job change include a move to another area?

With that said, I agree with jd about getting resumes out there, if only to find out what might be available to you as an alternative. I also agree with DC Guy about waiting a full year to allow room for transition to take place within the company.

Can you resubmit the 3 projects stressing that the need is imperative and ask for follow up? What are your options within the company itself to speak to someone? Communication can be scrambled initially, but now that 6 months has passed, perhaps others have settled enough to hear you.

Good luck!

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