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  • #2190194

    Systems too stable? You could be outsourced.

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    by robroynj ·

    I just read an article today about Big Iron’s Catch-22 http://www.esj.com/news/article.aspx?EditorialsID=1520. It raises an interesting truth in our business. the more stable and secure your system is the more likely you’re going to be scheduling maintenence rather than rapidly dousing fires. That scheduled maintenence leads to opportunities to outsource to lower cost areas of the world. This is especially true of mainframe pros that are typically old coots like me and relatively well paid because of our experience and tenure.

    Sometimes it seems like the reward goes to the pros that barely and drammatically keep their systems together rather than the pros that have all of the trains going out on schedule.

    I take great pride in having a very solid shop. I wonder if there isn’t such a thing as too good a job. I read a post from another discussion where someone said something to the effect of “if I could have robots do everything I would.” I’m not going to suggest that outsourcing to countries with much less expensive workforces is the equivilent of robots but it does strike me that there is a real business motive that plays against us old timers working wit systems that take a licking and keep on ticking. My team does a lot of interesting work and my company has already outsourced traditional IT operations so I’m not thinking about me specifically but people like me generally.

    Am I alone on this one?

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    • #3073009

      Outsourcing and cost

      by jamesrl ·

      In reply to Systems too stable? You could be outsourced.

      If you run a very solid centre, you are probably very efficient in terms of your costs – labor that used to go towards fire fighting goes towards planning, and projects that reduce costs.

      If you are low cost, its hard to look at outsourcing as an option – it might not be the rationale for all outsourcing activities, but it can be an obstacle. A company might pay the same amount to the outsourcer than they do to run the internal department, in order to focus their business on other activities, but they are reluctant to pay more.

      James

    • #3072980

      Nope.

      by tonythetiger ·

      In reply to Systems too stable? You could be outsourced.

      In fact, one of the things in my evaluation is the number of trouble tickets I register. I see two problems:

      1. Rebuilding a server or fetching an ink cartridge counts as one ticket. So if my colleague changes 18 ink cartridges and I go to three counties to install a new PC in each, it looks like she did 6 times as much work as I did.

      2. The better things run, the fewer tickets I enter. The fewer tickets I enter, the lower my evaluation for that item. (I got in a little hot water once when the newsletter came out. The interviewer asked me what my goal was and I said “To do as little as possible.”)

      It’s dumb, but I can’t get management to change. Fortunately, system uptime and average response time are in there too, and cancel out the low number of tickets. Otherwise, I might have to consider going out and breaking something 🙂

      • #3071498

        Priority levels

        by jamesrl ·

        In reply to Nope.

        If you rank your trouble tickets – say A. B and C.

        a= major service interruption, multiple users affected, major productivity loss/measurable affect on the business.

        b=service interruption for one or two people, minor disruption to the business

        c= service request, not time bound. You could further subdivide C into timely or major requests and minor.

        You can’t eliminate c completely and if you did there would be no jobs. You should focus on elimiating a.

      • #3058027

        Time for Issue Resolution

        by errk’d guy ·

        In reply to Nope.

        Recently I implemented a new system to track what we do and
        how long it takes to do it. Due to recent changes in the “Admin-
        o-sphere” I thought it was a prudent to be able to backup my
        staffing requests with stats.

        In the trouble ticket database that I built, I not only tag tickets
        with a Priority Rating (Low, Med, High), but also the type of work
        (Maintenance, Project, Call Back, Application Support). To be
        completely ‘OC’ I include the time it took to complete the task.
        And what staff were assigned to it.

        It caught on very well. I seem to be the only person who forgets
        to log their tasks in it.

    • #3071186

      What do you do all day?

      by stress junkie ·

      In reply to Systems too stable? You could be outsourced.

      I always consider that I’m doing a good job if end users ask me what I do all day. If they only knew. This can bite you, though. If some miserly manager thinks that they can save money by replacing me with a cheaper person then I end up out on the street for having done a good job. Well, it’s an occupational hazard. I haven’t actually experienced this, probably because I’ve spent most of my career in contract work.

      • #3057850

        If only most companies were like that…

        by obiwaynekenobi ·

        In reply to What do you do all day?

        If only most companies were the kind where if you’re in IT/IS and everything is up and running, you ARE doing your job even if it looks like you’re doing nothing. Sadly in most cases, if you’re done with everything and everything is fine, its a case of “ALWAYS have something to do.” so there’s never any personal time to research things or study new technologies or study for certification, etc. etc. I regret to say that’s one of the main reasons I went into IT: so that if my users are up and running, I’m pretty much only staying around *in case* something goes down; otherwise, I can pretty much do what I want with my time. It’s been a pretty hard wakeup call for me that things AREN’T like that…

        • #3058168

          VBD

          by mklinz01 ·

          In reply to If only most companies were like that…

          To counter this penny wise pound foolish attitude we need to take the same tact as the support/service vendors. Who has sat through a Value Based Deliver presentation with a major vendor. Like us if the support vendor is doing their job, minimizing exposure to failure by ensuring they are proactively nmanaging patch delivery, update firmware, etc, and responding rapdily to an outage they also appear to be an uneccessary cosrt because no one feels the pain. So, they come in and trot out a great dog an pony show tellinng customers how wonderful they are and how much down time they’ve saved and, anf this is the big one, put a dollar value on the saved downtime. They do this by having indentified upfront either industry averages for a particular appliction or by asking how much an hour of downtime for a server or application is costing the company. If we would take the same approach, i.e. by ensuring that clustering was functioning properly a specific application experienced no down time even though a server failed, or that by following certain best practices we installed the new PCs faster and made them avaiable more quickly we saved the individual time, and therefore reduced costs. We can counter the arguements that it can be done cheaper somewhere else. Remeber in IT its a 2 out of 3 proposition. You can get results, better, faster, cheaper, but you only get to pick two.

      • #3069894

        Just be glad

        by tonythetiger ·

        In reply to What do you do all day?

        Your city doesn’t feel that way about the fire department 🙂

      • #3070825

        Story of my life

        by charles.thompson ·

        In reply to What do you do all day?

        I’ve worked here 11 years and that’s all I ever hear. “You got it made!” Because they rarely see me come out of my hole except to leave at 4:30 or 5:00. They don’t realize I am here working before they ever get out of bed and sometimes still working from home when they are going to bed.
        Truth of the matter is it sometimes makes me want to create problems that would put me in the spotlight nationally.

        • #3057987

          All too true

          by brent ·

          In reply to Story of my life

          I’ve been keeping the CFO’s working environment running like clockwork in hopes that she’s make my job permanent. I find out she didn’t even know who I was until I took a vacation and she had a problem. Grrrr…You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

    • #3059940

      Out of a job

      by richards_unsubcribe ·

      In reply to Systems too stable? You could be outsourced.

      Has it not been the time honoured tradition that all technical and maintenance people are there to work themselves of of a job?

      Kinda happned to me… went on sick leave then didn’t have a job to come back to. Outsourceing, contracting, part time, the old tyme tenured “jelly jobs” are gone. It’s “just in time” everything from parts to people. The bossman , he don’t give a damn who you are, or where you came from, “just get it fixed, here’s your money, byeeee”

      Pretty sad….

    • #3059901

      Too True, but rationalisation is the main threat

      by yellowcave ·

      In reply to Systems too stable? You could be outsourced.

      Happened to me. I spend a lot of my time anticipating, diagnosing and resolving problems before they become problems. After 20 years the new management then decided that as there were no problems, I didn’t “contribute”, I was surplus to the equation and was made redundant. They then had to replace me with 3 lower paid workers which cost them more than twice my costs. A later company also had problems with my self stated role definition that my only role was to ensure that everyone else in the company could perform their job functions where IT interacted. I did actually get a backhand compliment from an ex-employee who went contracting when they stated that they hadn’t realised that IT systems failed because they hadn’t in their 4 year employment at our company.

    • #3070816

      Good work keeps outsourcing at bay.

      by cmartin ·

      In reply to Systems too stable? You could be outsourced.

      I have sold and managed small outsourcing contracts for years and we have never won a contract where the IT operations were well run.

      Everytime we win a deal, it is because the IT team was putting the business at risk. Outsourcing often costs more (not less!) than keeping an inhouse staff. The reason people outsource is because IT is like a black box that many managers know nothing about.

      My advice is to strive to spend your time doing maintenance and executing well-planned upgrades. If you do, your company will be happy and so will you.

      • #3070799

        Two Fold

        by charles.thompson ·

        In reply to Good work keeps outsourcing at bay.

        You say that you win deals because the IT put the business at risk, however next you say that it’s because the Mgmt knows nothing about their IT dept. So wouldn’t you say we should spend more time advising Mgmt of current project and tasks?
        Flood them with information?

      • #3070684

        Goodwork and not sitting on your laurels

        by seasonedsysdba ·

        In reply to Good work keeps outsourcing at bay.

        Goodwork, but don’t think you can sit back now and watch it hum. Always demonstrate measured improvment that benefits the business. Improve processes and evolve the systems. That is something an outsource organization only does outside the original agreement (Think $$$). So give the outsourcers the humming systems, you help business by evolving and improving.

    • #3070716

      Really good or just inflexible

      by wires&people ·

      In reply to Systems too stable? You could be outsourced.

      If you really are this good and your management agrees with you, then you have nothing to worry about.

      Just make sure that good operations isn’t a code word for inflexible to change. Change creates disruption. So are your good operations a sign of inflexiblity and unwillingness to promote change or are you really that good?

      Make sure you’re sponsoring all the corporate change activities that you can at the costs your company is willing to bear. If you can keep operations smooth through all that – then not only will you be really good, you’ll also be really appreciated.

    • #3070647

      It depends on your boss

      by techmail2 ·

      In reply to Systems too stable? You could be outsourced.

      In another life, I was a UNIX admin with several machines. My manager’s philosophy was that if he didn’t hear about problems, I was doing a good job.

      The systems ran well, the users were generally happy, I was mostly invisible and manager gave high ratings in my yearly performance reviews.

      I suspect that this is the exception rather than the rule…

    • #3070589

      competing requirements.

      by beoweolf ·

      In reply to Systems too stable? You could be outsourced.

      Yes, the mark of a good IT manager and staff, is no problems. No service disruptions, No surprises.

      Unfortunately, that’s exactly what causes the bean counters to salivate. They positivly drool when they see a well run It department…first thing you know, they are proposeing staff reducitons, curtailment of equipment and software purchases and upgrade, cut backs on preventative maintenance.

      Then the real problems start, overtime to install software upgrades, no reasonable vacation schedules (no staff redunaces to allow coverage during planned or unplaned staff shortages).

      As personnel burn-out, get courted to other better paying positions that appreciate their skill your reward – most likely is outsourcing of all IT.

      Of course the inevitable will eventually happen; but you’ll not be there to gloat. The remote administrator will lobby for extended time to respond to service level interruptions until the company starts to lose revenue. Or they train their customers to accept less as the standard for customer service. And the costs for inferior service continues to rise dispite the expected cost savings for “outsourcing”. As always, costs will re align to maximize the RTO of any service you allow to influence your business.

      The current direction of business is to have a shell and outsource everything else, customer be damned. They’ll accept less eventually…because thats all that will be offered.

      Bottom line; not advocating system sabotage, but occasionaly putting out a fire does remind upper management of your value. Or make a move into consulting, companies don’t mind paying, justifying “one time”, limited duration costs. A friend of mine came back at a former employer at nearly 3 times his former salary,for a short term project – he continues to work on the “short term” project 4 years and counting. Every year of so, someone offers him his old position again or threatens to close the contract. He has cut back on the amount of time he actually spends at that job, doing most of the coding remotely…at the same average rate for even less time. I don’t forsee it ending any time soon.

      • #3072508

        Seen this before but…

        by jdgretz ·

        In reply to competing requirements.

        At the first hint of this kind of attitude, my old director became very insistant on the CIO setting and understanding the effects of prioritization. If you want this done now, what slip will you accept in these projects? Doing A will cause us to not be able to accomplish B for X number of days.

        My Director would not and did not back down and we kept the manpower we needed to support the enterprise. Fortunately the CIO made the same case to the rest of the executive staff and when they saw the impact on their portion of the business from the decisions being made by the bean counters, the bean counters were overrulled.

    • #3070557

      Field service means just that

      by mjd420nova ·

      In reply to Systems too stable? You could be outsourced.

      I cannot imagine a vendor who wouldn’t jump at
      the chance but to internally service and upgrade
      a network of 3200 individual nodes and scattered
      over 350 networks and 700 physical locations.
      Most would find plenty of fires to put out and
      lots of area to cover. What organization could
      outsource that without a huge nightmare of
      contracts. Inteligent hiring and sharp
      supervision can yeild invisible support.

    • #3070523

      Facts of Life

      by mgordon ·

      In reply to Systems too stable? You could be outsourced.

      Your worth is what is perceived. When computers were huge, expensive behemoths, the people that worked on them were considered very elite. The first mainframe I worked on, a mix of four Control Data 1704’s and five Control Data 160’s in a system called “AN-FYK-1” required a staff of about 54 persons and had a budget of about 15 million dollars annually if I remember correctly (long time ago). Now, a Dell server can run rings around the whole thing, requires only occasional intervention and, so long as it works okay, can be operated by little more than a secretary. Under the hood, the modern server is vastly more complex than the AN-FYK-1 but Microsoft and Dell have done a fabulous job in hiding that complexity; the result of which is an overall decline in the esteem or respect by the public with regard to computer experts. It’s all “FM” — it always was, but you were compelled to respect the operators of a 15 million dollar computer but you are not compelled to respect the operator of a $1,500 computer.

      Two stories forthcoming, both from Alaska, to portray the human element of respect. Among the team were two rather diverse individuals; one was very skilled and somewhat arrogant, the other was just barely able to function. We had a piece of communication equipment, a rather complex multichannel phase encoder (4 phases, 17 audio frequencies) using small scale integrated circuits — it had about a hundred small circuit boards and used wire wraps on the sockets — delicate, in other words. The usual method of restoring service was to slam the drawer into the rack, but after about 20 such things it required Real Maintenance. The skilled technician spent about five minutes one night restoring it to service, located and re-wrapped a post quickly. This was normal for him so he had quite a lot of spare time, creating the appearance of sloth. The other technician worked on the same machine (different night) all night long. He earned great praise and eventually a Navy award.

      The other story is even more telling. One young man hooked up a very large power supply backwards; delivering about 100 amps DC or more into the racks. Needless to say, every circuit board in the racks went “poof” in a cloud of smoke. A contractor was hired to help rebuild the system and it took several months. They worked a few hours each evening as that was their opportunity. When it was complete, this young technician that was the cause of the million dollar disaster earned a Navy Award, and I kid you not, the words of it commended his “attention to detail” and “working after hours”. Well, yes, he was on the evening shift and put in three or four hours before the team went up to the Husky Lodge for a bit of drinking. It was a demoralizing shock to many of us that knew the truths of the matter.

      I do not feel bad for management; they do things that I cannot do, at least, a natural leader (ESTJ personality type) is comfortable leading groups, establishing and following procedures where I must exert conscious effort in the same things. I spent many years learning that I must speak THEIR language and sell myself day after day, year after year. Look around you, find three or four genuinely lazy people that remain employed. How so? Look and listen; you will hear “sycophancy” — if that’s a word — saying happy happy joy joy things to management, sometimes taking credit for the achievements of others, sometimes taking credit for things that don’t exist!

      Document your work, make pie charts and bar charts, stay VISIBLE, get your FACE TIME. Dress well, speak well and diversify yourself. If you get fired, it may be a blessing — get a certificate, take a well earned vacation. My last unemployment lasted a whole weekend but before that, I’d been unemployed for nearly a year, at the end of which I obtained the best job I have ever had.

    • #3068847

      it happened to me

      by chriske911 ·

      In reply to Systems too stable? You could be outsourced.

      one time I was working for such a company
      their computers were crashing on daily bases
      the network was always breaking down somewhere
      security was non existing,
      network services were extremely scarse and so on

      I got all of this straightened out within 6 months
      then started tweaking everything and writing/developping procedures for all that could go wrong until even a monkee could solve it all
      and…
      found myself on the street after 2 years

      from now on I always look busy 😉

      grtz

    • #3068828

      Sadly, even as we speak

      by ldyosng ·

      In reply to Systems too stable? You could be outsourced.

      My position is being eliminated at the end of the year, or before. We have 11 workstations and 1 server – ALL donated equipment, as we are a very small locally funded nonprofit. In my time here we have never lost data, never had a virus, and never had a machine go down that I didn’t replace within 48 hours. They are schmoozing someone right this minute to give them a new network. And they think that if they have new equipment they won’t need anyone to run it. But on the up side, I’ve been here 3 years learning how to be this good. They paid me to learn, and learn I did – went from a wanna-be to a bona-fide geek on their nickle. Not bad. Just sad to watch them shoot themselves in the foot like this. It’s a good place, working for a good cause. Too bad the need to save $$ is making them so short-sighted.

      • #3068652

        As the dust settles – that was interesting

        by ldyosng ·

        In reply to Sadly, even as we speak

        They just let me go as a full-time employee and hired me as a part-time consultant. That’s interesting . . . .

    • #3068661

      not outsourced–insourced

      by mjd420nova ·

      In reply to Systems too stable? You could be outsourced.

      Spent a year with another lead tech writing and
      debugging hardware and software to calibrate on site all the test equipment the mfgr had on site
      Seems the mfgr had no techs, just inspectors and
      testers. The end of a year we walked away and never heard from them again

      • #3058138

        This just happened to me

        by rdavis ·

        In reply to not outsourced–insourced

        I just had this happen to me this past summer. When I came into the organization they had one server that was running all of their network, login, e-mail, 2 critical database systems. It was crashing at least 2-3 times a week.

        In addition, the equipment was so old, one user could type 3 lines of text before the first would appear on the screen.

        So being the good minded employee, I worked hard to get them modern equipment at good prices, expanded their systems to be re-dundant to prevent data loss, added dedicated e-mail and database servers, gave them remote access for all the road-warriors, put multiple levels of security in place, and to top it all off, I had the best managed budget in the organization. After all my changes were setup, there was only 1 unscheduled network outage in four years.

        So all my hard work, early mornings/late evenings, both during the week and weekends, got me squat. In the mean time a guy who did not have the qualifications nor had never done the job he was hired for, who during his tenure committed an illegal act which the organization could have easily fired and sued him over, is now a Vice President. Yet here I am the one collecting unemployment. Either he has black mail material on someone or his nose and lips are permanently brown.

        The only two things that make me even remotely feel good over this is that:

        A. I got to spend more time with my son this summer.

        B. Between the junior level help desk person they hired, the consultant they pay to handle network items, and my unemployment and severence costs, they pay more this year than the savings they thought they were going to make by eliminating my job.

    • #3058118

      outsourcing not a good idea

      by gkrew ·

      In reply to Systems too stable? You could be outsourced.

      I think that outsourcing is not a good idea especially to overseas markets. If there are no fires to put out yes you could be replaced by outsourcing but unless you see signs of that coming down from management, I would not worry about it but keep in mind there is no such thing as job security.

    • #3058082

      Outsourcing “should” be inevitable

      by emjayprice ·

      In reply to Systems too stable? You could be outsourced.

      Watching the lights blink does not add value to any company. Moving this type of work to low cost centres around the world is the way of the present.

      My company has outsourced both to “near shore” and “off shore” locations for various tasks that do not add real value.

      To those of you resist this transformation, you are not going to be happy at the end results. You need to free yourself of the mundane and instead embrace the change which will allow you to focus on things that do add value.

      Read the book titled “The world is flat” for an eye opening experience.

      • #3057860

        Hello?!?

        by ldyosng ·

        In reply to Outsourcing “should” be inevitable

        If your definition of keeping a system stable is to simple watch “the lights blink” you are grossly underinformed. Or sublimely ignorant. Or an idiot. Or perhaps, all of the above.
        One notes that your profile is empty. No location, no listed skill set, absolutely nothing that would lend credibility to your observation.
        Software and hardware updates and patches, adding and deleting users, expanding storage and processing capacity do not take care of themselves – not to mention systems infrastructure chances needed to keep up with a growing business. Those of us who actually WORK in IT have good reason not to accept your “let them eat cake” commentary.

      • #3072504

        Huh?

        by jdgretz ·

        In reply to Outsourcing “should” be inevitable

        “Watching the lights blink”? I’m not sure where that comment came from. I haven’t done that since my 1401 days or enjoying the 4341 preprocess for the XMP. But even then “watching the lights blink” served a purpose as it was part of the system management process.

        I’m not sure where you’ve been, but it isn’t in any part of the IT structure where I’ve been over the last 30+ years. Yes, those who sit around an “watch the lights blink” deserve to be outsourced (actually they deserve to be replaced by potted plants as those are at least decorative).

        Most IT professionals do much more. They are involved in making a difference. We are proactive to the extent we can be and are looking out for the company as a whole. Anytime I take a project, I look to see how it effects the entire enterprise, not just my little corner.

        Add a new server in the server room? Sure, but what does that do to bandwidth? What VLAN will it reside on? How does that impact backup schedules and synchronization tasks? User access? Changes to permissions? Do we really need a new E4900 or can this run in a partition on the E20K?

        No, if all you do is sit around and wait to be told what to do, then yes, you should be outsourced or outsized as you are a drain on the company economy. If, however, you work toward assisting the company by supporting its core business, and have learned to play the political game (or have management that does that well), then you will have a valued position within the enterprise.

        jdg

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