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Tech Vs. Business? 607

An anonymous reader writes "I've recently found a spot in a large company, and I'm noticing that here a lot of people on the technology side are very anti-business. Tech makes up about 40% of the total line of business staff, but the whole LOB is only a tiny percentage of the larger company in the financial industry. I personally haven't seen this before in prior jobs, but I'm told that this animosity is commonplace. So I come to Slashdot to find out if others have experienced this adversarial relationship between business and tech, and if so, what was the effect on the overall success of the business?"
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Tech Vs. Business?

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  • common place (Score:5, Interesting)

    by markybob ( 802458 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:36AM (#25021317)
    i've found this to be true in almost every company that i've worked for. tech workers are looked down upon, because people only ever come to us when things go badly and most of us literally "sit on our asses", which they dont see as working. so we're seen as lazy and bad at what we do, because if we were any good at it, they wouldn't be having whatever problem they're having. the best way i've found to combat this is to be honest with your departmental managers and hope that they can spread some love
    • Re:common place (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NoobixCube ( 1133473 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:40AM (#25021347) Journal

      I've often considered tech to be like plumbing. The users of both have no idea how it works, basic knowledge of how to use it, and only care when it stops working. Users expect it to work like magic all the time, and the tech/plumber always has to put up with the disgruntled user's shit. Both are looked down upon by most people in society, yet both are absolutely essential to today's way of life.

      • Re:common place (Score:5, Interesting)

        by kesuki ( 321456 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:01AM (#25021473) Journal

        I think part of that 'works like magic' mystique is due to how reliable the electric grid, water and sewer pipelines and telephone and data networks have been. it's more profitable for the utilities if the system never fails, or as close to never as is possible. companies probably don't understand why they need an IT department at all, they don't understand why all the utility they need can't just come from an outside company. after all if a company is going to smelt aluminum they don't go around building an atomic power plant to run their smelters, they find a cheap source of electricity preferably reachable by major shipping lanes, and let the utility company worry about where the power comes from.

        computers are still relatively new, and eventually you won't need a whole staff of IT gurus to keep a network up and running, when a basic desktop computer can get rid of every moving part, there is less to replace and maintain, thus less IT workers needed... large websites and databases will get easier to manage, eventually, the only thing that won't go away is the need for real security. because hacking is getting more and more economically promising in many places in Africa and former eastern block nations. so security is where real IT growth is, computers will get more reliable and software easier to manage, but hackers are getting smarter and more skilled every single year.

        • Re:common place (Score:5, Informative)

          by darkpixel2k ( 623900 ) <> on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:43AM (#25021727) Homepage

          after all if a company is going to smelt aluminum they don't go around building an atomic power plant to run their smelters, they find a cheap source of electricity preferably reachable by major shipping lanes, and let the utility company worry about where the power comes from.

          Minor nitpick unrelated to your argument: A lot of aluminum smelting plants and large paper mills have their own power generation facilities or have entered into some sort of co-op for generating the power they need rather than paying a power company.

          • Re:common place (Score:5, Interesting)

            by mikael ( 484 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @08:23AM (#25023665)

            Some time ago, there was a news article on how an aluminum smelter plant had signed a long-term contract for electricity supply at a bargain low rate. When the cost of gas went up, the management found out that they could make more money reselling their electricity than they could by smelting aluminum.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          after all if a company is going to smelt aluminum they don't go around building an atomic power plant to run their smelters, they find a cheap source of electricity preferably reachable by major shipping lanes, and let the utility company worry about where the power comes from.

          Actually, they usually build the smelter near an existing plant, or where one can be built. Aluminium is refined electricity, basically.

        • Re:common place (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Architect_sasyr ( 938685 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @02:05AM (#25021863)

          computers are still relatively new, and eventually you won't need a whole staff of IT gurus to keep a network up and running

          I like the rest of your argument but this I have to slap you for. The amount of people I come across in my day to day work (I'm a contract network administrator) who run "MS SBS" or "Red Hat ES" and think they can "network" and be a helldesk is phenomenal. There will always be a need for IT, just like there is always a need for plumbers. The whole concept of making the systems easier to manage is what is killing us properly - home users think they can do it because they hooked their TV up to their laptop just fine, so why should it be hard when they're at the office.

          That rant, however, is for another time.

        • Re:common place (Score:5, Insightful)

          by profplump ( 309017 ) <> on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @03:27AM (#25022277)

          The power company supplies exactly the same product to every one of their customers. And the product never changes. And they only concern themselves with delivering it to your meter, past which they have no concern. You have to hire separate support to deal with every change of your building layout, usage patterns, equipment, or anything else that might change where and how much electricity you need.

          Or think phones. Essentially any business with more than a handful of employees buys some form of site connectivity and a bunch of DIDs from the phone company, and then pays someone else to manage the internal phones as a separate system.

          You could easily do the same thing with IT -- hire someone to make changes and then leave. In fact, I sell that very service. I charge an hourly rate to come in and make changes to your computer systems. When I'm done I leave and don't charge you again until you want to make another change. Just like an electrician I guarantee my work and will fix mistakes, but I'll charge you for any changes that weren't part of our original agreement.

          • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @08:12AM (#25023579) Homepage

            And the product never changes.

            oh yeah, it changes. it's all over the place. 120V yesterday 116V today in fact this morning it was 58.9hertz instead of a solid 59.99 I usually get. I bitched that lady out hard for 20 minutes that my clocks will now be 1/2 a second slow all day.

            Once it dropped to 114 volts.. but that is another story.....

        • Re:common place (Score:5, Informative)

          by syousef ( 465911 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @04:35AM (#25022567) Journal

          computers are still relatively new, and eventually you won't need a whole staff of IT gurus to keep a network up and running, when a basic desktop computer can get rid of every moving part, there is less to replace and maintain, thus less IT workers needed...

          Cars are relatively new, and eventually you won't need a whole staff of .... No wait that doesn't work. We have mechanics.

          Plumbing is relatively new, and eventually you won't need a whole staff of .... No wait that doesn't work, we have janitors and if they can't fix it we have plumbers. Oh and plumbing is old

          Electricity is relatively new, and eventually you won't need a whole staff of .... No wait that doesn't work, we have electricians.

          Science is relatively new, and eventually you won't need a whole staff of .... No wait that doesn't work, we have janitors and if they can't fix it we have scientists.

          Do I need to repeat with other professions? Anything that requires specialised expertise will require professionals. It has nothing to do with how new a field is. It has to do with the knowledge to operate in the field not being common knowledge. It has to do with how badly things go if they go wrong.

        • Re:common place (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MadMorf ( 118601 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @06:51AM (#25023163) Homepage Journal

          ...computers are still relatively new, and eventually you won't need a whole staff of IT gurus to keep a network up and running,... thus less IT workers needed...large websites and databases will get easier to manage, eventually, the only thing that won't go away is the need for real security is where real IT growth is, computers will get more reliable and software easier to manage...

          Let me just say, after 26 years in this business, of hearing this every year, the systems just keep getting more complex and harder to maintain, rather than less and easier.

          Windows NT was supposed to make it so anyone who could use Windows could manage a server.

          How many MILLION MSCEs do we have in the world now?

          Storage systems with Petabytes of data are complex things. Cloud computing is a complex thing. Supercomputing clusters are complex things. World-spanning networks are complex things.

          No offense intended, but the only people who think things are getting easier are people who don't know how they work in the first place.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Fuzzypig ( 631915 )
            Seems fair to me. After 20 years in the biz, I see the same crud, "this automatic wotnot will replace the humble XYZ". Yes it does, but what you forget is that the thing can now do 3 times what the old version did, the business gets a whiff of that and all of sudden the simple XYZ plugged into ABC is now hooked up 15 other systems and it's a tangled mess which only the humble IT techs can keep track of. Then every few years we go around the roundabout again! Definately found that IT people get the sharp en
          • Re:common place (Score:5, Interesting)

            by HangingChad ( 677530 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @08:03AM (#25023525) Homepage

            No offense intended, but the only people who think things are getting easier are people who don't know how they work in the first place.

            Part of what I did coming into a new CIO position was simplifying the IT environment. A big component of that was stopping Windows development and moving Windows out of our server mix. The complexity of the whole Windows ecosystem adds overhead and expense without much value...except to MCSE's. The old arguments about it costing more to find qualified developers and support is just tripe. We haven't had any problems replacing our Windows-only staff and vendors at competitive local market rates and saved big on license costs.

            We can also match or beat application development times in a FOSS environment. I'm sure those heavily invested in Windows development are seething to tell me how wrong I am, but I prove that every day. We're building big systems on a LAMP stack and pushing the envelope for time to market. I came from a Windows shop, I am...well, used to be...a Windows developer. It's all FUD. You don't need Windows, Windows developers, or all the overhead it takes to keep that ecosystem running in some kind of decent shape. You can deliver enterprise services at a fraction of the cost and at competitive turn-around times. Simplify your environment and you'll save yourself a lot of money and stress.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Hurricane78 ( 562437 )

          You miss the point that computers are *way* more complex than anything else in common use.

          There may be a time where they "just work" for the non-techies. But they "just work" already right now for me.

          Instead of dumbing them down so even bigger idiots can exist, I think they should use their brains for once, or not fail at using a machine that they don't understand.

          The point of this is, that if you dumb them down, you lose the power of (fully/really) using a computer.

          The best example is the huge comfort boos

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by nahdude812 ( 88157 ) *

          Yes, that's absolutely correct. Except to equate IT to plumbing is not quite right. Nothing against our plumbing brethren, this is actually a relatively difficult profession (they make more than many technologists as a result), but I think IT personnel are more like mechanics and machinists who work on those monster automatic assembly systems.

          A plumbing job can be done once and not need attention for many years. A machinist can produce a new mass production system, but still be needed to sort out minor t

        • Re:common place (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Emperor Shaddam IV ( 199709 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @08:26AM (#25023711) Journal

          1. Computers aren't that new. The first ones appeared in the 1930's and 1940's. Argueably people like Babbage ( and Lovelace ) and Leonardo DaVinci could have "built" mechanical computers - if they had the resources.
          2. Cars have been around for more than 100 years, and we still need mechanics.
          3. Working parts has very little to do with it, outside of the fans and harddrives, computers don't have any moving parts. Most of the "headaches" I think are around designing, building, maintaining, and supporting software.
          4. Having been in IT for 16 years, I would have to say that things are actually more complex now than ever. There are more software tools, programming lanugages, databases, report writers, operating systems, networking protocols, etc than ever before. And all these tools have a lot more features than they used to. Its getting increasely harder to know "some" of them well. Gone are the days when just knowing DOS, UNIX, MVS, VMS, and OS/400 would bascially give you knowledge of 90% of the hardware running. Or knowing just Assembly/C/Cobol/C++ would allow you to read and maintain most of the source code being used. So I would argue that the need for IT staff is going to continue to increase.
          5. True Hackers are hard to find. Most people that consider themselves "Hackers" are just downloading and using the tools other people wrote to crack systems. I'm not a hacker, but I would say that a true "Hacker" would have intimate knowledge of the internals of the Unix kernal, Linux, Windows, be a "decent" C/C++ programmer, know script programming, understand Firewall rules and configuration, and have an in depth knowledge of TCP/IP networking protocols and routing, and the "social" skills necesssary to call and poke around to get information about logins and passwords. 80-90 percent of the people I know in IT don't even have these skills... Hacking is much harder than it used to be. It used to be you just called a "number" using your 1200/2400 baud modem and poked around.
          6. Security is just a small sub-set of the big picture. Its important, but I would say that software engineeers, database admins, sys admins, and network engineers are all important and going to continue to be important...

          I think you have missed this point. As the speed of microprocessors has increased ( per Moores law ), I think we have seen an increase in the complexity of operating systems and software. Which is requiring more and more IT knowledge and resources.

          I think the "disconnect" between IT and Business has a lot more to do with the fact that business "knows" they depend on IT, but they are frustrated that IT can't seem to deliever what they want when they want it. On the other side, IT has to deal with more and more tools and IT staff has to learn more and more skills. And to increase frustration in IT, business users frequently don't deliever clear requirements or they "change" their mind in the middle of projects....

          I think moving forward, the disconnect is just going to get worse, not better and the requirement for IT workers is going to continue to increase....

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Both are looked down upon by most people in society, yet both are absolutely essential to today's way of life.

        No one looks down on me for working with technology, I'm sorry you lost the metaphor right about there.

      • by Chrisq ( 894406 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @05:14AM (#25022755)
        We once installed a configurable system, and did months of testing to ensure it worked on all configurations, boundary cases, etc.

        This was an important financial system, and I know that if it had not worked as required there would have been hell to pay.

        Six months later someone decided to check our test data against the live configuration and found a very odd rule, giving people with worse credit histories better interest rates. We queried it and they said it was wrong but "why was the system so hard to understand".

        We brought up the original specifications, page diagrams etc. given by business and showed them that it worked in exactly the way they wanted it to. The "difficult to understand" argument was never done again. In fact the whole thing was put down to "just one of those things".

        The ID manager suggested that we could query the database and find out how many people were given a rate inappropriate for the risk - and maybe flag the accounts for quick follow up if they had arrears. Almost unbelievably we were told that on "under no circumstances were we to query the database for this information, as the results could be seen as unfair to the business unit concerned". This came from a board level director so we really had to comply.

        Again, had an IT problem lead to people being given the wrong rates we all know the first question would have been "How many people are affected and how much money is involved?". The second would have been "who was responsible?".

        I believe that the business see the IT department as a car and them as the drivers. If they take a route that leaves them crawling in traffic at 20mph its "one of those things". If the car only crawls along at 20mph its "totally unacceptable".
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          I believe that the business see the IT department as a car and them as the drivers.

          Organizations view IT as a service - and as such just want them to fix problems. They are not viewed as part of the line operations; they're a cost center. Whether that is right or wrong is very debatable but nonetheless it is a reality. R&D is operations, fixing things whether it's a burned out light or a busted PC is service.As such, their survival and success depends on finding out what their customer needs and deli

        • by sgtrock ( 191182 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @09:38AM (#25024413)
          I just had to revisit this one:

          The ID manager suggested that we could query the database and find out how many people were given a rate inappropriate for the risk - and maybe flag the accounts for quick follow up if they had arrears. Almost unbelievably we were told that on "under no circumstances were we to query the database for this information, as the results could be seen as unfair to the business unit concerned". This came from a board level director so we really had to comply.

          Umm, excuse me? This is a financial institution director making a statement like this? I work in the financial industry, too. Ever heard of GLBA? SarBox? Does does this sitting member of the board realize he just put himself in line to be fitted for an orange jumpsuit?

    • Re:common place (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:16AM (#25021573) Homepage

      tech workers are looked down upon, because people only ever come to us when things go badly

      If I had a nickel for every time I've heard of an IT guy being [sacked|not replaced after leaving] because some ass in a suit reasoned thusly:

      "What do we need an IT guy for? We never have any computer problems!"

      • by TooMuchToDo ( 882796 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:39AM (#25021703)
        Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.
        Lisa: That's spacious reasoning, Dad.
        Homer: Thank you, dear.
        Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
        Homer: Oh, how does it work?
        Lisa: It doesn't work.
        Homer: Uh-huh.
        Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.
        Homer: Uh-huh.
        Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
        Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Paul Jakma ( 2677 )

          "spacious reasoning"? :) Reasoning that has lots of room for expansion? :)

          I think you meant specious.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by LS ( 57954 )

        Ok, how much would you really have? 5 or 10 cents? Nothing? Be honest with us please.


    • Re:common place (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @06:53AM (#25023171)

      Are you exclusively talking about tech support?

      I got the impression from the question that he's talking about tech in general. In which case I can count myself. I work for $BIG_CORP as a software engineer and there's animosity here. On our side a lot of it stems from -

      If our software does really, really well in the marketplace then we might get a reasonable payrise, whilst some of the guys on the business side get to retire from the profits, buy sports cars etc.

      If our software does badly then there will be layoffs.

      We tend to be ignored and dictated to, as if we're an inconvenience, not actually, you know, the guys that design and procude everything you goddamn sell.

      We're smarter than them. In the geeky, pure-intellect, tough-maths-problem way. Many of them are overly loud, arrogant and annoying. Somehow they make more money and are always travelling places and have great cars though...

      They're always telling us not to do fun techie stuff (otherwise known as innovation) in favour of endless interface tweaking and repackaging (otherwise known as making software actually usable).

      From their side, we're probably moody, have over-inflated senses of entitlement and our own importance, get in the way of "corporate direction" whenever we can, mutter about unintelligible and unimportant stuff all the time, spend all our money on stupid gadgets, are usually passive-aggressive and are nearly always lazy.

      Swings and roundabouts. Been the same way in every company I worked for.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mh1997 ( 1065630 )
      It's not that tech workers are looked down upon, it is that all support functions of a company are looked down upon.

      If your companies business is tech support, the accountants would be looked down upon. If your companies business is accounting, then tech workers are looked down upon.

      You'll never hear anyone praising the janitorial staff at a company unless you work at Jani-King.

    • Re:common place (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @08:04AM (#25023531) Homepage

      also Most everyone in IT intimidates the rest of the employees very hard. What we do in IT is looked at as "magic" to the other 98% of the employees and executives. People are intimidated when they are around someone that is massively better at something than they are. If your IT people are lacking in social or interpersonal skills this increases the intimidation factor.

      You can stand your ground and be polite and warm. I have said many times NO to an executive and they were happy about me saying NO to them. It's all how you word it along with your demeanor and candor.

      Plus if you can say, "Sorry but NO, the CTO signed a rule banning that. IF you get him to give you a waiver I'll gladly set that up for you!" Pass that buck hard. Make the overpaid management earn their salary by sending all executive requests to go against police directly to his desk.

      Finally, any IT manager or Director worth a damn will buy out of HIS /HER own pocket doughnuts or bagles every friday morning and feed his staff and then have the staff each take a small platter of them to a different department each week as a "thank you for being our customer" and put that on the platter that it's from the IT guys. Give your guys credit for that.

      That goes a HUGE way to fix the problems in the workplace.

  • by hvatum ( 592775 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:38AM (#25021337) Homepage

    So I come to Slashdot to find out if others have experienced this adversarial relationship between business and tech, and if so, what was the effect on the overall success of the business?"

    Yes, it is extremely prevalent here! On the other hand, it doesn't seem to have had any negative effects. Actually, standing in the way of various technologies seems to have made our business more successful!

    Opinions here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, Exxon Mobile Corporation.

  • by religious freak ( 1005821 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:40AM (#25021349)
    Luckily, the department I'm in has a great relationship with the business, relatively speaking. They say we cost too much, we're too slow, and we're "vague", but I'll take those as compliments when they could just call us assholes (bankers aren't really known for mincing words).

    With that being said, I know that certain departments within this massive company have a very different relationship and there is a lot of animosity between the business and the tech side. Incidentally, those are the departments which are currently being outsourced to India (not saying that I can't be next).

    IMHO after years on both the tech side AND the banking side, I can say that the two cultures really aren't compatible. After all, our range is stoned hippie/crazy genius and there's is buttoned down tightwad/midwestern church going Republican. There's not a whole lot of overlap there - there will always be culture clash.

    However, this is not an excuse to treat your business people badly. They are the ones writing the checks, they are the ones to whom you must explain what is possible and what is not, and they are the ones that are ultimately doing the work that is paying your salary (yeah, they couldn't work without us - but we definitely couldn't work w/o them).

    If you are working in a polluted atmosphere where people talk terribly about the business, I'd suggest you change it. And if you're not in a position to change the culture, I'd find another job. Not only is it soul-crushing to work in a hostile environment, but your department's days may be numbered anyway.
    • by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:39AM (#25021699) Journal
      ...the guy with the gold makes the rules. Mutual animosity can be the basis of a fine business relationship if you're co-dependent enough.

      OTOH well, if you find (say) a good auto mechanic, see what the difference in your bill looks like depending on (a) how expensive a car you drive in with is, and (b) how close to peonage said mechanic is treated by said customer.

      I think independence may be the key -- if you work within the firm as a permanent (or long-term contractor) then the perception of your technical skills are diminished as time passes, as familiarity dilutes your apparent value. From outside the company, well, they may treat you like the auto mechanic in the above example or they may treat you like a saviour, the person who recovered their email / payroll / customer database.

      If they're rude, you have the option of legal retaliation when you give them the next quote -- if you don't want to deal with them, raise your contract rate to an absurdly high level. Either they'll ignore you or you'll be paid commensurate with the aggro involved (they can sneer at you all they want if you're driving the Porsche while they're driving the clapped-out 1972 Pinto, no?)

      That said, with the skills crisis here in Australia, engineers and skilled trades of any type are pretty well regarded due to the tight market, and that's probably why I don't see a lot of Tech-Business animosity.

  • by navtal ( 943711 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:41AM (#25021355)
    One problem that facilitates animosity between the business side and the tech support side is that if you do everything right and are a little lucky nothing will happen to the network. I cant tell you how frustrating it is to see an IT admin who dosnt do their job get praised for fixing something that never should have happened and is ultimately their fault.
    • by rcoxdav ( 648172 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:15AM (#25021565)
      I know this first hand. I was an IT admin who was taking care of things with very few problems. I had a poor review from the business manager due to what he said was low productivity. In other words, since I was not running around all day fixing things it meant I was not doing anything. He never saw the preventative maintenance and testing that I performed that kept it running well.
      • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:26AM (#25021633) Journal

        taking care of things with very few problems. I had a poor review from the business manager due to what he said was low productivity. In other words, since I was not running around all day fixing things it meant I was not doing anything. He never saw the preventative maintenance.

        Perhaps you need to sit down and explain your perspective and try to understand what you are being compared to. You may have to agree to write up a progress report/log that shows all the activity you do and what kinds of things it prevents. If you keep people informed, they are more likely to trust you. Whether that's "fair" or not is another thing. Life isn't always fair, but communication can go a long way. Most managers hate being in the dark.

        • by chris_mahan ( 256577 ) <> on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @03:32AM (#25022295) Homepage

          At my company, there is a strong belief that if it ain't broke, you don't fix it.

          So you basically have to wait for the customer to file a trouble ticket for you to fix something, and push a change control for approval, in order for you to fix something you knew was going to go wrong.

          What we end up doing is developing the fix and keeping it in dev, until that fateful day when the user happens upon the bug. The we look all mighty because we can fix it insta-magically.

          Actually, we no longer do that. We let our managers take the blame now. We say, we knew about it, and we were ready to fix it, but it was low-priority for our boss, so we never did.

          Come to think of it, that's exactly how management likes it.

      • by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @11:01AM (#25025597) Journal

        In other words, since I was not running around all day fixing things it meant I was not doing anything. He never saw the preventative maintenance and testing that I performed that kept it running well.

        That doesn't only apply to IT. I heard a similar story about the maintenance staff at a manufacturing company.

        Back in the 80s the president of the company went on an unscheduled tour of the plant (a very rare occasion). While on the tour he comes upon two maintenance workers standing by their tool carts having cups of coffee and chatting.

        Furious that the two workers weren't fixing something at that particular moment the president asks, "What are you doing?"

        One of the maintenance workers replies, "Well, the line is running perfectly, and since it's running we have to wait until the operators go on break to do any preventative maintenance."

        The president of the company then goes back to his office with a great idea to save some money. Since these two maintenance workers are standing around, he clearly has too many of them. So he proceeds to fire half of the maintenance staff.

        Ten years later, the board of directors notices that the profits are decreasing substantially. So, they fire the president and hire a new one. After 6 months the new president has to make a report to the board. This is what he found:

        We noticed that our sales went down so we performed as survey and that indicated that our sales were down due to a perceived decline in quality of our product.

        We also noticed our manufacturing costs have grown exponentially in the past ten years.

        After speaking with some of the foreman and the manufacturing engineering staff, it appears that the uptime of the line has declined. Ten years ago, the uptime was 92% and today it's 63%. Additionally, the majority of the tooling can no longer produce parts within the designed specifications, sending the scrap rate up to 42%. This means that our plant is only 37% efficient. They all cite a lack of preventative maintenance as the cause.

        It appears ten years ago, the president of the company fired half of the maintenance staff. As a result, not all of the preventative maintenance was performed as required. This decision has saved us, $500,000 on average annually for the past ten years. However, due to the increase in the scrap rate, the quality control department has increased their inspection staff. This has cost the company $500,000 on average annually over the past ten years.

        This decision to cut back on maintenance has cost the company 1 billion dollars in down time last year alone. This figure does not include the decline in sales, and increase in warranty claims, and scrap rate due to lower product quality. In total, this decision has cost the company 10 Billion dollars, last year alone.

        In order to get this company back to where it was ten years ago, the entire production line will have to be retooled. This has been quoted out by several companies, and is expected to exceed $900 million.

        Even with these changes, the damage that has been done to our company's reputation is irreparable, and we may never recover.

  • by Jane Q. Public ( 1010737 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:42AM (#25021365)
    ... by "anti-business"! There are about a thousand different things you could mean by that, and frankly I have no idea which of them you mean.

    Do you mean they are "anti-giant-corporate-monopolistic-practices"??

    Do you mean they don't want to see your company make a profit?

    Do you mean they take a stand against certain business practices engaged in by this corporation?

    There are many, many more. So: WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN? Your post was about as clear as mud.
    • by rapiddescent ( 572442 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @03:12AM (#25022199)
      I've worked in many financial firms doing enterprise IT - typically "The Business" is a group of business analysts that sit between IT (usually known as Production or Manufacturing) and the business stakeholders (i.e. those who own 'accounts' or lines of profitable business streams).

      The Business are "supposed to be" experts in deriavitives, swaps, banking, finance or whatever and they ellucidate requirements to the IT folks who concentrate on building the systems. In smaller firms, or tech based companies, this distinction rarely exists.

      There is always a degree of tension between the two departments because the IT folk think the business are stupid (because the IT folks generally become more expert at the financial business than The Business) and The Business believe the IT crowd to be slow, expensive and pedantic.

      its because IT folks do not communicate the degree of difficulty that non-functional requirements are to deliver - because we think that The business are too stupid to understand.

      also, in finance, it is The Business that get the big bonuses and on more than one occasion, I have heard business units say "They built the systems" when all they did is deliver a sub-standard list of untested requirements and manage some ill thought out user acceptance testing.

  • Does it matter? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Farmer Tim ( 530755 ) <roundfile&mindless,com> on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:42AM (#25021367) Journal

    Since it's the financial industry you probably won't be working there long :P

  • by robbak ( 775424 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:46AM (#25021389) Homepage

    I'd like to know what you mean by anti-business. Many suits have no knowledge of anything technical, and so make requests and demands that violate things like 'logic' and the laws of physics. When the tech staff attempts to point this out, they are often told that they are being needlessly obstructive. Pleas that it is the universe that is preventing them fall on deaf ears.

    Is this what you mean? Is an insistence on following the laws of physics "Anti-Business"?

    • by Bill, Shooter of Bul ( 629286 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:01AM (#25021469) Journal
      Or conversely, an IT department that believes it is responsible for a greater part of the companies success than it really is. Most IT folks don't understand how business works. Sales, marketing, accounting, IT and management are all vital parts of a businesses life. They all have to function together to help a business grow or even stay afloat. Often IT derides the other parts because it doesn't understand their contribution, and measures them by their technical skills. Although, the same can happen of any of the other departments measuring another by its own metric. The greatest salesman, I ever met, who could sell ice to Inuits, and sand to Saharan nomads, couldn't figure out how to copy files to a floppy disk, jump drive, or any other form of removable media.
      • by ghostdoc ( 1235612 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @04:05AM (#25022455)

        In my experience, exactly the reverse is true.

        Most techies (because our curiosity is one of the reasons we ended up techies) take a lively interest in how their business works even if they don't need to. If you're an in-house software developer, you *need* to understand how the business works in order to be able to write software for it.

        But the business folk have no clue how IT works, and no desire to ever find out. As others have said, it's like plumbing to them.

        Part of the animosity I've experienced is caused by this very problem. IT people understand how the business works (and all the business, not just one department), and also understand how the tech works, so actually have probably the clearest understanding of the business in the entire organisation. They then have to deal with morons in suits who don't understand anything past their next departmental meeting, and the morons resent being treated like morons.

    • by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:02AM (#25021475)
      And, conversely, IT staff can and do massively impede productive workers... the parts of the company that make money. Perverse security requirements, upgrades that remove functionality, ridiculous delays to get the simplest things done because users aren't permitted to do anything to their pc...

      And will often be quite condescending about it as well; after all, they're the wizards. Users are just muggles.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by pubjames ( 468013 )

        Amen to that. Some of the biggest jerks I've ever come across in business have been network administrators. Immature selfish idiots with little idea of how business actually works. They would be quickly out of a job if they worked in any other department.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Uh-oh. Sounds like somebody's got a case of the Mondays.

      • by jamesh ( 87723 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:46AM (#25021745)

        Every time I watch that movie, I think that scene would have been a perfect opportunity to borrow a scene from Hi-Fidelity, where the main character imagines severely beating the guy who his girlfriend has left him for. My version of the scene would go something like:

        Female Temp: Uh-oh. Sounds like somebody's got a case of the Mo-
        Peter Gibbons punches temp in the face
        Peter knee's temp in the stomach
        Female Temp falls down
        Peter, Michael, and Samir all kick her repeatedly
        Samir grabs the printer and drops it on her

        Peter Gibbons shown with blank expression on his face...

        or maybe that's just me...

    • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:26AM (#25021627) Homepage Journal
      I'd say your post is a prime example of "anti-business" in the sense of TFA.

      As IT people, we look at the world logically; we know that if A follows B and B follows C then A must also follow C. We know that if the user wants to view the balance on an account, they bloody well better have the account number before viewing it.

      But business people don't seem to have that same view. We assume they aren't interested, or that they're illogical when they say "why do I have to enter the account number to view the account balance?"

      The problem I find is usually one of language. For example, in the question above I figured out the business person wasn't being ignorant of the need for an account number. They simply wanted to *scan* it, not *enter* it. To us IT people, there's absolutely no difference how the number gets into the system, but to them that difference seemed so great they had to point it out that they never wanted to *enter* it again.

      Yes, there are obstinate and stupid people out there, but not everyone with those questions is either. And the moment we respond to a question like the one above with a groan or a "duh!" comment, we do become condescending and anti-business. The best way to deal with these questions is to keep the dialog from degenerating. Rephrase the question, restate your problem with their assertion, and get them to confirm it again. Something such as "well, we need the account number before we can show the account balance, so where do you want us to get the account number from?"

      Keep the discussion friendly, don't get patronizing or condescending, and try not to sound like Scotty ("I canna' break the laws o' physics!") Try hard to discover the real root of their issue. It's critical to treat them like peers, and not talk down to them. Remember that they must bring some value to someone in the business, so try to respect that. And yes, sometimes it's harder than others, and sometimes it's just never, ever going to sink in. Try bringing in other people to moderate the discussion, or to bring alternate suggestions.

  • by presidenteloco ( 659168 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:54AM (#25021429)

    My business boss is not good at connecting the dots between cause and effect. He is not a logical thinker yet thinks he is.
    Therefore both blame and praise (to a tech team member) are given incorrectly, and seemingly based on level of financial pressure and mood swings.

    We on the tech side are seen as slow-delivering and obstructive. The boss has no understanding of the process of producing good, maintainable and well-fitting software, so he thinks we're wasting his time and money. He basically thinks we are laying out a website and why the hell does it take so long?

    Needless to say, projects and priorities are interrupted and re-jigged on a bizarrely counterproductively frequent basis,

    Why does someone like that try to manage a business a large part of which is predicated on software development?

  • by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @12:57AM (#25021451) Journal

    Business tends to be "presentation oriented". It's controlled by sales, and the sales culture permeates the entire building for good or bad such that perception is everything. Techies tend to distrust salemanship as too superficial, and like to instead focus on building a better mousetrap. The thing is, paying more attention to presentation gets one promoted and recognized more. Thus, techies are forced to choose between focusing on a better mousetrap or "playing the game" to advance.

    A compromise is to find better ways to communicate technology to non-techies. Find analogies to common items, such as say laundry when talking about the difference between sorting and filtering. And don't talk down to people: respect their specialty. Show interest in their specialty when you can; or at least aspects of it that interest you. The more you learn about their job, the better you can help them.

    Also, even if you can't outright fix something, find a decent compromise or alternative. Don't tell them "no", but rather "I'll have to ponder that one". Show that you are not ignoring them, but putting your Sherlock Techie cap on."

    And for every "that's too hard" or "takes too long", throw in enough, "oh, that change is easy, it'll be right up". If you always delay, you'll lose trust.

    • by mandelbr0t ( 1015855 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:30AM (#25021647) Journal

      Techies tend to distrust salemanship as too superficial, and like to instead focus on building a better mousetrap

      I tend to distrust sales people because they badly oversell the product. Without proper knowledge of the extent of the technical problem, they will often tell a potential client that a required feature will takes days/weeks when the developer has already told them it's more like weeks/months.

      I've seen this problem for the past 8 years, and this animosity between techies and marketroids won't go away until the latter are reigned in. I think I estimate my projects better than the sales people, but the salesperson is only interested in their commission, which is usually paid prior to any support or maintenance contracts.

      The net result is that salespeople get paid without any accountability for the actual project. All problems from this point forward are viewed as a deficiency in technical resources rather than a poorly planned sales pitch. I'm not fond of being the scapegoat when I've very carefully explained why the project will take longer than the sales guy thinks it will.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SirSlud ( 67381 )

        Without proper knowledge of the extent of the technical problem, they will often tell a potential client that a required feature will takes days/weeks when the developer has already told them it's more like weeks/months.

        Two approaches:

        Document, document, document. You have what you said in email, and get the sales guy to turn up documents to whoever wants to scapegoat you. I mean, in that case, its so easy. You said it would take X, you told him, he said to the client Y. If the client is upset, you should h

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        In my experience there can be a persistent problem where sales guys have no understanding of the product or service they're supposed to sell. Their managers know it, the engineering managers know it, executives know it, but the situation is tolerated and the sales guys are expected to keep on selling. Don't ask me why, but I've seen people tolerate that state of affairs for years as if there were no cure for it.

  • by Mr. Flibble ( 12943 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:01AM (#25021471) Homepage

    I am a consultant, so I get to see many different businesses. I have also worked for many prior to consulting.

    I can say that those that do not understand business fare poorly. On the flip side, those that understand business, but not the technology that they are supposedly in have problems as well. I have seen both.

    Both of those businesses are neither failing not advancing. They are just sort of hanging on. The businesses that understand both do quite well of course.

  • Programmer Priests (Score:3, Interesting)

    by djupedal ( 584558 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:02AM (#25021477)
    Back when mainframes were King, the 'operators' wore white lab coats and worked in their own cleaner-than-average, air conditioned rooms - if you needed a 'job' run, you had to meet with the programmers and negotiate your place in the queue.

    I called these types 'Programmer Priests'. Their style seemed reminiscent of history lessons that described Incan temple rites where the head priest would routinely trundle up the local pyramid, telling the villagers and King to wait while he consulted the Gods concerning whatever tragedy needed divine intervention that month.

    Outside of a good view and a supply of virgins, nice clothes and fresh fruit from the village, of course the Incan priests had nothing to do at the top... beyond theater.

    The early white coated programmers felt this same power. Everyone was at their whim - even their superiors. 'Be nice' or you'd wait for an eternity before the computer gods sent your answer back with the priests.
    That particular IT style persists today.

    I make it a habit to kick dirt on those types every chance I get...
  • by Secret Rabbit ( 914973 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:04AM (#25021499) Journal

    Seriously, tech and business really are two different worlds.

    The techies want to learn, deploy, do "cool things", etc. Whereas the business people want to make assloads of money. The problem comes in when these two worlds collide. The business people don't understand that when they change there mind with a complex (software) project, that it really isn't as simple as altering a pie chart on a presentation and takes some (if not a lot) of time. This makes them mad and then they come down on the IT people like they're just being lazy.

    The IT people know why things are the way they are, but the typical business person doesn't listen to explanations because in the business world explanations tend to be excuses and CYA. They don't understand that things are different in the IT field nor do they care. Nor do they realise that throwing money at a problem doesn't make it go away. As in, a bug doesn't care how much you're paid, it'll hide as long as it wants to.

    But, most of these problems occur because of poor project management. Back in the day, project managers were there to protect the people that they were managing. They were there so the IT people didn't get screwed. But, more and more over time, the project manager has become an extension of the client.

    No-one really seems to care that changing there minds constantly (sometimes back and forth) costs a profound amount of time and money. After all, why plan something out when it will waste someone (or someone else's company's) money and not yours.

    • by awol ( 98751 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @03:46AM (#25022365) Journal

      Maybe I was lucky, but more than a dozen years delivering major financial market projects and our project managers were always the good kind you describe above and the client always understood the time (and sometimes money) impact of Changes.

      HOWEVER, this was because we had, by this time, always established the trust between client and IT provider that meant;

      a) If we say "that's hard/expensive" it's because it is "hard" or "expensive"

      b) We did everything the client wanted to the extent that it did not compromise the success of the project. Success is a great motivator for the most flakey of clients

      In addition since we were an outside vendor (not just an internal IT department) we had the luxury of using price to focus the mind of those that would otherwise be changeable.

      What is intersting is that many of the clients in question had professional project managers themselves and despite the trials and tribulations along the way it was always a case of everyone being aware of what was necessary to get the project over the line.

      These project invariably would make front page news in the country in question in the event of a failure (finance pages at least :-) so the incentive was high.

      I think that is the key. Incentivise everyone to get the project live and it becomes more feasible that the project will succeed

  • by viking80 ( 697716 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:08AM (#25021523) Journal

    First, if you work for a company in the financial industry, polish up your resume. Stock up on office supplies as well. You might be in for a tough ride, and be ready to jump ship.

    Secondly, if you do IT, work for an IT company. Forget about adversaries, and other BS. Have you ever seen the IT manager promoted to run a financial institution or a hospital, or a become partner in a law firm?


    But try out a tech company, and you will find that your bosses boss is a tech guy and that there is no ceiling for promotions.

    The whole culture at a tech company will also be much more to your liking. Go have lunch at Google, Microsoft, Cisco, Yahoo or many other, and you will probably know what I mean.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Nah, you guys work way too hard. Highly regulated industries are where it's at. I am a very small cog in a very large wheel, and I like it like that.
  • by Profane MuthaFucka ( 574406 ) <> on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:09AM (#25021527) Homepage Journal

    Correction, I'm anti-YOUR-business. My company is GigantoMegaMonopoly Inc. and we're going to EAT you.

  • by Strider- ( 39683 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:16AM (#25021577)
    I think the single biggest reason for the conflict between Business and Techies is one of motivation. Those on the business side are typically there to make stupid amounts of money. The technology is there to make money, end of story. On the other side of the coin, is the techies who are there to do "cool shit" and generally have fun and learn. While the money is nice, and they usually wouldn't do the work for free, it's not the primary motivation. This leads to the natural collision of worldviews. The techies want to do cool stuff, get it done right, and then maybe sell it. The business folk want to get it out the door for as littl emoney as possible.
  • by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <> on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:21AM (#25021611)

    Wouldn't it be simpler and better to contract that out? Here are the benefits:

    Cost. There's no need to hire and maintain unnecessary staff. If there's an emergency, the contractor can bring in more people to handle it, but most of the time they won't need to dedicate even one full-time staffer to your office.

    Versatility. The contractor will work with many clients and many environments. That means that they will have a diversity of experience that will allow them to deal with problems quickly. They will also have the experience to point out better solutions.

    Employee satisfaction. The contractors personnel will need to be respectful and courteous to your staffers, or else you will find a different contractor. They will work to find solutions (and charge you more money) rather than making excuses about why your problem can't be solved so they can stay in their budget.

    Come to think of it, maybe I should start a business doing this for people.

    • by religious freak ( 1005821 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:55AM (#25021791) it hasn't been tried before?

      Nice try, but the downsides include:
      Cost - not cheaper over the long term
      Consistency - who is your go to guy/gal? I dunno, I think he's just been replaced
      Uptime - hey our server's down, let me call - wait, how much does this contract dude cost after hours?
      Quality - The contractor said Apu Nahasapimapedalan knows exactly what he's doing, and they're only charging $200/hr. I don't think he speaks any English though.
      Overpromising - Well, anyone that's worked in IT for any length of time and has worked with an outside firm knows what I'm talking about here. 'Nuff said.

      Those are just off the top of my head. If you're talking about a network admin or something along those lines, complete outsourcing may work for very, very small offices, but when you get over, maybe one person, you really need your own.
  • by try_anything ( 880404 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:32AM (#25021659)

    In my experience the biggest driver of tech's disdain for business is the farcical nature of some managers' attempts at quantifying certain aspects of their business.

    All businesses manage to quantify a few things extremely well -- payroll, revenue, taxes, and so forth. There are many other things that can be quantified in a useful way. However, many business types engage in persistent fantasies about quantifying things like programmer productivity, ROI on buying software tools, and the effect of different business methodologies. Quantifying things is an excellent idea, but it's so overwhelmingly difficult to measure things like management productivity and (God help us all) "project velocity" that 98.6% of all attempts to do so are essentially fraudulent -- just as dishonest as if I pretended that number I just read off my rectal thermometer had any meaning more precise than "most."

    Engineers are likely to feel a little twitchy just looking at the number "98.6" because they associate it with the classic overprecise and somewhat incorrect statement that normal body temperature is 98.6 degrees fahrenheit. If that number annoys us, what do you think we feel like when some business type says we should use Scrum because 87% of all enterprise-scale software projects come in 50% over budget, while only 63% of Scrum projects come in 50% over budget? Whenever engineers and business types speak in a common language (mathematics, logic, statistics, controlled studies) it turns out that the business types come off as STUPID, GULLIBLE, OVERCONFIDENT, AND FULL OF SHIT.

    Which is not to say that business types are stupid. There are honest and intelligent managers who aspire to quantitative precision and may work very hard at it, but they don't go around waving numbers and graphs because they know the results are extremely difficult to interpret -- more "food for thought" than "results." The guys who make a big deal out of numbers like the ones in the last paragraph are either con artists or victims of con artists. They think that making quantitatively precise comparisons of programming methodologies is a strategic managerial decision that you implement by repeating numbers you read in [blog summaries of] management journals, just like creativity is a lifestyle choice that you implement by your choice of haircut, clothing, and a certain brand of digital accessories. It never crosses their mind that it might be something intrinsically difficult that you can work really hard at without ever producing anything worth sharing -- that's how poorly they understand it.

    But it always seems like it's the guys who make up bullshit numbers who write the papers, run the consultancies, get the attention of upper management, and get put in charge of things they don't understand. Business types may have enough patience and faith in management to sit back and watch the pretenders rise meteorically and flame out, but engineers are used to calling bullshit on bullshit when numbers are involved.

    Anyway, I could go on, but you get the picture. Engineers accept that not everything can be quantified, and every business decision must, of necessity, rely heavily on guesswork, folklore, and intuition in addition to hard numbers. We can't accept that the business world is full of people who pretend otherwise, without any reasonable justification, and somehow escape being laughed at by their supervisors and peers.

  • by yorkshiredale ( 1148021 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @01:43AM (#25021725)

    The business guys want it fast, cheap, first.

    Engineering want it correct, perfect, however long it takes.

    There's the struggle.

    Any good business needs to strike a balance between the two. The tension is inevitable, and healthy.

  • by mccabem ( 44513 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @02:49AM (#25022063)

    Maybe it's just natural, but to me there is a dichotomy between business and operations in most companies today and fosters ignorance in both directions. Managers in most companies haven't a clue how things are done in the operational side, and to some extent the same is true in reverse for the operational people.

    My theory is that this is almost solely attributable to the general lack of ownership in business today. Almost everything is corporate now - even the managers don't own the place. When the owners leave, so does the clue-train. The tech's may still know how to operate things so the customers still remain happy, but its a long shot if the non-owning managers will ever have a clue beyond who they're trying (this week) to sell out to. They just pray that sales or ops (or both) doesn't melt down before they sell out.


  • Management vs Labor (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @03:06AM (#25022161) Homepage Journal

    The "tech vs biz" feuds are an extension of the conflicts between management and labor. Tech divisions, though they have their own managers, are responsible for doing the production work of the company, while the biz offices are responsible for managing the company (and, ultimately, the tech division).

    The management vs labor conflict is as old as the division of labor. Tech vs biz is probably at least as old as the first person to market the inventor of the wheel's widget.

  • by Engineer42 ( 1329399 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @03:39AM (#25022343)
    It is very rare to find 'business' people who understand technical issues, and yet they quite often tries to control deadlines, features etc. for technical projects, quite often against the recommendations of the technical people.

    This more often than not leads to delays (sometimes years!) which the business person then tries to blame the technical people.

    Essentially, most business people tries to put limits on all of these in projects: Resources, Features, Time, Quality Where technical people knows you can only limit 3 of the 4.

    So, in general the reason for the animosity from us techies is pretty simple. Most business people don't know what they're talking about, but pretend to know our area better than us (when they don't).
  • Anti-business ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by netpixie ( 155816 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @03:47AM (#25022371) Homepage

    If you think anyone is "anti-business" then you probably have a flawed idea of what "business" means.

    It is not a single cohesive thing, you can't look at a something and say "that's business" or something else and say "that's not business". It pervades and influences everything, a bit like the force, except not always good.

    Ask these techies "Do you like getting paid?" They will say "Yes" and that is part of "business"

    Ask them "Do you want to produce good products?" They will say "Yes" and that is part of "business"

    On the other hand ask them to follow some half-arsed "business" process that you've read about in a book and they may well tell you where to go.

    The fact that they are disagreeing with you doesn't mean they are anti-business, it means they are anti-you.

  • by lena_10326 ( 1100441 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @04:01AM (#25022433) Homepage

    At one place I worked, there was enormous animosity between IT and Sales/Business Dev. It stemmed from them selling services and guaranteeing delivery dates on software that hadn't been created yet.

    So... it was a constant treadmill trying to play catchup to meet those ridiculous deadlines, which caused a lot of animosity from developers to sales.

  • by PinkyDead ( 862370 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @04:10AM (#25022487) Journal

    (I see the tag already there for Dilbert).

    Originally you had the Peter principle: that everyone is promoted until they can't do the job - and that's where they stop. And then the Dilbert principal (which I present here as a serious conjecture) that everyone is promoted to the position where they can do the least damage.

    They're similar, obviously, but without a doubt my experience is that the Dilbert principal is the more correct - certainly in Dilbert like organizations.

    It leads to a problem of a "ruling" class of idiots - and the worst thing is that they equate "success" with ability. Hence, you have a manager, who, at best, knows the buzzwords within the technical group - but has no idea what he's talking about (I'm actually thinking of real people). They will generally then impose their will on the technical group, believing their own press, and make really terrible commitments. Now they have been promoted to the position where they can do least damage - so the tech group can ignore these commitments, and clients will equally treat them with contempt once they realize that the PHB has no power to deliver on them - however, there is a lot of goodwill lost in the meantime.

    Occasionally, you come across those who are governed by the Peter principal, and those guys (and gals) are really good. They also know when to shut up. But the larger the company, the more likely it is to be a Dilbert organization.

    If you need to know if you work for a Dilbert organization, just read some - it's absolutely terrifying how accurate it is sometimes.

    Bitter? Me? Naaaah!

  • by dontmakemethink ( 1186169 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @04:17AM (#25022513)
    Similar to my frequent dilemmas as a sound tech for live shows, balancing the needs of the musicians vs the needs of the venue/promoter. Do NOT get me started.
  • by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @04:18AM (#25022519)

    Reconciling the distinct, sometimes conflicting needs of different groups is where good managers are priceless. If you've got that kind of antipathy between your tech people and your business people, someone has been doing something wrong. Tech is supposed to _enable_ people to do their work, not get in their way. And it can be fun in and of itself, which is why many of us do it.

    But they don't often pay us to have fun of our own, they want things to work well and not cost too much. As soon as your tech staff starts calling people 'lusers', and the secretaries leave things broken because it's just too much trouble to come to us for help, then our company or department should start looking for a new leader. Not just a new IT person: a new leader to help create those relationships.

  • RFC 1925 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @04:37AM (#25022577) Homepage Journal

    Your answer is in RFC 1925, point (2) 7a:

    Good, fast, cheap - pick any two (you can't have all three)

    As techies our instinct goes to "good and fast". Almost without thinking. Business people, on the other hand, really are the exact opposite: "cheap" is the fixed value for them, and then they pick either good or fast depending on the specific project.

    The most common scenario is that the techie builds something, but isn't happy with it, rebuilds it, improves it, tests it, fixes bugs, continues on and on and on. You can see that very well in security. Techies hold entire conferences about which obscure, rarely encountered problems could under which very special circumstances provide a small chance that technology X could be circumvented.
    For business people "does the job" is all they need. If there's a 0.1% chance that a hypothetical attack can go straight through, say, your firewall, a techie will consider it broken. A business person thinks "let's get an insurance, at that failure rate the premium will be very affordable".

  • by mrboyd ( 1211932 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @04:56AM (#25022651)
    During my career I have been on many side of the fence and it all boils down to what we think is important to get the job down and a lack of understanding of the other guy's role.
    I have been a tech, developer in a software house, and the internal fight with the sale dept were daily occurrence. Some promises to a customer or some awful technical wording made it so we (tech) had to step up to the plate and "fix" something or implement some dumb feature overnight bypassing QA and all other SOP.
    I hated those guys.. can't they have their fact straights?

    Then I ended up in pre-sale and sale. I started with perfect technical speak, and it failed, message didn't register with the customers, so I dumbed it down, focused on the great colors, business efficiency, ROI, all that crap. It worked. And if you've done sale you know that every customer has a wish of x features your product can not do, so you try to explain to him how he could do otherwise with what's already there. Sometime the customer will be dead set and you know the concurrent can do xyz, and it's a 5 million dollar project and crap the profit will still be good even if you factor in tasking a dev for ten days to implements it. So you say yes. The company needs money and if it means annoying a guy in the dev team, well ... screw him.

    As an IT admin, there is nothing more annoying that a user who thinks that opening port xyz because he wants to use so and so application or doesn't understand why he cannot bittorent the latest whatever. As a non-IT admin, I don't really care what's your problem, if it gets in the way of me making money, you're a problem, not a solution.

    Having been on both side, I think it's all a matter of misunderstanding of how a company work and what makes it proficient. I think everyone should try to assess the question in term of "Is it good for the company" (efficiency and risk).
    And for their sake techies needs to take business classes and be able to lay down their analysis in terms someone from management can care about and cut on the tech speak.
  • by dg2fer ( 1114433 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @06:34AM (#25023073) Homepage

    From my point of view, there's only a small number of companies where the Techs have a good relationship to the Business People or even Managers.

    The main reasons are, in my oppinion, management, and respect.

    As many others pointed out, the Tech doing his job best is the one you'll never see working because there are no problems with the IT infrastructure at all.

    The problem is: In most companies I know or worked for, the IT departement is managed by a business man -- not by a tech. This is a fundamental (management) mistake.

    Just do make it clear to everyone: Would you as business man like to discuss your great business plan with a non-business Tech, who then decides which way to go? No, of course not -- he'll hardly understand what your point is at all.

    So, why do they force the Techs to discuss new hardware, network expansions and other, highly tech-related stuff with a business man? He won't understand why, won't see the connections, the big picture in the background.

    The business people often tell the Techs that's part of the Tech's job to explain it in a way so the manager understands. Would you like (or even able) to explain your business plan to somebody knowing nothing about marketing and management at all? Giving him a crash course in Management/Marketing? And every time from the roots up, because next time he doesn't remember what you did talk about last time.

    No, you won't. So, don't force the Techs to do it the other way around. It's useless -- you'll perhaps get a little window where you can see a part of the big picture behind, but you won't be able to see it in total.

    By managing IT departements in this way, with a business man doing the decissions who has not the Tech background, you'll make a lot of false decissions. And the Techs are the ones having to deal with. No wonder they get fretted.

    If you want a smooth, productive IT departement, look for a Tech with some business/management skills and help him to tighten them. Ensure that the head of the IT departement is a Tech. Because he's accepted, he has the background, and he knows what he's talking about when he talks about your IT. And give him financial responsibility. He must be the one deciding which hardware to buy.

    I know a company here in Germany where the CTO and member of the board of directors at first a Tech and then business man. In the early days, he was one of the upper sysadmins. It's a big internet provider/hoster over here.

    I whish this would be the common situation in most companies.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @07:09AM (#25023263) Homepage
    falling into the trap of hating the business i work for. its inevitable because IT is very rarely in line with the same goals management is (profit, corporate citizenship, etc... i could care less about.) IT just wants it to run right, and keep them out of the office on a saturday.

    my old boss once insisted IT was a part of the business, lock stock and barrel. however I once read on slashdot that IT was a service to, not a function of most businesses. keeping myself aligned with "service" has helped me to avoid alot of workplace animosity.

    Its all in how you spin it i suppose, but without a customer, none of us would be here. its tough to have visibility.
  • by cinnamon colbert ( 732724 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2008 @07:35AM (#25023387) Journal

    somewhere, he says that whenever you demo prototype software to higherups, have an obvious problem, like a mis spelt word, so they have something to point to and feel important about
    same thing about the it dept: every week, something that is easy to fix only if you are an admin but looks hard and is clearly the users responsibility should break

Do not underestimate the value of print statements for debugging.