Approval is paramount



  • Howdy all.

    My first attempt at a small WTF. I am sure you jaded buggers will not be surprised by this but still....

    I am a worker-bee, a code monkey who write web applications. I recently joined a large (staff in the thousands) company's development department I am ranked slightly lower than the Tea-boy. Upon joining this company I found the development process...well, didn't exist so I set about fixing things.

    While officially I rank on the same level as single-celled organisms I do have some influence because I am the web-guy who knows about a lot of web-stuff (The deparment mainly works on back-end industrial stuff and is making first steps in web) and, although I work in a development department, I am the only person who I would class as a geek and gained a lot of trust by fixing some previous problems which were simple but no one else could do....

    One of my first goals was to buy 3 machines. Two development machines and an IC / Test / Demonstration server. The two development machines were for me and a colleague. Writing web-apps on a 1.4GHz Celeron laptop with 512MB of RAM wasn't the most productive option I thought.

    This introduced me to our purchasing process. Allow me to elucidate

    • First I write a request detailing why we need this stuff (Understandable)
    • Then I spec out the machines (Ok, no problem)
    • Then a colleague has to check them to make sure I am not buying myself a gaming machine to sneak home (Ok, I can live with that)
    • Then my boss has to do the same thing (Ok...a little cautious but understandable)
    • Then our request is sent to the buying department who shop around for the cheapest option. These people know sod all about computers so cue weeks of explaining why what they found is not what we want ("Yes that CPU has a higher GHz rating but it is an old single-core CPU, we need a multi-core one like in the spec", "No those HDDs are 5400rpm , we want 10,000 ones...yes that does makes a difference" etc.)
    • After the buying department eventually finds what we need we actually start the approval process
    • First, I approve it (Meets spec)
    • Then my boss approves the purchase
    • Then HIS boss approves the purchase
    • Then HIS boss (who sits on the board) approves the purchase

    Phew, that is a bit long, but wait! I am not finished! After the board-level member boss has finished approving it.....

    • Every board-member (about 10) must ALSO approve it even though half of them don't understand a word of what it is about
    • Then the Vice-president must approve it
    • Then the company president must approve it

    So basically EVERY purchase request over $1000 must be approved by 15 people, most of whom are all very busy, occasionally ask (sometime idiotic, pointless or repeated) questions which must be answered and understood. Remember that this is a company with thousands of employees, I am surprise the board don't spend all their time reading purchase requests

    I am told that just buying the web and application servers for our new project will take 2-3 months. I am still trying to explain to them that that might not be fast enough if the service gets lots of customers and we need to scale up quickly.



  • @mrgaijin said:

    I recently joined


    so I set about fixing things.

    While officially I rank on the same level as single-celled organisms.

    my friend, that's the biggest WTF right there. If you just joined up, and is low rank, just do your stuff, shut up, and move along (either in a new company, or higher in the rank so you can start making decisions)

    until then, just do as told



  • You just joined a company and are suprised that your purchase requests get such scrutiny? Try doing that where I work and your purchase request wouldn't have got past the first boss before being canned. You use what your boss gives you, if you don't like it, tough, find another job. Once you have been there and gained respect and rank then you are allowed to make your own requests. 



  • @Mole said:

    You use what your boss gives you, if you don't like it, tough.
     

    Technically you are right, and in a perfect world that's how it should work.  However, what many people fear (and what probably happens many times) is this:

    -- You are given crap to work with

    -- You can't do you job adequately

    -- You get fired for not doing your job adequately

    -- When looking for a new job you have to explain why you were fired form your previous job

     



  • @El_Heffe said:

    @Mole said:

    You use what your boss gives you, if you don't like it, tough.
     

    Technically you are right, and in a perfect world that's how it should work.  However, what many people fear (and what probably happens many times) is this:

    -- You are given crap to work with

    -- You can't do you job adequately

    -- You get fired for not doing your job adequately

    -- When looking for a new job you have to explain why you were fired form your previous job

     

     

    A poor workman blames his tools.

    So does a good workman who's told to hammer in nails and then issued an orange.



  • Every purchase over $1000? The solution is clear: buy the individual components and assemble them yourself. No one component should cost that much.



  •  El_Heffe: Whilst I would agree, I would also complain to my manager that I can't do the job properly with the tools I've been given. If you then get fired for being too slow, you have the perfect retaliation.

     



  • A former team manager of mine a few years back had a very novel approach to this. He didn't understand much about tech, but he understood people and he understood getting the job done.
    If we told him we needed hardware X or someone needed a new laptop, he would get it done, because as he said, that was his part of the job. Making sure we could do ours.

    He basically ignored company policy and just ordered our equipment with his company card and declarated the costs ^.^  Afterwards I think he got in a bit of trouble, but I think he saw that as his job as well.



  • Mole,  If you read mrgaijin's post again, you will see that the chain of approval is standard for the company, and nothing to do with his status within the company.



  • @mauricio said:

    @mrgaijin said:
    I recently joined
    so I set about fixing things.

    While officially I rank on the same level as single-celled organisms.

    my friend, that's the biggest WTF right there. If you just joined up, and is low rank, just do your stuff, shut up, and move along (either in a new company, or higher in the rank so you can start making decisions)

    until then, just do as told

     Hoi Mauricio, sorry I don't think I made this obvious. This is the process that happens AFTER I have already discussed it with the team and my bosses and everyone has already agreed that it should be done. This is purely the approval procedure which has to be followed by everyone in the company no matter what.

     Plus there is probably a cultural difference here. Over here, you start from the bottom no matter what, it is very, very rare for people to shift companies in their career.

    The point I was trying to make is that every single purchase, no matter who by, has to go through this process. Apart form big ticket ($millions) items. All purchase requests bubble up from people at the coal-face.

     


     



  • Quite a few larger companies are like that, and governments too. In a situation like that, explaining how this may impede future growth is worse than useless. If it turns out not to be a problem, you were that guy who complained but was wrong. If you're right, it still won't help.

    So, three things:

    1) keep your head down, do things to the best of your abilities, and accept the result.

    2) if you have success, you can use that to build a little on your powers; then when you explain that taking 2 months to order hardware is really too long , they might even listen

    3) alternatively, if that's not your thing, get the hell out and find some small, young and more flexible company to work with. They're usually really happy for someone to think a few steps ahead and may even show you with arguments why that is or isn't a good idea. They just may not have the money to buy your hardware, but that's a different story.

     

     



  • Now that you explained a little more, it all makes sense. Large companies are like this. I was at one where the chairman (!) had to sign off all purchases $800 or over, else if it was over $200 it just required a director(!), > $50 just required your boss, anything less was "as long as you can prove it was necessary" should anyone question your purchase.

    It wasn't long before I realised that the directors and chairman had no clue about why you bought what you bought and they always just signed it anyway. Probably just some "I want to know whats being spent" kinda thing written down by there assistants or whatever. Maybe they didn't even read it. So from then on I still did the usual paperwork, but rather than waiting for it to be signed and approved, I just ordered it. The signed paperwork normally came back a month or so after the equipment was always installed and being used (although I did run it past my boss first just to cover my ass a little). 



  • I have seen a good deal of WTFs here but the people are really nice and were tripping over themselves to try and get things done; there is just that little bit too much red tape. Whenever I bring up the matter of some of the WTFy situations I get the gallic shrug 😉 so it obviously isn't just me thinking this, just that they have seen it all before and are used to it. 

    The thing that really was new to me was the fact that a purchase order from the very bottom of the company had to go up the hierarchy to the very top before anything could be decided.

     Even for equipment that is essential to the project (Like the servers) will have to go through this.

     My first two jobs were in small companies, the difference is pretty jarring. However I do enjoy this job and the company. I expect to make many more posts about WTFs at this company (I have another one, code related, that I need to type up) however they will always be book-ended by "I still like working here and the people are great". I dont expect to make any people related WTFs.

     



  •  I worked in a group in a company who ordered a bunch of PCs as components, and also ordered a load of food and a crate of beer to go with them.

     

    why?

     

    Because if the theam ate food and consumed beer whilst building them then it classed as a team building exercise and came out of the team building/hospitality budget and they'd already used up their hardware budget for the year.



  • Never seen that happen, but it sounds... typical.



  • @da Doctah said:

    A poor workman blames his tools.


    A good workman knows its his tools' fault!!



  • @blatant_mcfakename said:

     I worked in a group in a company who ordered a bunch of PCs as components, and also ordered a load of food and a crate of beer to go with them.

     

    why?

     

    Because if the theam ate food and consumed beer whilst building them then it classed as a team building exercise and came out of the team building/hospitality budget and they'd already used up their hardware budget for the year.

    Nice.

    Also, if it's easier to get a company credit card issued, you can buy virtual servers with it. Virtual servers are cheap enough that the CC will *probably* not fall under too much scrutiny. (Then again, I'm sure they have some other crazy policies about staging sites never leaving the company network or something... right?)

    But really, I'd leave. The fact that you come here and complain about it rather than passively accept it, combined with the fact that you've already solved many of their "unsolvable" problems, means that you're not getting your due. That company is WTF now, and it'll be WTF in 10 years... if the WTFness goes all the way up to the President, you're not going to fix it.

    There's a cycle to .com companies:
    1) Small, efficient, low-overhead, plenty of budget, finishes multiple projects every month-- all founded on a creative new idea
    2) More staff, IT people show up to obstruct your IT resource purchases, projects start taking multiple months each, you're on multiple projects and so don't have enough time to work on your creative new ideas
    3) Even more staff, big corporation buys you out but hasn't really done anything with you yet, it becomes harder to find the right guy to talk to to get things done, it becomes harder to get time to work on your creative new ideas, IT has been outsourced to a country that didn't have any computers until IT outsourcing came there 2 years ago
    4) Big corporation installs Lotus Notes and downgrades all workstations to XP SP2 to comply with WTF big corporation policy

    Level 4 is great, because you can tell the good employees from the bad ones. (The good ones leave, quickly.) Sadly, my company is somewhere in-between level 3 and level 4, I'm going to have to leave soon. But just as well, since our creative new idea we were founded on is almost completely abandoned at this point.



  • BTW, I wonder if these companies that have horrible 12-step approval processes (and end up buying 512 MB celeries) to "save money" ever go back and see if the money they saved was worth the labor cost of saving it.

    My gut tells me that even 5 minutes of the company's president's time would totally negate any savings.



  •  Computers are pretty cheap these days. Did you really need a $1K+ computer to do web development?



  • @blakeyrat said:

    4) Big corporation installs Lotus Notes and downgrades all workstations to XP SP2 to comply with WTF big corporation policy

    QFT.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    BTW, I wonder if these companies that have horrible 12-step approval processes (and end up buying 512 MB celeries) to "save money" ever go back and see if the money they saved was worth the labor cost of saving it.

    My gut tells me that even 5 minutes of the company's president's time would totally negate any savings.

     

    It's not to save money, in my experience; I've seen the same in government organisations and they really couldn't care less about that.

    Looking at it from the top, the CEO (or head of department or whatever) is ultimately responsible for every expense or investment made. You can solve that in two ways: delegating budgets and responsibilty to the level that can handle it, or have a paper trail all the way to the top. Not that the latter actually solves anything, as the CEO will now be signing stuff he can't possibly know anything about. It's basically cargo cult accounting.

    Ah, that reminds me. In one government organisation where the paper trail was replaced by automated workflow, and buttons instead of signatures in ink, people at all levels kept printing out the forms and signing them manually. "But we need a signature!".



  • @Bumble Bee Tuna said:

     Computers are pretty cheap these days. Did you really need a $1K+ computer to do web development?

     

    As a web develop myself, let me answer that question for you.

    Yes.



  •  As a web developer myself, I wonder if you're confusing "want" and "need".



  • @Bumble Bee Tuna said:

     As a web developer myself, I wonder if you're confusing "want" and "need".

    I can write C# in a plain text editor on a netbook if I really feel like it, but who hates themselves that much? I feel comfortable saying I need a development machine with horsepower.



  • @Bumble Bee Tuna said:

    As a web developer myself, I wonder if you're confusing "want" and "need".
    I agree with this. You should always avoid high end stuff. It's much better to constantly get in the way of your employee's work and slowly kill any intrinsic motivation he might have than to spend a few extra hundred of bucks on his machine. After all he's essentially just a secretary that types weird text



  • @stratos said:

    @Bumble Bee Tuna said:

     Computers are pretty cheap these days. Did you really need a $1K+ computer to do web development?

     

    As a web develop myself, let me answer that question for you.

    Yes.

    I wouldn't say it's a flat yes; things are never that simple. Usually you don't need beefy hardware for testing or staging unless you're doing a web app that requires beefy servers no matter what. (A mapping app, for example.)

    Right now I'm doing web dev with a single core Pentium IV as my test server, and I'm fine with that. The staging and production servers are rented from Amazon Web Services.

    The real expense isn't the spec of machine, but the number of machines:
    Dev Web Server
    Dev DB Server
    Staging Web Server
    Staging DB Server

    That said, it's still cheaper to rent machines than own them. As much as I hate the buzzword "cloud", it does have its uses. Or, buy a single really beefy machine, and put the 4 roles mentioned above in VMs, that would also save money.



  • @mrgaijin said:

     Plus there is probably a cultural difference here. Over here, you start from the bottom no matter what, it is very, very rare for people to shift companies in their career.
     

    Just now I realized You work in Japan, Mr Gaijin 😉

    And really, You need to know lot of local culture to get job done in proper way... Otherwise You may do it over anf over again, until it is done properly.



  • Our internal web server (for things like the holiday calendar, project statuses, knowledge base for sales, etc) is a Celeron 400 with 512MB of RAM. Naturally it slows down during periods of heavy use (it runs Apache, PHP,MySQL, etc). Guess what the typical response is when a manager can't get what he wants quickly enough? Here's a typical email: "<font size="2" face="Arial">The company internal webserver is currently experiencing performance problems. These problems are directly related to how busy it gets. This is impacting on employee productivity. To try and cure this problem, please only access the server when necessary, and, if possible, outside of our busiest times.".</font>

    Really, how much fail can you get in a single email? Performance problems are directly related to how busy a server gets? Really? 



  • @Mole said:

    Our internal web server (for things like the holiday calendar, project statuses, knowledge base for sales, etc) is a Celeron 400 with 512MB of RAM. Naturally it slows down during periods of heavy use (it runs Apache, PHP,MySQL, etc). Guess what the typical response is when a manager can't get what he wants quickly enough? Here's a typical email: "<font size="2" face="Arial">The company internal webserver is currently experiencing performance problems. These problems are directly related to how busy it gets. This is impacting on employee productivity. To try and cure this problem, please only access the server when necessary, and, if possible, outside of our busiest times.".</font>

    Really, how much fail can you get in a single email? Performance problems are directly related to how busy a server gets? Really? 

     

    Please tell me that this is some old mail from 2002.  



  • No, the server is still here (there?) serving web pages. There excuse is still the same as before - They can't spare the time to build a new server, the apps probably wouldn't work on the new server and would have to be updated and we don't have the time for that either, plus it's "Not really that bad, performance wise". No, 10 - 15 seconds for a web page to open isn't that bad. 

    It's bound to fail sometime, it only has a single IDE harddisk (It was only ever meant as a test platform, it was decided "We can always upgrade later, no need for a big machine for a few users"). OF course, there's now a LOT more users, but still the same machine. 

    Actually, there was one upgrade that was done. The 10base2 Coax cable was removed and replaced with 10baseT (Still the same network card, so still 10mbits). 



  • @Mole said:

    Our internal web server (for things like the holiday calendar, project statuses, knowledge base for sales, etc) is a Celeron 400 with 512MB of RAM.
    Nothing a spilled glass of water can't fix.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    But really, I'd leave. The fact that you come here and complain about it rather than passively accept it, combined with the fact that you've already solved many of their "unsolvable" problems, means that you're not getting your due. That company is WTF now, and it'll be WTF in 10 years... if the WTFness goes all the way up to the President, you're not going to fix it.

     

    It doesn't bother me that much, I am not posting here so much as to vent complain rather than a "share the incredulity with people who understand".

     



  • @DOA said:

    @Mole said:

    Our internal web server (for things like the holiday calendar, project statuses, knowledge base for sales, etc) is a Celeron 400 with 512MB of RAM.
    Nothing a spilled glass of water can't fix.

    Too obvious if the water doesn't have time to evaporate. Instead try a massive amount of lint in the cooling fans in order to stop them spinning an hence cook the CPU. Or static discharge from shuffling around on carpet for 10 minutes on a cold day.



  • @OzPeter said:

    @DOA said:

    @Mole said:

    Our internal web server (for things like the holiday calendar, project statuses, knowledge base for sales, etc) is a Celeron 400 with 512MB of RAM.
    Nothing a spilled glass of water can't fix.

    Too obvious if the water doesn't have time to evaporate. Instead try a massive amount of lint in the cooling fans in order to stop them spinning an hence cook the CPU. Or static discharge from shuffling around on carpet for 10 minutes on a cold day.

    Cooking a Celery 400 would require an actual oven.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    @OzPeter said:
    @DOA said:

    @Mole said:

    Our internal web server (for things like the holiday calendar, project statuses, knowledge base for sales, etc) is a Celeron 400 with 512MB of RAM.
    Nothing a spilled glass of water can't fix.

    Too obvious if the water doesn't have time to evaporate. Instead try a massive amount of lint in the cooling fans in order to stop them spinning an hence cook the CPU. Or static discharge from shuffling around on carpet for 10 minutes on a cold day.

    Cooking a Celery 400 would require an actual oven.

     

    - cut a UTP cable
    - cut a power cable
    - connect the UTP cable to the power cable
    - insert UTP cable into the machine.
    - insert power cable into an outlet.

     



  • @stratos said:

    @blakeyrat said:

    Cooking a Celery 400 would require an actual oven.
     

    - cut a UTP cable
    - cut a power cable
    - connect the UTP cable to the power cable
    - insert UTP cable into the machine.
    - insert power cable into an outlet.

     

    I think we're looking for a solution that would be sort of untraceable and would not set the whole building on fire. 

    Ages ago, my school had a very early computer with a slot for modules. One day, a mouse came in through the slot and made a nest inside. Which was all fine, except mouse pee is a bit corrosive. 



  • @b_redeker said:

    @stratos said:

    @blakeyrat said:

    Cooking a Celery 400 would require an actual oven.
     

    - cut a UTP cable
    - cut a power cable
    - connect the UTP cable to the power cable
    - insert UTP cable into the machine.
    - insert power cable into an outlet.

     

    I think we're looking for a solution that would be sort of untraceable and would not set the whole building on fire. 

    Ages ago, my school had a very early computer with a slot for modules. One day, a mouse came in through the slot and made a nest inside. Which was all fine, except mouse pee is a bit corrosive. 

    Claim it was a power surge that leapt over to the UTP cable ^.^ 

    Also, I'm reasonably sure that at most the computer will catch on fire, at the least your nic will get fried. Oh and the building power might short-circuit, but I think even america has power breakers these days.

     



  • What the?

    Is it common belief in Europe that breakers are brand new in the US?



  • @blakeyrat said:

    What the?

    Is it common belief in Europe that breakers are brand new in the US?

     

    oh come on. We all know safety isn't something that america belives in when it comes to home electrics.

     



  • @stratos said:

    - cut a UTP cable
    - cut a power cable
    - connect the UTP cable to the power cable
    - insert UTP cable into the machine.
    - insert power cable into an outlet.
     

    Dear sir/madam,

     might I interest you in our special novelty item, the powered hub?

    We also have a more polished, luxury item available at a premium.



  • @stratos said:

    @blakeyrat said:

    What the?

    Is it common belief in Europe that breakers are brand new in the US?

     

    oh come on. We all know safety isn't something that america belives in when it comes to home electrics.

    Wha-huh? What kind of strange propaganda are you guys getting over there? If you're going to insult the US, do it on something that's actually insulting, like our embarrassing amount of TV viewing, or the significant fraction of the population that believes the Second Coming will happen in their lifetimes.

    Home electronics safety? Seriously? Not having breakers? These are the things you think of when you think "United States?" Has any Americans ever heard of anybody being injured, or killed, via unsafe home appliances?

    But, I see your point-- obviously our 110v systems are *sooooo* much more dangerous than the 220v systems in Europe.



  • Actually, I think a more subtle etherkiller would have a small device in the middle that transmits a tiny pulse of electricity at the press of a button.

    Wall plugs are hard to quickly plug&pull and you don't really want to turn the computer into an overproduced toaster; that'd make a mess. You just want to cleanly zap it.

    If you can make the pulse short or weak enough (bonus points for a killer with an adjustable knob), it would probably not even blow immediately after activating, but successive days of applying a quick lunch-time pulse would, you know, really shorten the lifespan in that special hard-to-trace way.

    "I don't know, sir, it just up and died one day."
    "What's that smell?"



  • @blakeyrat said:

    110v systems are sooooo much more dangerous than the 220v systems in Europe.
     

    Generally speaking, in electrics, 110V isn't inherently safer than 220V just because it's a lot less.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    @stratos said:

    @blakeyrat said:

    What the?

    Is it common belief in Europe that breakers are brand new in the US?

     

    oh come on. We all know safety isn't something that america belives in when it comes to home electrics.

    Wha-huh? What kind of strange propaganda are you guys getting over there? If you're going to insult the US, do it on something that's actually insulting, like our embarrassing amount of TV viewing, or the significant fraction of the population that believes the Second Coming will happen in their lifetimes.

    Home electronics safety? Seriously? Not having breakers? These are the things you think of when you think "United States?" Has any Americans ever heard of anybody being injured, or killed, via unsafe home appliances?

    But, I see your point-- obviously our 110v systems are *sooooo* much more dangerous than the 220v systems in Europe.

     

    To my knowledge. you Rable still live in caves. Obviously you can't have a competent electrics network. LoL

     



  • Really? I thought places like America used a piece of wire without insulation and dependant on that melting to stop the building catching fire. Well, until someone replaces that piece of wire with a screw or other piece of tough conductive material, as they got fedup of replacing the wire. 



  • @dhromed said:

    Dear sir/madam,

     might I interest you in our special novelty item, the powered hub?

    We also have a more polished, luxury item available at a premium.

     

    Ah yes. I think that's what they refer to as Power over Ethernet, no?



  • @stratos said:

    To my knowledge. you Rable still live in caves. Obviously you can't have a competent electrics network. LoL

    you try finding a fitting word starting with R

     

    I have absolutely no idea what things or concepts you're referring to.



  • @dhromed said:

    @stratos said:

    To my knowledge. you Rable still live in caves. Obviously you can't have a competent electrics network. LoL

    you try finding a fitting word starting with R

     

    I have absolutely no idea what things or concepts you're referring to.

    It's obvious he's referring to watching every movie in compensation self-ruling.



  • @blakeyrat said:

    @dhromed said:
    @stratos said:
    To my knowledge. you Rable still live in caves. Obviously you can't have a competent electrics network. LoL

    you try finding a fitting word starting with R

    I have absolutely no idea what things or concepts you're referring to.
    It's obvious he's referring to watching every movie in compensation self-ruling.
    Could be, but I suspect it's a side-effect of the drug-enhanced propaganda he was remembering from his last 5 minute hate.  Incoherent babbling, word fitting, and other such side effects are known to occur in inferior propaganda techniques.



  • @stratos said:

    @blakeyrat said:

    What the?

    Is it common belief in Europe that breakers are brand new in the US?

     

    oh come on. We all know safety isn't something that america belives in when it comes to home electrics.

     

     

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Electrical_Code


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