Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"Responsible" does not mean "At fault"

Sometimes a process defines an organization. Rarely, organization guides a process.
Like any massive national mega-corp, my company has quite a few different I.T. groups all responsible for different facets of the colorful jewel that is "busted computers".
I was hired onto the "Logical Workstations" team. Actually, I'd have seniority over everyone else on that team if I'd started two weeks earlier because it it just that new.
We are responsible for the servers in our new virtual computing environment. These servers don't exist yet, and since they are virtual anyway they may never really exist. But the organization has fumbled along on an older platform which breaks every time it gets patched.
I announced early on that no group but ours would ever patch our servers in our new and beautiful enclave.
Unfortunately, the group which is responsible for patching the old junk listened.
Now we have about three weeks to implement the latest security patches or we lose some pretty big government business. Except that it took two and a half weeks for the other team to fling that particular hot potato to us.
And we don't have access to their automatic patching system.
So we have to manually patch a bunch of servers. No big deal, right?
Wait! There is an audit going on, so the work can't be done until Friday. In fact, I'm not allowed to log on to the servers until Friday night after business hours. They have to be (according to procedure) tested, patched and back in service before the next scan on Monday.
I went to the server owner and asked for access to the dedicated Test environment.
There isn't one. Never has been one.
Just for fun, I repeated this line of questioning:

Me: "I'm going to need access to the DoD Production Test Environment immediately."

Everyone I talked to: "The what now?"

After about forty-five minutes, I started giggling.
I attended a conference call later where we went over the paperwork related to the patches in mind-numbing detail.
When asked if I had any questions or concerns, I replied that I was fine with the paperwork but laid out my concerns in this manner:
"Basically, the server team didn't want to do it so they flung it on us, only they haven't provided any mechanism to test or deploy these patches and they don't respond to my email. What was supposed to take a team of professionals weeks to do I have to do in a couple of hours. There is no way to test any of this with no risk of user impact and the company is out millions of dollars if this screws up. While the server team has been responsible, suddenly it is all on me because they said they didn't want it. I'd like to transfer to the server team. Before Friday."
The response was a stunned silence and assurances that all would be well. Also, "Welcome aboard."
Some days I feel like I'm wearing only one roller skate. While I may feel tall and move quickly, it is only in tiny circles.

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