Porkchop Sandwiches

So, this week was going to be “rant” week.  However, I’ve been too lazy to actually sit down and write anything.  It’s not that I don’t have any ideas; it’s just that I haven’t had the energy to expand on the basic ideas.  Well, that all changes today.  I introduce you to end of the week rant.  Hopefully this won’t become a reoccurring thing, but I can’t promise anything.  I’m just calling it as I see it.

Without further ado, let’s introduce our first topic:  Work.  Ah yes, that wonderful thing we waste (sic?) the vast majority of our lives at.  This rant isn’t about the concept of work, but more or less my work scenario.  I’m aware that my boss read this site occasionally, but whatever, I need to vent.  From now on, the people’s and my workplace’s name have been changed for their protection.  However, simple sleuthing can find out at least where I work, and hell, most, if not all the people that read this are aware of who these people and places are.

In essence, I work for an IT consulting company.  The consultants (which I am one of) are hired out by other companies that don’t have the resources to hire their own IT personnel.  Obviously this isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, there are many companies that are able to do this and turn a nice profit.  However, in my case, my company isn’t in the real world where profit is the goal.  Instead, the company I work for is actually part of the government, and we are outsourced by other departments.  This causes a lot of changes to the model you may have been envisioning.  Instead of worrying about maximizing profit, the company I work for is more about just staying within the budget.  On the surface these two things may seem similar.  However, in practice, it’s not always the case.  As we all know, within government agencies, there is a lot of “fluff,” for lack of a better word.  Also, within the government, there are many inefficiencies.

So, for those of you that aren’t aware, I recently moved from department A, to a half time position at department B & C.  Be aware that I didn’t leave my parent company, but merely that I’m being outsourced to different departments now.  So, while I was in department A I was working a lot on package deployment via Group Policy Objects which are contained in a Microsoft Active Directory.  I’m not going to into what all this contains, we’ll just leave it at I had to create a bunch of these different software packages (Microsoft Office, Adobe Suite, RealPlayer, Anti-Virus Solutions, etc) for software installs on computers.  Well, apparently department A was one of the few departments that was actually leveraging Active Directory in such a way, and, well, it’s “the right” way to do things.  Needless to say, because everything became automated in department A, my job duties became smaller and smaller.  For those of you who know me, realize that I don’t enjoy sitting around at work being bored.  I’d rather go home and not get paid.  So, I went and talk to my boss, asking to be moved someplace with more of a challenge.

I had only been working for my company or less than a year, so I wasn’t sure how everything worked out.  I had a vague idea from what other people had told me, but that was about it. Well, department A was quite well off, in terms of money.  They were actually a self-serving dept, so they had lots of money to do things with.  Needless to say this is not true in the vast majority of other depts.  I knew this in advance, but I was all about the challenge, money be damned.

Well, exactly *1* week before I was supposed to move, I finally had a meeting with my boss about where I was going to go.  I actually knew the person at department B, so I made my own meeting to meet with him and find out exactly what was going on, etc.  However, for department C, no introduction meeting was scheduled (who knows about planned) until I actually emailed my boss and asked where I was supposed to go and who I was supposed to meet on my first day there.  At least I knew what I was going to be doing at both of the new departments: using Group Policy Objects to deploy software in lab scenarios.

Well, I”m now three or so weeks into working at the new depts.  After the second day, I received an email from a co-consultant at department B that said he’s leaving the company we work at in two weeks.  Now, normally, this wouldn’t be a problem.  However, I’d say around 75% of the things in department B are done via custom scripts and software that he wrote or installed.  Again, this wouldn’t be a big deal; however, 50% of that custom stuff didn’t have any documentation written about it.  Needless to say his last two weeks were filled with him trying to tell us everything we needed to know, plus get documentation written for everything.  Well, as you can imagine, that didn’t happen.  Now, the consultants and I at department B are tearing our hair out trying to figure out what everything does.  Now, as if this isn’t bad enough, this is the same way *all* the departments that have consultants hired from my company are.  Not necessarily will they all be exactly the same as department B, but there is no specific ways that our company tells our consultants how things should be done.  Instead, they hire the consultants, and then just throw them into the wild.

Now, since I, essentially, work for a consulting company, wouldn’t it make sense to have a similar way in which all your consultants do things?  Is it me?  Well, the way it works now, is that if a department is complaining about a consultant, or if a consultant isn’t happy (like my position), they can easily be moved.  Now, when a new consultant moves in, it’s like starting from scratch because a) you have to figure out what the hell the previous consultant was doing, and b) the new consultant then starts trying to make his new department like what he was doing in his old department.  Now, do we see the inefficiency going on?  Depending on how good or bad or un-understandable the new department is, you can lose months trying to fix or change things.  However, the consultant that left, is now doing whatever he feels is best at his new place.  To break it down, nothing actually gets better because according to our companies stance, there is no better (which we all know is a load of crap).

Well, that’s my main beef with department B.  The fact that I could actually be working on something relevant to the department, instead of figuring out what the hell is actually going on because there’s no centralized being saying, “Hey, as ACME Consultants, this is how we do things.”  Now, lets move on to department C.

Department C is basically all lab scenarios.  Therefore, I’m doing almost exactly the same thing as what I was doing at department A, which I came from.  Heck, I’m even doing packages that are the same in both locations.  Now, I’m definitely not stupid enough to do the same work in both areas, I’m merely copying the packages from department A to department C.  However, both of these departments are fairly well off in terms of money, so they have plenty of money to store packages and pay for the backups on those packages and servers.  For a lot of departments, though, that extra money just isn’t an option.  Now, what I’ve proposed to my company, is that we setup a centralized repository for these packages for everyone with the company’s consultants to be able to use.  In my opinion, packages deployed by Group Policy Objects are “the thing” to do.  At department A, a computer rebuild would talk the better part of a day.  However, once the packages were put into place, a computer rebuild takes, maybe, an hour.  Even though submitting this proposal early in the week, I have yet to hear anything back.  How can this be bad for my company?  You’re providing a new service, that no one else is offering, PLUS, it’s saving almost a day of work PER computer.  With this new service, the consultants don’t even have to waste their departments’ time learning how to make these packages, nor do they have to waste their departments’ money purchasing the software to make the packages.  In essence, they only need to learn how to deploy them because everything else is done.

As you can tell, mostly from the length of my post, is that I’m more than a little frustrated with my upper management.  It seems as if they want a centralized form of consultants, but without the centralization.  Now, what are the benefits of using such a consultant service?  You don’t have to hire your own people.  Now, I’m sure I’m missing other things, but from the three departments I’ve worked for, I can’t see anything else.  There are also other things that are missing from a consultant company: formal proposals on what needs to be done to a department, plans to accomplish these things by, and official, in writing, service level agreement (some departments are better than others at this last point).  How is a consultant supposed to say, “No, I can’t help you with that,” or, “Yes, I can help you with that,” if nothing is ever written down?

What it all breaks down to in my mind, is that I don’t think the company I work for would work if it were exposed to the the real world.  I understand that it’s not designed to be run in the private sector.  However, if you’re starting a “company” in such a scenario as this, why wouldn’t you look at private sector companies that do the same thing?  Apparently they are doing something correctly in order to not go bankrupt.  Most of the time it’s something simple too.

Hopefully the next rant won’t be nearly so long.  Sorry.

Categorized as work