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Friday, March 22, 2019

A Case Of a Dumb Decision: How IT Screwed Us. Again

A Case Of a Dumb Decision: How IT Screwed Us. Again.
I don’t like mismanagement.
I don’t like seeing it when it happens, and of course, I don’t like when it affects my everyday life.
But I like writing about it.
It gives me interesting material.
However the number of the examples of mismanagement has been gradually growing.
Stuffing them in one post would make that post  way to long. So I, devised a series.
This is my third post on events of a mismanagement in or around “our world”.

And the second one is
Venting Out About Customer Services.

Also, since I got some new "material", I started a new post on the matter https://www.cognisity.how/2019/04/Management.html

This post has two parts. Part I describes one specific case of mismanagement. Part II offers some generalization.
Part I So, here it is.
I love touchscreen monitors.
I’ve been using them for many years, many different models – in time, they become bigger, brighter, more sensitive, more functional.
Several month ago our IT decided to install a new generation of touchscreen monitors.
How did they decide on the brand, why did they decide the retire the old one – that I do not know – no one in IT asked me or anyone else our opinion about it.
This is how IT have been operating for a decade – they just make a decision and then force everyone go with it.
When I teach, I use a touchscreen monitor – and I already said that.
But I never use the built-in computer to which a monitor is connected.
I always bring my own and connect a monitor to it.
First, there is always a chance that if I prepare my notes on my computer and them project on another one, the format will be screwed.
Plus, I like having a control over applications I install and delete. I like experimenting and I do it rather often.
My latest experimentation made my office look like a PC storage.
 
I am experimenting with online tutoring that simultaneously is being broadcasted. So, I need a computer for me, for “a student”, for broadcasting, and for watching that broadcast (I want to designate one computer for each process, to decrease the probability of a system failure).
So, paraphrasing (you know who), "I know a thing or two, because I’ve done a thing or two".
But many years ago IT decided to make all built-in computers passport protected for “security” reasons.
Of course, “security” was and is just an excuse.
The real reason is to demonstrate how highly in demand they are, how busy they are (good for an annual report) and to satisfy the need to be in control (or the fear to lose the control). There are other means to maintain security.
But now everyone who uses a built-in computer and wants to have some new software installed on it has to setup a meeting with IT representative, meet, install, and let IT do the magic of entering a password. And then, to make any changes – call them again. And then when some software starts popping up a window requesting to install an update – and that happens A LOT – call them again.
This is all very annoying and for me it’s just wasting my time.
I have more experience in that area than IT, or at least some of them.
My first job after graduation was a technician at a university computer center to serve large IBM-like machines.
And later in my career I ran a small but vital IT department at a state institution for teacher professional development. I built computers by my own hands, upgraded them, configured them, serviced their hardware and software, tried and developed various techniques for using them in education.
Even now, when I don’t do it for the money anymore, sometimes I do it for my colleges – who run to me first, not to IT, if they have any issues. I try to discouraged then from that, thought; I believe if IT is paid for their functions, they have to do their functions. So, gradually I’ve been diverting the most of the help requests to a phone number on a wall – the existence of which was one of the results of my long tug-of-war with IT.
I have an assumption that people in IT hate me for many encounters when I had to force them into doing something they did not know how to do, or did not want to do. And in a way, I am proud of that.
Two the latest examples are related to new touchscreen monitors recently installed in auditoria.
The first one has a happy ending.
This is an email I sent.

“Hello,
the new touch screen monitors have buttons assigned to specific functions.
However, those buttons work appropriately only when faculty uses a generic login.
If faculty wants to use a personal login (e.g. due to security, or using cloud) the buttons do not work anymore.”

It is a very good illustration of how IT thinks – it doesn’t.
They take down one piece of equipment and place another one. Done.
How will that affect the users?
Don’t care.
But the good thing, they reacted. The solution was actually very simple, I even learned from a guy how to program monitor buttons. Of course, I could have read the manual, but why should I use my time? I would rather make them use their and do their job.

The second case is still in progress.

The fastest way to let you know the story is just to let you read my email exchange on the matter.

“Hello,
during the era of Smart Podium monitors I was able to connect my PC to a monitor in any room and use it.
As I just checked, currently this option is not available for Wacom monitors.
I would like to have IT making this option available, for example, but installing an additional relevant USB connection in every position.
Thank you,
VV

“Dr. Voroshilov,
I wanted to let you know that we have received your request and will be looking into what is needed from a technical standpoint to enable this functionality. I will also be reaching out to the University Registrar who is the space owner, and ultimately the owner of the technology, about this request. We will need their approval before proceeding with any changes, certainly for ones that have cost impact, which this would. I will follow up with more info once I have a chance to review the technical requirements and speak with the Registrar's office.”

“Hi **** (the department manager),
I'd like to make a point, to use this case as an illustration of a general approach of **** technology department.
They never ask anybody before they make any changes.
They just do it and just let's faculty deal with the consequences of  their decision.
When I saw the new monitor the first time, as a prototype, I played with it and I informed IT that  some faculty - who like using them - would miss one feature that a new monitor does not have - adding a new slide right into the presentation.
IT management people haven't thought about it at all.
Eventually they have found a way to figure out the issue on a face-to-face basis.
However it is absolutely clear that they have never started from doing a study on who would use touch screen monitors, in what manner, how many people use them, etc.
On the contrary, I see every day different faculty from different departments using the equipment differently, and I can see that some faculty do not use the computers installed in the rooms, instead their bring their own computers, or tablets, or laptops.
But I do not know if they would like to use their own computer with new monitors because I haven't done that particular study.
But I believe that IT should have done this study – and they have not.
However, I – personally – would like to use new monitors with my own computer because for many years of my teaching I always was using my own computer with the monitor installed in the room.
I was planning to do it again this summer.
So, it was I who checked the new monitors and realized that now this new monitor does not allow me to have it connected to my own computer.
So, I sent my request to IT.
They sent their response back to me.
After that I sent my email to you (the department manager).
But then I also sent a new short letter to IT, basically saying that if I had an access to a lock to a podium I could do everything myself and practically for free.
Because there's nothing really special about it. The monitor is openly sold on the internet, anyone can buy it and the installation is trivial.
It is not a technical issue.
It is a management issue.
I'm pretty sure IT response basically means “We're not going to do it because we don't want to”. This is how IT always operates.
The email they sent back to me is just a pile of excuses which prevents them from actually doing anything.
This is what management is:
The mission (the reason for existence) of management is establishing healthy development of the governed system, preventing degradation of the system, and facilitating its progressive evolution.
The goal of management is optimizing exchanges between the governed system and the environment.
The function of management is making decisions.
This is how IT management should have operated.
1. List all major functions of the old equipment.
2. List all major functions of the new equipment
3. Compare and make sure the new equipment would at least support the same functions as the old one.
The did not do any of that.
But the evidence proves that the new equipment has fewer functions than the old one.
So, why did they do it, if they spent money and time to degrade the options the system offers to faculty?
The answer is – because they did not think about it in the first place.
Why?
Because they did not care.
Because the only goal of this "innovation" was to demonstrate the existence of "innovations", the activities - "See, boss, we move things ahead." It is a standard case of a fake innovation.
This IS the culture within IT.
I find the way IT operates is unprofessional.
But since you didn't want me to tell them anything directly, I'm telling it to you.
I just want to say for the record I don't want the department – any department  – to pay for anything in this situation.
By degrading the options, IT screwed up, and it is their responsibility to fix it.
They could have avoided this issue if they would have planned ahead, and thought of possible outcomes of their actions.
Maybe, after being pressed again and again, IT management will eventually learn to consult with faculty before making any decisions on the equipment that is involved in teaching process.
In the end, no one in IT department is an expert on teaching.
Of course, if IT will not do anything about this issue, it will not ruin my classes at all.
I always have a backup.
I still can use one of the old monitors which they are replaced with new ones.
The reason I write to you a very long letter is to help you, because now you don't have to do anything - you can just forward my letter, and say that you are disagree with it, but you feel that IT should be informed that such an opinion exists among  personnel.
Of course, you will decide how to proceed.
On the plus side, I always welcome new material for my blog.
Thank you!”

Part II
What this means.
For me, this whole case is not about monitors.
It demonstrates – again! – the very low level of management. And if you have checked the other two posts, you can see that mismanagement is not a fluctuation, it’s a rule.
The very poor quality of management is greatly reflected in the very poor quality of many services and products starting from cloth and appliances. Nowadays, if you buy almost any kitchen device it stinks of chemical smell. Ten years ago it would happen only if you would buy something on a flee market. Today 98 % of devices made of cheep stinky plastic. The quality of many roads including main pathways is dismal. The streets, even central streets are dark at night. Despite the popular belief the health system in U.S. has the access to less drugs or medical devices than Europe has, and the same drugs are much cheaper in other countries than in U.S.. "Paradoxically" Americans consume on average 4 times more medications than Europeans. Opioid epidemics is solely American "invention". This is the result of management in healthcare system.
Just a brief survey of the latest economic news demonstrates a very "strange" managing style leading to serious economic troubles.



For me, one of the most shocking discoveries is the quality of housing. 
People buy houses or apartments made of "cardboard" for a price that in other countries would allow buy three or fore solid-brick places. For example, in city of Perm, that is of size of Boston, the price of one square foot in a new building is about $100, that is 5 to 10 times less than in Boston. Price difference between food, medication or housing cannot be placed just on difference in economic status; Big Mac in Boston cost just twice more than Big Mac in Perm; but one square foot cost at least 5 times more, MRI up to 10 times more, such a medication as atorvastatin close to 10 times more.
Saying "Nothing is good or bad but, by comparison" works here very well; until people can see high-quality products/services they do not know that what they pay for is sh!t.
When I meet a contractor (an electrician, a plumber), I always ask at some point what do they think about the quality of tools or parts they use. And the answer is always the same – it has declined.
Thirty years ago someone very smart – and I mean it! – decided “Why making expensive high quality products, people cannot compare the products anyway, so let’s make cheap low quality products which will need a replacement very soon”.
And today thirty years later – it is almost impossible to find a good quality product or service.
Recently I posted a 30 second video about rusty “stainless” scissors. And this is a comment I got.
I could not imagine this about Tesla. But then I though about Blue Horizon disaster, Boeing 737 Max, and the recent explosion near Huston. Almost all disaster like that are men-made, they are usually the result of several bad decisions.
The tragedy of this situation is not just low-quality products.
The tragedy is that during thirty years of low-quality management professional population has simply lost people who knew how to make high quality products.
When a person has never tasted anything  sweet, it is impossible to explain to that person what a chocolate is.
When people have not seen high-quality products, they don't know that the product they buy is  just s#it.
When a "manager" has never been taught what a management is, that manager does not manage but just regulates.
This is how a manager should think: "Maybe the product is not perfect, but is already really good, and we can make it better a little bit in the future."
This is how "managers" think today: "This product is sh!t. But people don't know that. And we can make it a little bit less sh!#ty when we get too many complains"
Or, "So, we replaced equipment with new one that has less functions than the old had. So what? It 's new!"
And what is even worse, there are no anymore managers left who know how to manage – in general, and how to manage the production of high quality products and services.
This loss cannot be easily recovered.
But don't you dare to say someone "you doing it wrong". It's not nice! But that is a different issue.


Appendix I
Starting this blog was a mistake.
Not the blog itself, but using Google engine for that.
It just sucks.
Unfortunately, I am too lazy to move the whole blog now to my webhosting site. The blog was an experiment, and this experiment now has the life of its own.
I have some pages with many small pictures placed on both sides of a page.
When the number of pictures go over 8-ish, adding more pictures takes forever.
It never places a picture at the place you want it to be placed. So you have to painfully fiddle with it. When eventually you manage to place it more or less where you want it, the whole formatting of a text may change.
If you copy a text from an external editor and paste it into the blog page, the format may suddenly change – and not just of the text you just pasted, for other parts of the page as well!
When I write my reply to the first comment I wanted to take screen picture of that. But my comment was too "horizontal" and the picture was too skewed. I wanted to edit my response - but could not - editing did not work. The symbol is there but clicking on it does nothing.
OK, I decided to remove my comment and retype it - easy-peasy. But when I confirmed "delete" Google deleted the whole combination, not just my reply but the original comment with it.
F^ck Google, what do you do!
OK, it's fixable, I can re-enter the comment again - I remember it, and I have a picture of it (used it on LinkedIn). I just need to do it fast, and as anonymous. Easy say than do. I need to go through captcha verification. "Click on all squares with a traffic light". Do you mean just a light, or it also includes the wires or posts holding it? If a tiny piece of it seen in another square, do I need to click on it, too? 

The design was so poor, I had to go literally through dozen captcha. Who wrote it?!
I already mentioned that I like using voice typing. It is convenient, it saves time
But that one also sucks.
I have AT&T, and we all know it drops calls more often than infants drop toys. Meaning, it has a very spotty signal (and that is the least of its issues). When a signal is very week, Android tells me that speech recognition is not available. OK. But what I was downloading offline dictionary for? It is right there, on the phone, use it! Nope. This options skipped the mind of the designers.
Things get even worse because I speak two languages. To demonstrate what language I want to use, I set the keyboard to the language I want to use. And yet, this freaking Android decides on its own what it is hearing, and types absolutely nonsense jibber-jabber. I don’t even mention other “little” things which people call “convenience design” which could have been included, but – not.
And we are talking here about Google(!) - one of the largest and richest companies in the world of information technologies, a.k.a. IT, and in the world in general.
So, when I see low level IT management in much smaller institutional entities, I am not surprised, no. I just disappointed.
The final point is simple, any issues with a design of a product, or of a service is the result of a poor management over the development of that product or that service.
It is always a manager – not a designer, not a coder, not a developer – who sets the target functions and who approves the final design.
It is always a manager who needs to be judged for every blunder.
A fish always rots from the head down.

Appendix II 
Another side of a mismanagement is replacing old and functional products with new ones that have many additional features - features that no one needs! But this allows to crank up the price, still simultaneously decreasing the quality of production.
Incidentally, this week’s “New Rules” (Bill Maher on HBO) was exactly about this so-called “reversed improvement”; when it looks like an improvement, but in reality, just a useless feature to move the price up. In this case, mismanagement comes in a form of pretending being an innovative manager – the activity for the sake of activity. In a way it is simply faking being a manager to make an impression on the bosses so they would keep you.

Note: due to limited space (too long) this post continues on another page at https://www.cognisity.how/2019/04/Management.html
 

Appendix III: more on management, what it is and how it functions
As a manager, I don't have a management style, and I don't think anybody should.
I don’t think terms like style, fad, stylish, fancy, fashionable should be used for describing management.
As a manager, I have a managing strategy.
There are 2 types of managers: “politicians” and “practitioners”.
For “a politician” the number one question is always “how would this decision affect my power?” “A politician” hires people who are best for him/her.
For “a practitioner” the number one question is always “how would that decision affect the well-being of my system?” “A practitioner” hires people who are best for the job, for the position.
I am a “practitioner” manager. And believe in the power of a team.
A team is a group of people united by a common goal.
A common goal is not the same as a common mission. People may have a common mission but not being members of a team. For example, the Lunar Mission had many different teams.
A mission is a reason for existence of the system. Take it out of the system and the system is not needed anymore, and can be easily removed.
And a goal is that benchmark which has to be reached in order to fulfill the mission.
For example a mission of a scientific institution is advancing science.
A mission of an institution of higher education is “advancing” people; preparing people for a success in a certain professional field.
To fulfill that mission an institution of higher education has to function in a specific way; the main function an educational institution is teaching.
An effective managing strategy is based on the application of scientific method to managing. When a scientist begins a study, every research begins from observations. It’s not just passive watching, it involves deliberate activities as well. For example, if you want to observe Brownian motion you need to make a microscope in use it.
A manager has to know his/her people. That requires asking questions, many questions. Asking a question is like taking a blood sample to evaluate the state of a body. Everyone who: 1. Has required credentials and experience; 2. Can talk in full paragraphs (able to establish strong communication); 3. Reflects (able to adjust actions) is fit for the job he or she needs to do.
A manager has to set the mission, establish goals, and then a manager has to help people to formulate their goals, if they have goals, to clarify them, if the goals are clear, a manager helps to establish steps for achieving those goals, if the strategy is clear, a manager helps with achieving those goals, that includes providing resources, training, and that may require interactions with people and managers from the outside.


4 comments:

  1. Dude, YOU SUCK!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous dude, you are coward.
      But, thank you! I welcome all comments.
      Of course, would be nice to have a more specific feedback,
      what sucks, where I suck, why,
      you know,
      grownup stuff.

      Delete
  2. I don’t know about you, but when I swim my brain works like on steroids. I finished this comment, and the Appendix – in my mind – during my pool time. Then I dictated some basic ideas while driving, it helps no to forget the general just. And then hours later I finished the work.
    I am sure not many readers noticed that this blog is “an experiment”. So far it does not give me much of material, but sometimes I hit the touchdown. Like this time.
    “Dude, YOU SUCK!”
    The thing is that when I published this post, I sent a link to an IT guy.
    And soon I found this comment
    This comment is priceless.
    It represents a very common reaction to a frustration rooted into tug-of-war between looking at yourself in a mirror and not liking what you see. You know – that’s you. But you also know – that’s not how you see yourself in your won head. Hence – frustration.
    Different people act differently when they are frustrated.
    But this reaction is one of the most common ones.
    We observe here a person who is biologically an adult.
    But the mental level of that person is the same as of an 8-th grader.
    “Hey, Tyler, you did this problem all wrong.
    And you, …, you …, your shirt is funny!”
    Which is just another confirmation of the general idea of this post.
    People, including in management, cannot handle any discomfort related to their social position.
    Any critical note they consider as a threat, as an attack. But that is not even a real problem.
    The real problem is that they even cannot defend their position using logical arguments.
    So, all they can do is an emotional outburst.
    “Dude, YOU SUCK!”

    ReplyDelete
  3. It happened again!
    As soon as I jumped into a pool, I've got an idea for this comment.
    By the end of my swim this comment was completed.
    That feedback “Dude, you suck” turned out to be very fruitful for my brain.
    This time it pushed my thinking into the direction of “normal v. abnormal’.
    Every society has intrinsic understanding of what is “normal”.
    And “normal” does not mean “correct”.
    “Normal” means “commonly accepted”, normal is something that does not excite the feeling of confusion, does not feel like a challenge, ubiquitous, accepted by the vast majority of a population.
    However, the notion of what is normal and what is not depends on culture, and it changes, it evolves.
    Human history in general, and history of science in particular offer numerous examples of changes of what “normal” means.
    For example, there was a time when it was normal to say that the Sun is orbiting the Earth. People who would say the opposite were clamed mentally ill or heretics.
    There was a time when it was normal for a man whose advances were rejected by a woman to claim that woman a witch and make her burned on a stick. Only then when the population of women significantly declined men decided to change to a new normal by accepting the fact that sometimes they cannot force a woman into submission.
    When the normal is established, any deviation from it is, naturally, not-normal, abnormal, or “sick”.
    In health science, sickness or illness is literately a deviation of a state of a body/mind from a normal state (and that is why it must be treated! Sometimes, using any means, including mental asylums, lobotomy, or correction camps).
    My media interactions on my blog, on my Twitter and Facebook accounts, and on LinkedIn are not seen by many people as a normal behavior.
    That is why a natural reaction of an average reader to this post would be
    “Dude, you are sick”.

    ReplyDelete