Monday, 26 May 2014

IT Lottery

So today I had to participate in one of the many little rituals of an enterprise IT project manager: Get someone signed up to my project time charge code.

I submitted the usual paperwork like I've done a number of times before, but this time I was told that the role I selected wasn't a role in the timesheet software, and neither was the individual's official job title. The individual is an employee of the client's company.

I felt somewhat smug that I was able to completely ignore the absurdity that an employee's job title isn't acceptable to the company's timesheet software. But then I realized what I was being asked to do: I had been told two titles that weren't acceptable to the timesheet system, but I had not been told what would be acceptable. I guess I'm supposed to randomly guess until I get the right answer.

Definitely a Dilbert moment. But then I asked myself, "Why would someone respond to me this way?" The person I was dealing with is a very nice, dedicated worker. They weren't just trying to make my life difficult.

I think it's because, in the enterprise IT world, there's no upside to providing service. An IT manager has too many demands, and not enough people to meet the demands. In addition, the path to promotion for the manager is through more responsibility, and the way to get that is by having more staff and a bigger budget. If you provide good service for the same personnel level, you're not meeting your boss's needs.

Also, there's no upside to taking responsibility. If you take responsibility, you can be blamed if, sometimes, you don't achieve the desired result. Better to leave all decisions up to someone else, and don't give them any help, in case they blame you if your help turns out not to be helpful.

This culture so permeates our business that it's not absurd to just tell someone, "You got it wrong," without giving so much as a hint as to what the right answer might be.

No wonder people have such low expectations of IT.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Gender Imbalance in IT -- It Wasn't Always Like This

I was in a meeting a couple of weeks ago at a client's office. This client still uses an IBM mainframe, and the meeting was about some mainframe activities for my project. I realized that four of the seven people in the room were women.

I think the whole mainframe department has slightly more men than women, but it's much closer to gender parity than most IT gatherings.

Then I thought back to my graduating class in Computer Science at the University of Saskatchewan in 1980. We were also close to gender parity.

This certainly shows that there's nothing preventing women from getting into and being successful in IT. What it shows is that, during decades when women were increasing in numbers in most professions, things were actually going in the other direction in IT -- women were being driven out of the field.