No facts allowed: Discussions about IT strategy are for sissies

Years of successful open source development are dumped after a directive comes down from on high -- without discussion allowed or reasons given

Another day, another project roadblock! So it goes in IT. But one of the worst is when managers insist on implementing a certain technology -- no matter what. The most infuriating aspect of the whole thing is not being listened to and not given a good reason for the decision. Finding middle ground or even just having a discussion about the options? In your dreams.

Back up some years to when I started working at a food manufacturer. The founder and CEO, who was there for the majority of my 24 years at the company, encouraged innovation and "using our brain." His favorite catchphrase was, "There's a better way. Let's find it!"

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I began in a different department, then was given IT duties in the late 1990s. We were a branch location, providing about 30 percent of the total products for the company. My boss gave me my first task in my new role: Put an intranet to work as a cost-saving measure.

The golden years

I savored my new job, and within a year had discovered the power of dynamic Web content. I tried ASP, but soon grew tired of its instability and cryptic error messages. On the advice of a corporate IT crony, I tried WAMP. Within six months I'd moved a dozen clunky paper apps over to the Web.

I learned more and more as time went by, such as how to make PHP communicate with Oracle and SQL Server. My boss was thrilled, productivity at our branch was up, and I was told my apps were the talk of the organization. I was invited to another branch location to meet with folks there to talk about building a stock approval app for them, which successfully streamlined one of their workflow processes; they raved about it.

I continued to learn and build even more, including an intrusion detection system, a production metrics app, and the company's first AD-aware Linux server. I also began deploying apps from Linux that provided single sign-on security via standard PC logins on XP machines.

Climate change

But after the company founder and CEO passed away, the new CEO had a different philosophy than his predecessor. Instead of innovation and "seeking a better way," he advised caution and treated new ideas with skepticism. The dynamic within the company started to shift accordingly.

One day I discovered I was under the spotlight of the corporate IT department. Until then, the IT groups in the different branches had worked pretty much independently from each other. But one day I was informed that an unadvertised decision had been reached some time ago to be a 100 percent Microsoft shop, and anything I'd built in PHP was subject to conversion to VB.net, preferably by me.

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