How many CFOs does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Bean counters somehow complicate even the simplest tasks, as one techie learns when moving a fax machine

How long does it take to move a fax machine from one location to another in the same building? Normally about 15 minutes -- 30 tops. Of course that assumes you're working under efficient management. The following story, which happened a few years ago, exemplifies how bureaucratic red tape can take a normally quick and easy task and drag it out much longer than is acceptable.

At the root of this issue was the CFO of our company, who liked to fix problems with a broad brush while micromanaging every detail. If a new policy was put in place, the changes were far-reaching, inefficient, and cumbersome. Witness: his purchasing rules.

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In the past, some employees had misused the company credit card. Rather than just reprimand the few employees who had abused the system, the CFO decided that nobody had access to the company credit card anymore. Also taboo was buying an item yourself and expensing it since this method had also been mishandled. Instead, acquisitions would be made via purchase orders or paid for by company checks.

Now to the fax machine. As we all know, moving a fax machine is straightforward: Power it off, unplug the power and phone lines from the unit, and transport it to the new location. Next, you move the phone line to the new spot so that the fax machine has the same number -- the one printed on business cards. Finally, hook everything back up.

In this case, the tricky part was moving the phone line. IT at that point hadn't moved analog phone lines -- those jobs had been left to outside vendors. But the CFO had put a freeze on any unnecessary expense and was ruthless in determining what fit the category. My boss and I talked over the options and figured it'd be easiest and fastest if IT -- or, rather, I moved the fax machine.

To do so, we needed a punchdown tool, but did not own one. My manager gave me the go-ahead to order one because it'd come in handy for other tasks, such as punching in more cables for the patch panels. We'd save money in the long run.

My mistake at this point was thinking it'd be easy to find the tool. At the time, our firm had a credit line with only one company, which I immediately found out didn't sell it. I had to either set up a line of credit with a different company that sold the tool so that it could accept our purchase orders, or I'd need to find a vendor that would accept our company check. The first option would entail a lengthy approval process, so I decided it'd be faster to find a vendor that accepted company checks.

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