Printer predicament: Eager exec gets what he deserves

An exec barrels through with his new printer plan, ignoring all the obvious logistical nightmares IT predicts

Some phrases strike terror into the heart of any IT pro, especially if they're uttered by a higher-up who's used to getting their way.

Case in point: An incident from several years ago, when I was walking down the hall minding my own business and a muckity-muck in the company stopped me for a chat. He began by saying, "I have a friend …" Uh-oh.

The exec warmed up to his new favorite idea: Printers. He had learned about an amazing copier/printer that his friend sold. He declared that we certainly needed to get one. Why? Well, he thought it would be nice to have one in his end of the building so that he didn't have to walk the 50 feet to the print room shared by everyone on the floor.

A shiny new toy

However, all of us knew that this exec only used his PC for Web surfing and email. He didn't use the printer very much, but as it turned out, he was thinking past his own convenience, if not a bit blinded by his new favorite idea.

He proceeded to extol the virtues of the copier/printer, and one of the many items he listed was that the employees in accounting, whose offices were back by him, would be able to print their AP checks to this machine. It would save them, too, walking the 50 feet to the print room.

Our current setup was that all printing was sent to a print room, which contained a dedicated report printer and a dedicated check printer. There was no need to switch cartridges or paper as print jobs were dispersed to the appropriate printer from the software.

Logic and reason take a beating

I wasn't sure if he knew that our accounting group needed a special cartridge and paper for AP printing, so I pointed it out: "Because that accounting office does the paperwork for the 30 or so companies we own, we do print our own Magnetic Ink Character Recognition lines on our checks ...."

Before I could finish my sentence he jumped in, assuring me it would not be a problem -- his friend's printer could easily handle that.

I went on, "But that requires a special cartridge, and they usually run about 20 to 30 percent more than regular toner. It wouldn't be cost efficient to run reports with a MICR toner. I can't imagine that this printer has two cartridge slots."

He came back the next day and again assured me it was not a problem -- he had checked. And told me that, besides, the machine was to be delivered and set up the next day.

Well, when an exec wants something, it often happens at lightning speed.

Crash and burn

After the machine arrived, I went to see the tech unpacking it. Exactly as I expected, it could only accept one cartridge at a time and only had one 8.5-by-11-inch tray for paper. Every time we wanted to run checks, we would have to remove the regular toner cartridge and replace it with a MICR one, as well as remove the paper and insert the blank check stock.

This was not going to fly with the accounting group. Besides, no one wanted to announce and enforce to all the employees and departments trying to use that printer, "Hold your reports, I am running checks."

But sometimes the best option is to stay out of it and see how a situation plays out.

Not surprisingly, the accounting department did not choose to use the new, shared printer -- walking the extra 50 feet was much less hassle. Some employees at first used it for reports and the like, but the new purchase soon gained a reputation of "gobbling" toner and smearing pages if you copied more than 10 at a time. It wasn't too long before the new purchase devolved into a large, seldom-used machine taking up space on that end of the floor.

Sometimes we have to grin and bear it, as IT is not always granted a seat at the table. But there is satisfaction in being able to mutter under your breath, "I told you so."