The second tech team makes life worse for the first

A tech tale of how a second tech team was supposed to lighten the other team's workload -- until their incompetence was uncovered

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I refused to take part in a major upgrade that I was not informed of, in an environment that I didn't know, and for a corporation for which I wasn't even providing support.

As soon as I reached the office, I received a call from the B Team's manager, politely requesting me to do my part, though I still didn't know what they wanted me to do. I told him no. He started screaming and ordered me to do it. I refused once more, and he promised to call my manager and give me hell. My manager, thankfully, came from a technical background and took my side. Later, I learned that the B Team got somebody from the customer's IT team to do their job.

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A few days later, I went on vacation. When I came back, I got a request to investigate an incident with the new customer's tools. I got a hold of chat logs and command histories, and I was astonished at what I saw. While I was on vacation, the tool's primary server component failed, and it lost connection to some of its clients.

The B Team came to the rescue, but instead of simply recycling the server component -- which takes about 7 seconds -- they messed around with settings. They changed the TCP communications ports on the server, then recycled the server. The server came back up, but with the new settings, it couldn't communicate with any of the clients. At that point, the rescue team panicked and called the customer's IT team to explain the problem and get them to solve it. Of course, the problem was solved by restoring the original settings.

I left that company shortly after, but I got word that because of incidents like these, the customer was seriously considering rescinding the contract.

I understand the need for diplomacy and the fact that management may have been trying to solve the situation in ways I was not aware of -- all we saw were cosmetic attempts to make it look like they tried to fix the problem. But in these and other cases, the situation was so serious that there was no time for diplomacy. Scheduled backups were not taking place, and lack of maintenance was putting the customer's data at a very real risk. The B Team's incredible lack of basic monitoring came very close to destroying the customer's main production environment.

I guess you can't change things in large corporations, at least not if you're in the trenches. The problems with the B Team were known by our managers, who should have taken immediate action, diplomacy be damned. But to summarize it nicely: In an environment dominated by PR, appearances are valued the most -- until something breaks and the real price tag shows its face.

This story, "The second tech team makes life worse for the first," was originally published at Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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