Corporate goodfellas and the red tape

Feuds between departments all too often create inefficient work situations

I'm in the IT department at Company X, and at times it feels like a mob war with all the inexplicable infighting and bickering. Since I've worked at Company X for many years, my job spans many departments. I try to stay out of the crossfire, but here's a tale of a recent event that I was dragged into between the security team and PC support team.

Security sets up all accounts at our shop. Everything -- from e-mail to VPN to things I don't even know about -- is touched by this syndicate. I set up and maintain many of the security appliances and authentication servers, so I have rights equal to, and in some cases greater than, the security team -- one of the perks of working here longer than some of them have been out of diapers!

Company X had recently hired a PC support associate. New PC Guy was working through the red tape to get everything set up for his first on-call shift and submitted his request for remote access. It took three long weeks to get his paperwork signed off and a remote access account created, but security got it done under the wire -- New PC Guy's first on-call shift was the next day.

Upon testing the VPN access, it wouldn't connect. New PC Guy tried different methods and different VPN gateways, but it just would not connect.

That's when New PC Guy and another PC guy called me to have a look at it. Usually, this is something between the keyboard and the seat. I suggested they have the known working user attempt it from the same PC. I hung up the phone and assumed they'd resolved it.

Two hours later I got another call from New PC Guy. His account wouldn't work, but the co-worker's would. With New PC Guy still on the phone I checked the security logs. I immediately saw that he was authenticating but was not authorized on the VPN gateways. Upon examining his account further, the problem was obvious: He was trying to use VPN but had only been granted dial-in access. (Yes, we still have dial-in but our new laptops don't even have modems! Who under the age of 30 even bothers with a landline in this century?)

We conferenced in New PC Guy's boss and asked how the request form was submitted to security. We were assured it was for all-access, and the boss had included a note: "Just like my account." Apparently, that went unheeded.

These two sides have had a simmering feud for a long time so this was nothing new to see.

New PC Guy called security to find the person that had set up his account. Security Wise Guy just happened to be waiting for his own new laptop, being prepared by none other than New PC Guy. You would think that these two could work out an amenable solution within the bounds of corporate cooperation. I mean, tech folks have to take care of their own.

No dice! Security Wise Guy wouldn't negotiate. He wanted new paperwork submitted to go through the whole process again, which would mean another three weeks without VPN access.

We walked over to explain the issue to New PC Guy's boss. The boss called both Security Wise Guy and Security Wise Guy's boss, but nothing. The call ended without a happy resolution. New PC Guy was told by his boss, in no uncertain terms, not to deliver Security Wise Guy's new laptop for at least a week.

In the meantime, New PC Guy still did not have remote access. In the immortal words of "The Bobs" from "Office Space," I fixed the glitch. Fanning the flames of a mob war between the PC and security syndicates was just an entertainment bonus!


Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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