Execs know best? Not at these companies

IT expertise is no match for execs' stubbornness and agendas, even under dire circumstances

Never mind the IT department’s expertise and recommendations. Never mind warnings of glaring inefficiencies that impact the bottom line. Never mind realistic project expectations. If the head honchos don’t want to hear of challenges, then improvements obviously won’t happen.

As many—if not most—tech pros can tell you, head honchos can be a stubborn lot. In fact, they may find it easier to pretend problems or needs don’t exist, leaving IT to scramble for a solution. Here are three of those stories.

Hot datacenter? Don't care

It’s the 1990s, and an IT pro newly in charge of the backups discovers that all of the source code for several business-critical customer applications is stored in the SCCS on an ancient IBM AIX box. On the monitor is a large, handwritten sign that says, "DO NOT POWER OFF." The machine and drives are so old that the staff is legitimately concerned that the units won't power up again. The hardware and OS version are no longer supported by the vendor either.

It's not a good omen ... nor is the temperature in the room, which is on the top floor in what used to be a canning factory and turns stifling hot in the summer. The IT pro investigates options, but the CFO puts a stop to all efforts and says it’s impossible to put in A/C. Translation: They don’t want to spend the money.

The track record isn't encouraging either. When the roof leaked earlier that year, the head honchos casually issued plastic tarps to cover the computer equipment before finally calling a repair team. Even in the face of disaster, the head honchos don’t seem to understand the risks and have no answer when the IT pro asks how data would be restored if the decrepit AIX machine eventually died.

The IT pro got out before the situation blew up, but not before witnessing a potentially lethal combination indifference and incompetence.

Full story: Don’t turn that machine off!

Waste money, good. Tech ideas, bad

A company owns a large building, parts of which it rents out to other firms. The structure is not designed for multiple tenants, so the owners secure the inner doors with different keys for the various companies within the space.

But protecting the entire building is tough because it’s in an out-of-the way industrial park and does not have good exterior lighting—a trespasser could break in unseen. The owners decide to connect the only entrance with a system where an alarm automatically sounds unless the employee punches in a bypass code. The owners provide the necessary info to everyone who needs it.

Under this arrangement, the alarm goes off after hours two or three times a month, and the not-so-lucky IT pro who lives a few miles away has to let the police in every time. They never find anything suspicious, and nobody who works in the building has an answer. Regardless, the company is charged for each police visit.

The owners deny a request to install an internet camera at the door—they say it isn’t necessary. Meanwhile, the security bills keep piling up.

Years later, a renting firm moves out, and the alarms all but stop. It turns out an employee of that firm sometimes forgot to punch out when leaving the building, therefore setting off the alarm.

Who knows how much money the owners wasted on false alarms, all because an internet camera was simply too practical?

Full story: Alarm bells ring while the boss turns a deaf ear

When techies are treated like puppets

New to the company, the IT pro notices that the head honchos expect everyone to agree with them, no debate, input, or follow-up accepted. Those who don’t agree are ignored, or they're demoted and replaced by someone who does. It’s clear that the head honchos are mostly concerned that people accede to what they say, whether or not it’s right or realistic.

The IT pro is put in charge of a project to investigate intermittent blackouts at the company. Due to space constraints, installing generators isn’t an option. The answer is to migrate the main site and disaster recovery site to two different datacenters.

The plans proceed apace, but when the head honchos ask for a completion date, they don’t like the answer. They request a shorter time span, but the IT pro tells them the job can't be completed in the window they want. The backlash is swift, and the IT pro is replaced.

Safely ensconced in another company, the IT pro keeps an ear to the grapevine and finds out what happens at the old job.

Project Leader No. 2 survives a short time, then gets canned. Project Leader No. 3 is more willing to tell the head honchos what they want to hear and adopts an aggressive timeline wherein nobody on the team can take a day off for several months.

But PL3 runs into a hurdle: The company needs to get the MPLS connection from the telecom vendor to connect all the sites to the new location—a process that takes at least three months. PL3 decides to both switch telecom providers and move to another datacenter location a bit cheaper and farther away. He cancels the service that was already in place, but also loses the lead time required to make the needed changes.

In all, it takes more than a year to get the new datacenter up and running, despite the initial claims of three months. Despite missing the deadline, PL3 is not replaced. Compliance with the head honchos' demands seems to matter the most at the company, no matter the results.

Full story: How to get ahead in IT: Always agree with the boss