A part of my IT department is at war.
Like many large organizations, we’re really quite behind the curve in a number of ways. One of these ways is unquestionably our poor collection and usage of assorted analytics, in particular web analytics, as relates to many of our web based employee tools. That’s not to say that we have none: our major employee intranet portal uses a built-in tool that is absolute garbage, and we have installed on prem an older package that could do slightly better, but it’s very difficult to use, our in-house support for it is poor, and it hasn’t met our needs in a very long time. Because I want to try to avoid making this too identifiable, we’ll call this Tool A.
Our installation of Tool A is a major revision out of date. Due to the way it was architected, until shockingly recently it was not even able to pick up data from users logging in outside of the corporate network (a major fucking problem as we try to track mobile users, for instance). The range of data it can collect is behind even free tools available today. And most amusingly, our business partners have gone rogue and are installing their own, separate analytics tools to gather data out of annoyance at Tool A’s difficulties. Nevertheless, the team who manages Tool A (badly) claims to all and sundry that Tool A is our “standard” and that all applications should be required to use it.
I’m sure you can tell that I can’t stand Tool A. I have been complicit in assisting our business teams migrate to other analytics platforms, which as it turns out have been everything for them that Tool A is not. I have banged the drum that Tool A is garbage, that it is out of touch with our needs, etc. I have also pointed out that the hugely robust and immensely popular Tool B is available to us… one of our divisions has an enterprise license that would cover our needs. With it we would have some learning curve due to its complexity, but we would be well placed for the long term needs that we are already able to show we can’t cover.
Nevertheless, Tool A remains.
So a war began. I happen to have precipitated it. We’re in the middle of rebuilding our biggest, most visible internal property and I am heavily involved. During one discussion that included our big Business Owner for it (who hates Tool A), and my boss (who agrees with the Tool A standard), I decided to raise the question of analytics. I knew what would happen, and it did: boss piped up immediately to say we’d go with Tool A, business owner refused, argument started. It has spread like wildfire.
In response to the conflagration, two of our directors with a vested interest in this decided to try to go to a 3rd party to settle the question. They put up $100k for a 6 week engagement with a very well known corporate consulting firm. Their job was to come in and check for our needs, do some interviews to understand the difficulties, set up a roadmap and make a recommendation. We’ve used this firm before and I don’t trust them, but I was hopeful that this could possibly break our logjam and get us moving on something that’s not Tool A… it is clearly not up to basic needs anymore.
So they interviewed, and gathered data. They prepared some documentation, and set up a 90 minute read out of their results. They spent 80 of those minutes reading through the drivel they’d prepared that was nothing I couldn’t have built in 2 days myself. They got to the final page where they’d actually even state the name of the tools they looked at… and didn’t.
They had listed the few apps we had already looked at, only. Including Tool A. They ignored that we already had Tool B licensing (and backpedaled hard when we pointed that out). But regardless, they just listed the shit we already had. And thus my worst fear came to pass: without a strong recommendation, nobody was willing to push forward with a decision. We will be punting it again, using Tool A for another miserable year, giving us the excuse some people needed to continue to not get the data that the company wants. Tool A will remain our standard because nobody wants to challenge the basic fact that it’s not up to snuff.
Business Owner walked out. Boss had left early. The rest of us sat back in shock at the waste of $100k by our stupid organization.
I told this story to friends in the IT industry. While a few were sympathetic, I was mostly laughed at for bothering to care. Execs will do dumb shit, they told me. Yeah. I know. And yet I do care. I want to move the organization forward, not sit on my ass watching us get nowhere. Watching our internal customers getting more and more pissed off at the whole experience. Watching us slip deeper and deeper into technical debt and irrelevance. Yeah, I care. I want to do better. Nobody else seems to want to meet me there.
And so we go back to war.