Keeping your priorities straight

The IT organization I work for has made great strides in recent years to become larger and more professional. Along with higher expectations for features, stability, and security has come larger budgets, and several big projects to implement major overhauls to infrastructure. In general the trend seems to be towards moving away from tested open-source software maintained in-house to expensive commercial software, often managed by third parties.

I disagree with this trend, especially for an academic institution, but companies make decisions all the time regarding the real or perceived trade-offs between free and commercial software.

Today I heard about one proposal being discussed for a multi-million dollar identity management solution. Other highly expensive projects include a massive new Microsoft Exchange service, outsourced email for students, and a ton of pricy new security tools like monitoring appliances and encryption products.

Keeping all of that spending in mind, here is an email I just received:

In light of the recent notes from [Harvard President] Drew Faust and [FAS Dean] Mike Smith concerning the climate of fiscal austerity, we will forgo the reception we’d planned following the staff meeting.

That does not help me to feel confident that good budgeting decisions are being made. Keep the millions of dollars in licenses and fees and support contracts for proprietary systems of questionable value run by highly-paid consultants. Dump the cheap snacks and sodas that show management cares about employees. Glad to know where we stand.

3 replies on “Keeping your priorities straight”

  1. I think the difference is, students pay to attend academic institutions. While the institutions pay you to work. If the students complained about the switches and/or caused a ruckus the institution might take note.

    Working does not equal free snacks and drinks. On this point, I think what you’ve said is a very American, Millennial generation point of view. That’s not to say I don’t agree with you about some of your other points. 🙂

  2. I think you are completely misreading my point, and your comparison of staff vs. student expectations is not relevant to this discussion.

    You use the term “millennial” as a negative, as often does the popular press, and I think in this case you use it incorrectly, but I don’t think there is necessarily anything wrong with being classified as a “millennial generation” worker. Especially if it is being described like this.

  3. It’s like the old quote “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM” (or these days, Microsoft). Even if a cheaper/non-outsourced solution is better, there’s a general CYA culture out there that if you buy something with a big support contract, even if it is more likely to fail, at least you can blame someone else. But if you use your own solution (whether it is off-the-shelf OSS or roll-your-own-to-fit-the-situation) then if it fails…well…they don’t want to find out.

    Bosses are more worried about keeping their job (more precisely: they are more interested in having the excuse of “it’s someone else’s fault”) than about coming up with the correct solution.

    Then again, I’m preaching to the choir here.

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