The IT department in your medium-to-large organisation doesn’t care about your productivity. In most organizations IT is a cost, not an enabler, or something that gives your organization a competitive advantage, and your organisation is no different. Shelling out more money for better networking hardware, or more storage, or new software licenses has real, measurable costs that the IT department has to front up for, and which they have to pass on. When you have to wait 30 seconds between double-clicking a network folder and the contents displaying on the screen the cost is so small it’s hard to measure, and it isn’t a cost that the IT department pays. Sure, it robs people of their productivity, bringing in to sharp contrast for most of them just how unimportant they are, and invites them to task-switch to something else which has proven detrimental effects on productivity, but that isn’t the IT department’s problem now is it.
Your productivity is collateral damage in the IT Department’s war with entropy. Flexibility is the enemy. Flexibility leads to change (forward progress is one kind of change, but allowing users to change their desktop background or their system font is another kind of change). Change leads to increased costs – one out of every thousand users who change their desktop background is going to accidentally lock themselves out of their account somehow, and cost the IT department in support calls to the helpdesk (a total misnomer since there is no desk, and no help). In order to try and put a lid on entropy things are closed and locked down. Legitimate sites and MIME types are inadvertently blocked at the corporate firewall, because there is a risk for the IT Department in letting them through, and there is no cost to the IT department for preventing you doing your job.
This goes double if you’re a developer. The IT department like homogeneity. They like taking away user ‘rights’, and locking things down. They crave order and structure and minimal surface area. As a developer you don’t fit their model. You need access to configure web or database servers, to start and stop services, to install programs, to attach debuggers. You need exactly the same kinds of rights they have themselves, but you lack the fear of change that normally ensures the IT Department never does anything with them. And maybe you actually know what you’re doing. For the IT Department, preventing you doing your job as a developer is critically important, because as a developer you are an agent of change. Every key-press you’re writing a new future for some part of their IT ecosystem. Creating? Enabling? Improving? Maybe – those are subjective, and the IT Department probably won’t reap any of the benefits of those anyway. But changing – yes & ndash; that is not subjective, and that IS a risk/cost the IT Department must bear. Improvement and enabling are not possible without change, and the IT Department is diametrically opposed to change. Since they can’t directly oppose the change you’re carrying out they need to reign it in, and slow it down. Make you work in a virtual machine. Make you work in a virtual machine via VNC. Make you work in a virtual machine hosted in another country via VNC, over a slow link.
Processes are one of the chief tools the IT Department has to reign in your positive change: Complex change control processes; opaque ‘network tests’ for anything that is deployed; Refusal to roll out supporting componentry; tiny windows for change to occur in; N months of ‘security testing’ before anything is rolled out. It’s fine for the IT Department to cause rolling outages during the working day because someone there can’t be bothered staying back late to deploy a change, because people’s productivity doesn’t matter to the IT Department. But not you, your work can’t be deployed for another 6 weeks because there is a change embargo in place until the end of the holiday season.
The IT department is driven by that fear. Fear of change. Fear of additional effort. Fear of being taken out of their comfort zone. Fear of being wrong. Fear that they’ll be found out as imposters. Fear that if they let you look at that proxy configuration, or that network trace you’ll see why that network folder takes 30 seconds to open for no good reason, and they’ll lose their mystique, their authority. And without that how can they retain control?
Of course their fears are somewhat misplaced. Where else are you going to go? It’s not like there are two IT departments vying for your business. It’s their network, and their hardware. Plugging in your own stuff can be grounds for dismissal, as can attempting to circumvent their controls. When two organizations merge the dominant IT Department will fight aggressively to bring things back into equilibrium. There can be only one. All those change control processes they enforced on you get thrown under a bus while the IT Department’s immune response system kicks in. And once again, if your productivity is impacted by this the IT Department just doesn’t care.
These are my observations from working in a number of medium to large organizations, both corporate and government at different levels. I wish it wasn’t this way, but it is.