Information Technology Management with a Purpose

Oct 4 2010   8:30AM GMT

Trapped into managing gadgets?

S R Balasubramanian Profile: S R Balasubramanian

I have been in circumstances which I would describe as embarrassing for me as a CIO. When busy dealing with serious and strategic matters relating to the business, I would often come across a demand from the CEO or some senior functionary, asking for their gadgets to be configured.

These blokes would often visit abroad, pick up some interesting objects, and come back — eager to get it running. At other times, it would be their children who pick up these toys, and hand it over to dad for getting them activated. These interesting gadgets would be say an iPod, iPhone, new mobile phones with 3G features, PDA, scheduler, digital photo frame, camera, videos, and so on. Some of these would be the latest models — those which are not yet been launched in India.

Ironically, these wise men would normally draw up plenty of excuses to put off important discussions involving important systems feigning busy demeanor. They would have all the time to follow up on these miscellaneous tasks. A lot of time would be spent seeking a demo run of the gadget and then play with it.

Really, how very romantic!

Now, these wise guys wouldn’t contact me, but instead call one of my assistants. The objects would be handed over to them for immediate attention. Not only would they politely request for priority, but also follow up with them through the day. Now this fall guy, often the system administrator or the Data Center in-charge, would feel rather cowed down by these polite but firm orders. So these personnel would not even tell the esteemed customer that they have important tasks on hand. They would then turn to me with a pleading look — asking me to rescue them from this situation.

There have been times when I thought it not prudent to intervene in such situations. This is because if I were to speak to the senior guy, he would reply that he never meant to disturb routine tasks. Besides, the system administrator had never apprised him that he was busy.

Tough dilemma, isn’t it?  Let me share with you some of the measures that I took to handle such situations.

On a few occasions, I would tell my chap to do his regular work. If accosted by the senior person, he would tell them that I had assigned urgent work. He would attend to the gadget as soon he was through with his task. But if it is the CEO or the owner Director, such a stand would be a little risky to adopt.

Then I hit upon a new idea. I spoke to one of our service providers who used to deal with product imports. He had a few chaps who were adept on such fancy stuff. I then weaved a contract asking him to provide me a person who would be available when needed. In short, someone who could fix these fancy objects, and demonstrate them to the proud owner. The scope involved his visits to the Directors’ homes (as well as dealing with the children). Over a period of time, we asked them to directly call up the service provider, and this worked. My boys heaved a sigh of relief as they came up to me with broad smiles telling me that I got them out of captivity.

I am sure many of my CIO friends have faced similar situations, and found innovative ways to deal with it. But this is an interesting situation that we often come across. Such requests challenge our guiles and push us to our wit’s end. But we are also smart, aren’t we?

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