I have posted before about my latest (work) gig, putting all these remotely managed cisco boxes in businesses so that they, and the people who sell them their interwebz connection, can all sack in house IT staff and save money.
Yesterday I again had the pleasure of dealing with one of these jobs, and for those of you who ask what could possibly go wrong…
The business methodology is based on three principles;
- The actual keyboard / coding tech work is outsourced to Mumbai, we may be dialling local numbers but IP telephony and call forwarding means the guy you speak to is half a world away.
- The actual onsite work is done by people like me, cos remote guys cannot physically touch kit or alter it.
- The sales and management, you know, the core revenue generating business, is still done here in the UK.
Invariably there is a direct link between how well the Indian national half a world away has been able to absorb the English language and culture, and how well they have been able to absorb the coding language and culture of the box in question, whether it be Cisco, Juniper etc.
Invariably the ones with very heavy accented English that is quite difficult to understand, and it is difficult to understand when you have to ask them to repeat words like “cable” and “switch” etc, are the lowest paid, most script following, and the ones invariably assigned unless it escalates, or the UK company was enlightened enough to not go for the absolute lowest bidder.
Invariably these non native English speakers make just a big a fuckup of work orders as I would if I was trying to tell a Russian coder to go to Acme supermarket in Stolichnaya street zip code 90201, meaning the zip code is often right, but there is no supermarket there when you get there, but there is a home furnishings shop with a completely different name.
So you as the man on the spot eventually resolve this issue, find out the job is in the furnishings shop and sweet fuck all to do with ACME supermarkets, so what are the chances that the OS and configuration you have been given for the replacement router is either correct, or fully functional?
You guessed it, so you sit there for three hours with Mumbai using a remote session via your laptop to try to make the router work, and every 60 seconds they go back to their script and ask if you are sure you have connected the fucking patch leads back in from the old one…
Eventually, the job is done and lo and behold the customers computers can get back on the interwebz, and more importantly to them their chip and pin / till machines can connect to the banks so they can actually make sales via plastic the fast way….
This has only taken a three hour return trip either way for your trusty engineer, three hours onsite, and a three hour return trip either way for the courier delivering the new kit, and a couple of hours of back office staff updating web portal software so job progress can be tracked and your trusty engineer can know he is to go to ACME supermarket H^H^H^H^ Cushy Home Furnishings to swap out a router…. but just think of the money saved by getting some poor fucker in Mumbai to play with the config until the fucking thing actually works… as opposed to, you know, having a fucking working config on file for each customer and each site…
I see this shit every day, stuff that would literally terminate my business when I wear my self employed hat, and yet this is not just how big business works every day, this is how best of breed big business works every day, with outsourcing world and dog beating a path the the guys who employ me in my day job, which means loadsa work for me.
Any job that has (at least) three different sets of people in three different companies in three different geographical locations is going to be a total fuck up, because the only thing any one of them gives a fuck about is getting their own boxes ticked and their own asses covered.
Course I am an old hand at this shit, and spend maybe 25% of my time on site documenting everything and also photographing everything, so when it comes back down the grapevine that the last guy out the door broke stuff and he was only here for a minute anyway, and that last guy happens to be me, it takes me all of ten minutes to send times and dated and geolocated pictures, pics / scans of forms showing time on site and off site complete with names and signatures of people on site, and so on and so forth, but then I didn’t come down with the rain last week.
I am also an old hand in the sense the any long service guy sat in a trench will relate to, I am a waldo, cos the guy in Mumbai cannot physically do anything on site, the pay is not enough to go over the top and start taking lead, but the (same) pay is pretty good if you have managed to swing a REMF job which doesn’t really involve much of anything, driver for the colonels flunky… so the whole thing washes over me…
I don’t sit there and curse my cheap tools and underspecced and overloaded with bloatware company laptop, I take the GI attitude, if they wanted me to have it they would issue it, and if they don’t issue it they don’t want me to have it, and life is good if you chill and avoid being the bitching squeaky wheel…
Which brings me to Cyprus and the economy.
I’m the guy who turns up when the business loses net connectivity, and trust me, we do ALL the high street names and blue chip companies, so I see what happens when their net goes dark.
- Suddenly all the staff start running around like blue assed flies.
- Suddenly production / output is maybe 50% of what it was when the net was alive and the staff were all cruising.
_I_ personally am as disposable as a used tampon, but my role, well, when my role goes we are back in the stone age technologically.
When 1 and 2 above happen, even fucked up mismanaged too many cooks outsourced shit like the above looks like a good deal / saviour to the company in question.
When 1 and 2 above happen, NOBODY, but NOBODY, has a Plan B, the entire business model rests upon getting Plan A back up and running.
“Back up and running” does not mean what it means when I do work with my self employed hat on, that fucker is FIXED, it means connectivity to fuckbook / intranet / whatever is restored so I can get my piece of paper signed and leave the site, until it goes wrong again, which is just a question of time….
I have computer kit, routers and servers and firewalls, that are over a decade old, and which still work FUCKING FLAWLESSLY, so it is not the case that we cannot make shit that just works…. there is just no PROFIT anymore in making shit that just works.
And so we have local branches of businesses that have six full time employees and turn over considerable sums of money, all hanging on a single DOMESTIC grade ADSL connection, no backup, no failover, no Plan B, and frankly the very expensive and high end Cisco kit that is supposed to make it all work is no more reliable than some 50 quid Netgear crap, which they guys in the shop could buy locally ex stock, navigate to 192.168.0.1 in their browser, type in ADMIN and ADMIN, and enter their ADSL username and password and be back up and on-line before I can even complete my three hour journey to get there… at least that would be an HONEST “crap but cheap” solution.
I shouldn’t complain, and I am not, if any of these people were remotely competent to run a business, I would be out of a job….. the purpose of this is to highlight the fact that in the pursuit of fucking everyone else over to nickel and dime everything to death, we have created a business infrastructure that cannot actually even keep itself going by itself.
If you think the above example, by the way, was a “bad one”, you are sadly mistaken.. at least these guys had the old PSTN phones so they could ring up another branch to get the web price of a mattress, or to manually authorise a credit card payment.
I have been to sites where, in a bid to save money, all the phone lines but one are VOIP, so when the system goes dark it ALL goes dark… the plan is I go there and using the wonders of a laptop tethered to 3/4G networks, the reseller can remote in and fix things up, except there is no mobile signal in the faraday cage that is the comms/server room, oh, the one single emergency PSTN phone line, blocked by the provider from local rate 0845 numbers, which just happens to be the ONLY support number for the reseller, in the laborious fallback strategy of they tell me what to type by voice, I type it and tell them what just happened… so even that doesn’t fucking work.
Looks like I am going to be employed for quite some time yet…lol