Saturday, September 17, 2005

Big Corporate Culture

It seems like an inevitable fact for big corporation to have many levels of red tapes and suffer a great lost of productivity and inefficiency. I had been deployed to one of the most luxuries semi-government corporation in the country, where she had the most advance building and infrastructures which way superseded its productivity. I think not many people in this world are capable of doing proper human resource management in an efficient and productive manner, especially in a big corporation.

A lot of the problems or rather inconveniences stems from extreme specialisation in the company. Everyone have no more than one or two responsibilities, thus they have a key person in every field/area/department imaginable. I walk in as an IT Contractor, where they nicely prepared a room (space is abundance here) and computer for us. We have a private windowed room facing some greenery, which is excellence (except that the room is a bit warm). The following are some inconveniences which pop up and stop us from starting work immediately.

  • Door Access Card. They didn't prepare an access card for us (most of the doors require the access card). Luckily two of my seniors already had the access card due to previous dealings, and I have to use theirs. I didn't even get my card after 1 full week working there. The card is the responsibility of Building Management.
  • Computer Login. No Computer Login is created for us. Basically, we can't even use the 2 computers which are there. After an hour, 2 logins is created for a Domain which the computers are not configured to login to. So we end up with no computers until the next morning.
  • Printer and Internet Access. The Project Manager asked for the Helpdesk personnel to attend to our problems. He manages to setup the Domain for us to logon with ease. But he needs to do a second trip to fix the Internet access and a 3rd and 4th trip to fix the printer problem (due to some permission settings).
  • Database Access. This is the most complicated part, as it involves many parties. Firstly, you need the Database Administrator to create the users. Then, someone else needs to install the database software on the PCs. Some permission problems arise, and we need the Helpdesk guy again. Then it is found that the Database user does not have the necessary permission to access the database, thus we need the Database Administrator again. At one point, there are more than 5 of their staffs in our room, including the Project Manager.
  • UNIX Login. No UNIX login is created for us as well, but that is solved swiftly by the Unix Administrator. Though I have to configure the development environment myself, finding all the necessary libraries and compiler.

Somehow we managed to get most of the environment up and running by the 3rd day and work productively after that. Actually 2 days isn't that bad, but it seems really bad during that time. The good thing is that they have specialisation, so that you know who exactly to look for when you have a problem or needed something. The bad thing is, most of the time you need to bother many people to accomplish a task, such as Database Access (Database Administrator, Helpdesk, Software Support and perhaps Project Manager). The problem is no one will pre-prepare the things for you, you need to continuously ask for it (or else you can't get anything done). Most of the people here are capable of doing their work within their specialisation domain, but don't try to ask more from them.

Perhaps I am too used to a multi-role environment, where I am the Analyst, Programmer, QA, Deployment, Support, DBA, Documenter and sometimes Project Manager, a true Developer. I do agree we need some level of specialisation to achieve a better level of productivity, but not to the extreme that 1 person only handle 1 task (perhaps they even have 1 Administrator for 1 server). Perhaps in a big corporate environment, we do need to put a lot of systematic policies and procedures in place which might hinder efficiency and increase cost, but at least it avoid chaos and get things done (by sacrificing efficiency in resources usage). The larger it gets, the less innovative and efficient it becomes. But in many cases, we do need the huge man powers to churn out gigantic products (sounds like Mythical Man-Month to me). Perhaps we could reduce the negative effect by implanting a better work culture with better human resource and project/product managers.

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