Pointy Haired Boss does Exist
by Graham Parks
was reading an article and was struck by this sentence.
companies are good at knowing what it is that they need to do, but typically
companies are less successful in doing it the right way”.
reminded me of an incident that happened to me some years ago which ranks as
one of the most absurd happenings I have ever witnessed in my working life.
working for a company that sold a product that required a degree of skill
and knowledge to use it properly. The company did not sell this product to
the public, only direct to businesses with the required skills. To help with
any problems the company provided a telephone helpline. They also sold a
computerized solution. This consisted of a PC running DOS with a custom
database application written in Clipper which had been written by an outside
software house. Everything worked well and customers were happy.
decided to take things one-step further by selling the computerized solution
on CD-ROM. Not a bad idea, but what followed could have been lifted straight
out of Dilbert.
to get this CD onto the market had been underway for quite a while before me
and the rest of the in-house I.T. department got involved. By then an order
had already been placed with a CD manufacturer for 1000 CDs.
The moment I
heard about it my heart sank. I knew trouble lay ahead. I already held the
opinion that the senior managers were an inept bunch that never thought
going to be doing the technical support?” I asked.
need” I was told, “Customers have been using the product for ages
without any problems”
See the sort
of mentality I’m up against.
“But that was on a
hardware platform we provided” I pointed out “Has it been tested on any
That went down really badly
and the response made it clear that raising sensible questions was not
No prizes for guessing what
comes next. Yup, the in-house I.T. department gets landed with the job. Now
the I.T. manager is wailing and holding head in hands. We have been royally
screwed into supporting an application we have barely seen that has not been
tested on anything other than a pure DOS machine that the company (or rather
the outside software house) supplied. It is now going out into the big wide
world where it will be running on top of windows.
So I asked to have a copy of
the software. This is where the fun really started.
It would not load. I had a
look at the CD contents and found that the installation program was nothing
more than a DOS batch file. I discovered the problem in about five seconds.
The program assumed your CD ROM drive was the D: drive. If it was anything
else, as mine was, it failed. Remember, 1000 copies of the CD have already
been made, so it is too late to correct the fault on the CD.
So I told the senior manger
dealing with the project about this and also asked about the lack of license
with the package.
“License?” he said.
Oh dear, here we go again. I
explained that software is licensed not bought and why this is done.
“So what do we need to
produce?” I was asked.
“I think you need to talk
to a lawyer, not me” I replied.
“Yeah, but you deal with
these things in I.T. all the time”
“I deal with technical
matters, not legal ones”
Guess who got the job of
sorting out the licensing issue? But not for long. I went to my manger and
complained that things were getting completely out of hand and that to
expect a network administrator to draw up legal documents was ludicrous. My
manager agreed and shoved the whole issue back to the project manager.
Trying to be helpful, we also sent a photocopy of a Microsoft EULA to show
what sort of thing would need to accompany the CD-ROM.
Then someone comes to see me
with a CD-ROM and associated floppy. Because of the problem I found with the
installation program they have decided to issue a floppy disk with a revised
version of the install. That should fill the customers with confidence in
our software. Anyway, it works now and so an order for 1000 floppies to be
produced is sent out.
A few days later I get sent
a mock up of the new CD insert which includes a EULA. I am asked to check
the EULA. Do these people not understand the difference between a technical
computing professional and a lawyer!!! Once again I state that I cannot be
expected to carry out such a task, but am told to get on with the job. So I
start to read it and quickly collapse with laughter. They have just copied
the Microsoft EULA word for word. And I mean word for word. Our new company
EULA makes several references to Microsoft. According to the EULA our
software is the property of Microsoft. Once we had all had a good laugh at
these idiots we send it back, pointing out their obvious mistakes. We also
question that they have not thought that an American company (Microsoft) and
a UK company might have different legal requirements. This last point is
ignored completely and the next day the revised EULA comes back. All they
have done is remove the word Microsoft and replace it with the company name.
Nothing more is done and the
product ships, CD + floppy with a EULA pinched from Microsoft.
I no longer work for this
Please note: This is not a
work of fiction nor have I exaggerated any aspect of the story. Any person,
living or dead, appearing in this story is a complete moron. This includes
me. I should have made a wiser decision when being offered a job in this
You may contact Graham