Monday, June 10, 2013

Resistant if not impervious to change

My main problem at work right now is that I have a major project which has been hanging over my head for months and is coming due early next month, with of course a great deal of it still left undone. Except really my main problem is that said project is not entirely under my control, (in fact very little of it is) and therefore no amount of extra effort on my part can push things any closer to the finish line; I am at the mercy of others who evidently could not care less about the project. Except really, REALLY, my main problem is that this whole project, and the means I am pursuing to complete it, apparently represent something the likes of which have never been seen before in my agency, if not the entire Army.

It’s not the technical requirements that are the hang-up, as far as I can tell. It simply seems to be the case that never, ever in the history of the DoD, has a computer system, even as minor as a humble workflow-management web application, been the responsibility of a contractor who is not directly assigned to the Information Technology infrastructure. So basically, by appealing to the powers that be who have direct physical control over the servers and requesting that they give me the access and permissions I would need to set up my app on a new server, I am breaking new ground and smashing into unexplored frontiers.

Point me towards the future!!!

I should note that this was not exactly my idea. When the whole project got started I was more than happy to let other people take responsibility and do the heavy lifting, if that was what established protocol demanded. I was willing to relinquish control in the name of getting done what I need to get done (which is really stuff that other people who do the primary work on my contract need to get done). But I was told in no uncertain terms that nobody else would do the work for me, and yet I was not qualified to do the work myself. But then again, I was also told, if I got myself qualified, then I could go ahead and do the work as the doors in my way would be unbarred and opened.

Except it turns out that was all in theory only, and as I keep trying to make things happen I find myself on the outside looking not in but at a completely opaque bubble. Because I don’t work for IT, but rather for a specific agency, I don’t know the first thing about making any inroads into their world. And apparently it’s a fairly decentralized world, which means of the very few people I know from previous work I’ve done, none of them know what I need to be doing now or whom I need to be speaking to. I don’t know exactly what I need to do and I further don’t know whom to ask what it is I need to do. I don’t even know how to find out whom I need to ask. It’s not as though there’s an internal IT yellow pages I can look services up in, or a front door I can knock on. I am far from too proud to admit I don’t know what I’m doing and I could use a hand. But I have no access to making that known to someone in a meaningful way. There are no processes for me to follow, no standards to adhere to. And of course gigantic bureaucracies like the one I work for are not known for rapid responsiveness to unbridled innovation. If you're trying to do something that's never been done before, you're 90% likely to fall well short of rousing success. And right now my head is spinning just from running in circles looking for a starting point.

This afternoon my government boss and I have a conference call scheduled with the Executive Director of IT. So hopefully that will be enough to open a crack in the black bubble for me to wriggle through. I’m sure there will be other obstacles, hindrances and annoyances after that, as well. Right now we’re at that perilous juncture where it seems like the deadline is far off, because it’s next month, but it’s getting closer every day and will be here before we know it and we’re already troublingly far behind. If we at least get back on track this afternoon, that would be a good thing. But I suspect the next few Mondays may be largely range between dark mutterings and furious curses. You have been warned.

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