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Sysadmin told to spend 20+ hours changing user names, for no reason

Apparently there's business value in turning 'John B Smith' into 'John Smith'

On-Call Welcome again to On-Call, our regular Friday morning foray into readers' stories of being asked to do the right thing, for the wrong reason, at unspeakable times.

This week, meet reader “Harold” who works as IT manager for an educational institution.

Harold tells us that the institution has a simple scheme to allocate user names for staff: someone called John Brian Smith gets the user name “JBS”. Someone called John Smith, but with no middle name, is “JSM” - the first letter from their first name and the first two from the surname.

This scheme works well, Harold tells us, because it avoids duplicates.

But the institution's second-in-command for matters academic wants to make a change: Harold's been told to adopt the second scheme for all staff, which it transpires the 2IC has been using himself for a while. This means the school's user names are now split 50/50 between Harold's scheme and the new way of doing things.

Harold's pushed back, politely, by explaining that the job will require about 20-30 minutes, per user, as he or his colleague will need to perform the following steps:

  1. Rename the user in Active Directory
  2. Update roaming profile and home directory to match
  3. Update e-mail alias in Exchange
  4. Rename in the redacted to protect reader in case boss reads On-Call
  5. Synchronise with redacted
  6. Synchronise with redacted
  7. Synchronise with Room Booking System
  8. Synchronise with redacted
  9. Rename laptops and map those changes to Active Directory
  10. Synchronise the new computer name with redacted
  11. Worry about other systems, such as redacted, not merging their user tracking logs
  12. Lose the will to live

The 2IC is having none of that argument, nor has he offered an explanation for the change* other than saying Harold must just follow managerial direction because this will enable new and cunning ways of working.

The 2IC, meanwhile, has implemented his naming scheme for all non-IT matters. So staff timetables and pigeon-holes use his naming scheme.

Harold's not happy. He reckons the 2IC has come up with a bad idea, wants Harold to clean up his mess and is willing to have him do futile, needless work with not much more than sheer bloody-mindedness as a motivation.

Harold says the institution's boss did at least ask for a submission on why this is all a silly idea, but has sat on Harold's reply than address the situation.

Harold told us of this situation a couple of months ago and tells us his workplace remains in stalemate this week.

“That is not leadership,” Harold wrote to The Register. “That man is not a leader. That is plain bad behaviour that should not be considered acceptable from any colleague.”

Do you agree? And have been asked to do more futile work with less reason? If so, let me know and you could appear in a future edition of On-Call. As the redactions in this week's story hopefully show, we can handle even sensitive tales! ®

* Remember Nancy Johnson changing her name to Nancy Johnson-Johnson on the classic Website is Down episode?

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