Suits ignored IT's warnings, so the tech team went for the neck

Causing pain can be so much more effective than a rational explanation

On Call Friday is here, and perhaps your temper is a little frayed. Which is why The Register always opens the last day of the working week with a fresh installment of On Call, our reader-contributed tales of exciting incidents on the front lines of tech support.

This week's tale comes from a reader we'll Regomize as "Bruce" because his story concerns his time working for an Australian bank's internet infrastructure team.

Bruce joined when internet banking was in its infancy, so his team was growing fast. So was their workload.

"We controlled/owned/looked after everything from ISDN link to the cable that was connected to the network team's internal switch," Bruce explained.

But Bruce and his colleagues still had time for planning. And one day he was assessing current user numbers vs demand vs link capacity, then the trends for future numbers, and realized it would not be long before that ISDN link was more than half saturated.

With internet banking taking off, the risks were obvious. So Bruce and his mates put together a position paper explaining why ordering another ISDN line was a good idea and gave it to the CIO for approval.

This was vastly sensible – in those days ordering an internet link could take months, so Bruce knew that getting this order in ASAP was essential.

The CIO forwarded the request to the bank's Executive Committee, which promptly rejected it because it was clearly wasteful to buy an extra link when the current one wasn't even half-used!

Bruce and his colleagues were scolded for their wasteful ways.

Once usage ticked past 50 percent, the IT team again made a pitch for an ISDN order. And were again rebuffed – with instructions not to ask again until utilization was nudging 100 percent.

Bruce knew what would happen at that point: the connection would max out, user experience would become dire, and IT would be blamed for the bank's failed entry into the world of internet banking.

He also imagined being dragged out while on call to fix the inevitable network errors. And then being reamed for the extra cost of having the ISDN link installed as a rush job.

The IT team hatched a cunning plan to make this the executives' problem.

"The suits and their associated hangers-on all resided on one floor of Head Office with their own subnet of IPs," Bruce explained. That network topography made it a simple task to throttle their connection.

"The first week, we throttled them down ten percent. Each successive week we withdrew another ten percent," Bruce confessed.

After a month of these shenanigans, the IT team again requested the additional ISDN line.

It was approved – along with the extra payment for expedited installation, and an explanation that if the suits could understand the frustration of slow connections, customers would also chafe.

Once the new line was connected, the IT team removed the throttle, "and left the suits to congratulate themselves on fixing the 'internet problem'."

Have you used the powers of IT to fool the non-technical? If so, click here to send us an email and we'll share your secret to brighten up a future Friday. ®

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