BOFH: Nice air conditioning system. Would be a shame if anything happened to it

How to 'improve your service level' with 'AI' when redundancies loom

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 1 The Boss is worried. The past few years have brought new challenges for IT as our clients have realized that some of the functionality we provide may not be all that necessary. In a post-work-from-home world – where people could order a new keyboard online without talking to us – there's been a bit of a technology mutiny.

There's even talk among the proles of devolving many of our responsibilities to individual departments and, as a result, trimming our budget.

"There's talk of redundancies!" the Boss gasps quietly.

"Well, the first casualty of budget war is typically middle management." the PFY replies.

"Middle management, then the coffee quality," I add.

"Actually it's middle management, tea bag quality, THEN coffee quality," the PFY chips back.


"So they'd let people go before they'd reduce other costs?" the Boss asks.

"Of course! You've got to think of this in terms of the people who'll remain at the company. What would they miss the most – you or good coffee?"


"That's right, good coffee."

"And good tea," the PFY adds.

"So they'd let me go for a nice cup of coffee?"

"They'd let you go for a kraft paper wall calendar," the PFY replies, somewhat unkindly.

"Yes, but ..." the Boss tapers off after trying to think of anything noteworthy about himself to follow up with.

"Exactly," I reply. "As far as certain parts of the Company are concerned, you're not adding any value."

"Which parts of the Company?"

"You mean apart from Stephen and me?"

"I ..."

"Don't worry, if the Company started getting rid of people because they didn't add value it'd be like the last days of the Romanovs round here."

"But ..."

"So what you really want is our department to have a new income stream – without any associated costs – to offset your salary."

"How do we do that?" he asks.

"By using the exemplars supplied by the IT industry. Obviously we can't just change the Corporate font to Aptos as a way of disguising the fact that we're not adding any real value, but there's plenty of other stuff we can do to 'improve our service level' without actually doing anything."

"Things like what?"

"Let's take the air conditioning system for a start."

"We don't run the air conditioning system," the Boss blurts.

"We don't, but we do provide the service of scheduling when areas get switched on."

"Not to mention the service of setting what temperature and mode is selected," the PFY adds.

"And whether or not the AC remote control is locked out," I continue. "Now those services don't come cheap. To the casual observer it might look like we only go into the HVAC management system once every month or so to make sure nothing's caught fire, but these days it's a far more complex system now that we're using ... uh ... let's say AI to ... predict usage trends and ... uh ... ensure optimum comfort."

"And who can forget those times when people'd get to work on a freezing morning only to find their AC locked in cooling mode?" the PFY says.

"When was that?" the Boss asks.

"Every morning next week," I reply.

"Is that before or after the security alarms keep going off because there's no 'AI' to work out whether they should be armed or not?" the PFY hints.

"Where are you going with this?" the Boss asks.

"We need to move to a subscription model for all these AI services."

"We don't have any AI services."

"Of course we do – and they're costly. What, with the licensing fees, the integration pathway ..."

"Depreciation," the PFY chips in.

"Yes, thank you, depreciation ... uh ... window tax ..."

"Window tax?" the Boss asks.

"Of course. Everyone knows that windows affect air conditioning. Then there's uh ..."

"Stamp duty?" the PFY suggests.

"That's possibly a bridge too far," the Boss says.

"Yes, but then we have all the AI modules we'll need to license."

"What modules?" the Boss asks.

"Heating, that'll be a module. Then there's cooling. Uh, fan-only."

"ON and OFF," the PFY adds.

"Oh yes, ON and OFF – and they're the expensive modules."

"I don't think anyone's going to pay for those modules. After all, we already bought the air con system."

"You need to look at this through the software lens. How many times did we buy the latest version of Office? Endless upgrades, all worthless now because we lease a product."

"People will just say we should go back to the old version."

"We'd love to go back to the old version, except that the software is only back-supported for two major releases, and they just released three major releases over the weekend."

"The users will want you to recover the management computer to the old version."

"Again, love to, but unfortunately the online license validation system is no longer responding – because it's not supported, being three major revisions old now."

"I see. And you think that'll bring in enough ... income."

"Oh no, but once we put AI into the stairwell lighting and the automatic door speed control – because of all those nasty accidents – I think people will come around."

"So we're just going to extort money without actually doing anything for it?"

"Welcome to the new age of IT."

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