Wednesday, January 28, 2004

It has all come to a screaching halt...

Over the past few months, Oklahoma State University has been moving toward a transition from one networking system to another while simultaneously moving toward a transition from one email system to another. Since the begining of the year, the timeline for these operations has become tighter. Within six and a half weeks, we will begin our migration and will complete it within sixteen weeks after that.

Let me put this migration into perspective. There are some thirty-eight thousand users that must be transferred from the old system to the new. This includes email and networking systems. I figure that, out of those 38,000 users, someone will have to physically visit about 10,000 computers to remove and install software and complete the transition for faculty and staff. The students will be easier since they are not as integrated into the network. Now, when you factor in network printing, integrating legacy systems (mainframe stuff), repurposing existing servers, installing new servers, support services training, end-user training and all the little bits that go with this... 16 weeks suddenly becomes a very short timeframe.

[side note: Those of you in corporate computing environments who are used to unilateral decisions about your computing environment need to understand someting - our computing environment consists of about a dozen different operating systems connecting to various services and devices using about two dozen different methods. In other words, every computer is different. We can't just roll out a new image, push it to all the desktops and go along our merry way... Such is academic computing.]

Because of the gargantuan task set before them, our third-level support personnel (the people who get paged when a server goes down and are responsible for ensuring that it comes back up) are entirely consumed with transitional testing and implementation.


There's a story about a frog. It goes something like this...

If you drop a live frog into boiling water, he will immediately jump out.
If, however, you drop the frog into tepid water, then increase the temperature gradually, the frog will allow himself to be boiled alive.

In my professional career, I have, in the past, had the privilidge of realizing that the nice, warm water has become too hot and I am in danger of being boiled alive. This realization has come after new duties and responsibilities have been placed upon me over time and I begin to wonder why I can't seem to meet deadlines. The answer comes that the water is too hot and I have a tendency to jump out of that pot (job) and into a different one with a more agreeable temperature.


Since the beginning of the new year, these are some of the additional duties that have been placed upon me:

1. Keep current with information. This is accomplished via no less than three SharePoint sites, each with half a dozen sections I am supposed to monitor; a general announcements site; email; and a trouble-ticket tracking system.

2. EOP phone rotation. When a server goes down or other connectivity is lost, someone calls the Emergency Operating Procedures (EOP) phone. I take my turn carrying this phone at least a couple of days each week. When we receive a call we are to a) notify the director of technology services, b) notify the manager of client services, c) post an announcement to the aforementioned announcements page, d) notify any affected branch campuses. But first, we have to ask all sorts of questions of the caller to figure out exactly what is happening.

3. File restoration. I now have the software necessary to recover files from our backup system installed on my office computer. I haven't yet been called upon to do it but even if I am I won't be able to because they haven't set up my account on the server yet.

4. Email service account creation. I used to be involved in this insomuch as I coordinated it... now I do it. I have to create the user ID and assign an exception that allows it to show up in another system. Once that completes, I create a record in the address book then actually create the file.

5. Help Desk overflow. If our Automated Call Director indicates there is a significant backlog of calls on hold, we are to log in and start taking calls. (not that we don't already have enough to do)

Some of these tasks are new. Some of these tasks have traditionally been handled at first level (help desk). Some of these tasks have traditionally been handled at third level.

Is it getting hot in here?

At around 9:30 a.m. this morning, I was preparing to create a couple of mail files and stopped. I simply dropped my tools and stopped working. It suddenly didn't seem worth it and I began to deeply and seriously consider whether or not I want to continue in the service of the IT division at OSU.

Here is why:
I received an email from my supervisor stating that all trouble tickets that would normally be routed to third-level support are now to be routed to the client services manager. From there, he will either ensure that the task is completed at third level or, more likely, that we, at second level, are granted rights to be able to handle it ourselves.

It seems that third level is so busy with tasks related to the transition that they haven't even been able to sort through their ticket que for an entire week.

Translation: I get to do even more work.

Now, it feels as though I've been dropped into a pot of boiling water. The only plroblem is that I think I need to push the lid off from the inside before I can jump out.

I first considered simply giving notice. Just tell them I've had enough and I'll be done in two weeks. Of course, I can't afford to do that. I need to find something else before I can do that. After all, it isn't as though anyone is threatening me or I'm in jeopardy of losing my job... at least, I hope not. My inclination at this point, though, is to bring a box from home, pack up all of my personal belongings and mark time until I can locate suitably gainful employment.


Update 1-29-04: I spoke to my supervisor and basically told him that I felt like I had become first, second, and third level support. I said, "I can't do this. My blood pressure is through the roof and my stress level is at maximum. I just can't do this."

We'll see what happens.