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Don’t Be The Electric Company

October 2, 2014


You are an email administrator running the Novell GroupWise email system.

The world’s most popular email system Microsoft Exchange/Outlook gets hit by a virus that causes hours and days of lost productivity as your peers have to restore from backup.

Do you:

A) Send your unfortunate colleagues text messages
– I would have emailed, but your systems seems to be down – LOL!

B) Get another cup of coffee and congratulate yourself on recommending a system that wasn’t susceptible to viruses

C) Write a report

If you picked anything but C) you need to reevaluate your position. (Okay, you can pick A) also. That kind of razzing never gets old.)

But, the best answer is C) Write a report.


Because you don’t want to be thought of as the electric company. Now, I’ve got nothing against the electric company. As an IT guy, electricity is literally the lifeblood of my systems.

But, here’s the problem with the electric company:

Anything less than perfection is viewed as a failure.

When you come into work each day, you expect the lights to come on. You expect your computer to power up. And because you expect it, you are not surprised, nor impressed when it does. In fact, just the opposite. If it doesn’t turn on for some reason, you are surprised, confused, annoyed. And you really don’t care about the details. You don’t want to know that a transformer on 42nd Street blew and they were trying to route power from the substation on 139th, but the bleed off from the wires was too great at that distance. . . blah. . .blah. . .blah.

All you care about is that the lights didn’t come on and you can’t get your work done.

The standard for the electric company is perfection.

Let’s go back to our email administrator. (And this applies to any position where you made a decision that ultimately saved your company from suffering downtime.) Email is expected to work, just like electricity. If it doesn’t, people are surprised, confused and possibly annoyed. It costs money to have systems offline.

The report you need to write is a report that explains how much money you just saved your company. Had you installed Microsoft Exchange, your system would be down right now.

You need to find out the average TTR (time to recovery) for your colleagues at other companies. THAT is how much time, and money you just saved your employer. And don’t forget to multiply that number by the number of employees.

But, why a report? Why not just be happy you saved your company a ton of money? Why draw attention to yourself? Because, your boss has been pressured to move to Microsoft Exchange, or Google Mail, or something. It happens constantly.

Your report shows in black and white (and hopefully some pretty pie charts) exactly how much money the decision to go with GroupWise saved you. And you need to show that. Because, otherwise your email system, or backup system, or ticketing system, or whatever system you are in charge of, risks becoming the electric company. It just works. And we never know the extraordinary efforts that might have gone into the keeping the lights on.

If you want to keep the lights on in your office, if you want to avoid having your boss switch email systems on a whim, it’s your job to constantly be selling him on your current solution. Especially when things are going well, you need to make some noise about your successes, or management will start holding your to the standard of perfection.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

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