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A Dish Best Served Cold

November 19, 2014


I don’t do it very often. And if I were a better man, I wouldn’t have gotten so much pleasure from it.

I needed something from one of the engineering teams at headquarters. I knew it was going to be difficult. I tend to refer to the engineering teams in our company as “my engineers.” Not because I’m trying to build a fifedom, and they certainly don’t answer to me, but because I spend so much of my time interacting with our client, who has it’s own engineering teams, it’s just easier to talk about “my engineers.” But, HQ had their own separate team of engineers. Our two divisions shared a name, but little else. But, still I needed something. It came up while I was trying to solve a customer issue with a member of my network team.

I’ve done all I can Rodney. We need the DDNT engineers from corporate to tell us the IP address range they are using.

Who do I need to engage?

Ha. No way are you going to get one of their engineers to touch this problem.

The ironic thing was that my network engineer was extremely difficult to get hold of. The network team tended to hide their online status in our instant message product. Their status was always set to AWAY. However, most times you could simply start typing and they’d answer. . maybe. Their phone numbers were unpublished.

I would schedule meetings with him. Then, the day before the meeting, I would remind him and inform his manager about the meeting. Then an hour before the meeting, I would call and leave voice mail for him and then 5 minutes before the meeting I would call his manager to get him on the phone.

No, it’s not a good system. It’s a broken system, but it worked after a fashion. Getting an engineer from HQ was going to be part detective, part bulldog and part just bull. . .

First stop was our official liaison with the DDNT team. He worked in our division and he was the guy who was supposed to coordinate between the two teams.

Lars, I need to talk to a DDNT engineer.

Did you have a trouble ticket?

Yes, but I just need a couple questions for this custom DDNT route we set up for our client.

Has it ever worked?

No. We are building it from scratch.

Put it in a ticket and then if they don’t get back to you let me know.

I DID put it in a ticket. They said since it’s a custom setup they don’t support it.

If you already had your answer, why are you bugging me?

Yeah, Lars wasn’t going to be my way in.

Next stop was our incident management team. These guys are the ones who get tasked with coordinating outages. They have to be able to contact anyone in the entire enterprise. If anyone could tell me the right place to start it was them.

Paul, I need to know who to engage with if I have a DDMT issue?

Well, Walter Smothers is the VP. Chris Jones is one of the engineers. But, be aware that Walter is very protective of his teams.


I didn’t have phone numbers, of course. Paul liked me, but not that much. I used our Instant Message program and talked to Chris. It was a near repeat of my conversation with Lars. No way was he getting on a phone call with either the customer or my engineer. Put it in a ticket and we’ll get to it when we feel like it.

Okay, I guess I’ll try the front door. I created a ticket.

Please ask the client for their source IP, destination IP, URL and any error they are receiving.

The problem was that I’d already asked the client all that information and included it in the ticket. But Chris wanted it sent again.

I should point out that I had worked this issue with our client for 7 months. That’s an eternity in the IT world. The client was getting pretty upset with me and my company. No way did I want to go back and ask them the exact same questions I’d asked 3 weeks earlier. The answer wasn’t going to be any different. I tried to explain this to Chris. Finally, his patience wore out. He reminded me that I wasn’t to talk to him unless I’d escalated through Lars first.

It was time to call for close air support. If you are going to square off with another department, always ALWAYS have air cover lined up. In my case I had a VP and a couple senior directors.

Kurt, Allen and Renée, I need your help. . .

And of course, I cc:’d Chris Jones, and his VP Walter Smothers. I let my executive team know what was coming.

The emails started flying fast and furious. It’s one thing to tell me, a “lowly” PM to go away. It’s harder to tell a VP to take a flying leap. When the dust settled, the DDNT team committed to work my issue and talk to my engineer if we would open a ticket and put our questions.

I’d spent a fair share of political capital, but I’d gotten what I needed, a commitment to let my engineers talk to their engineers.

Remember how my network engineer was hard to get hold of? Yeah, he just dropped off the net. I finally had the communication channels open and he quit talking. Three days went by with me begging my engineer to put some questions into a ticket and let me send it over.

Now I needed a second airstrike, this one closer to home.

Allen, could you escalate to our Network managers?

Two hours later I got a call from another network engineer.

Rodney, what help do you need?

Here we go again. Fortunately, our second engineer figured out how we could solve the entire problem just with information that we and the client had. No need to go back to the DDNT team.

Finally, after 7 months, the client could access DDNT from their location. I was thrilled. I bought the engineering team a dozen doughnuts. I let our executive team know, I informed the client. . .and then, I got to take my revenge.

Dear Walter and Chris, we got DDNT setup and working for the client. Thank you so much for your help in getting our client access to the tools they needed.

Was it childish? Maybe a little. Was it true? Not a bit. They hadn’t done anything to help and they knew it. They also knew that I knew it. But, by offering them a sincere thank you for work that they didn’t do but should have, I got to get a little of my own back.

I wouldn’t recommend alienating your engineering teams. You absolutely need them. You need to take every opportunity to validate them and their work. But, occasionally, when they’ve forced you to beg and scrape it’s satisfying to remind them, in the nicest possible way, that we should all be focused on helping customers and clients.

If that reminder comes across a little cold, well some dishes are best served that way.

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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