20 March 2007


From CNN, a story about a computer technician working for the State of Alaska. It seems that one day he reformatted a disk drive. He then reformatted the back-up drive. The back-up tape turned out to be unreadable. The State spent $220,700 to do one year's work in six weeks. What happened to the technician?
Former Revenue Commissioner Bill Corbus said no one got into trouble for the incident.

"Everybody felt very bad about it and we all learned a lesson. There was no witch hunt," Corbus said.
Now, I'm all about compassion. Someone makes a mistake, well, it could happen to anyone. But I'm pretty sure that someone who did something similar in the private sector would have been fired. It wouldn't have been the end of his life. This is the sort of thing that makes it somewhat more likely than not that you'll get hired again, since everyone who interviews you will be thinking, "There but for the grace of G-d." The person who set up the tape backup system without making sure that it was and remained reliable should have been fired, and then rehired just so he could be fired again. Now we can see why state jobs are so sought-after. Not only can you not be fired, but your whole department only has to do six weeks worth of work over the course of a year.


pj said...

Or, if your department fails to do it's year's work, you can hire someone to do it in six weeks.

Duck said...

I disagree. If you are going to fire everyone who held some responsibility for the fact that one user was in a position to delete that much mission critical data, you'd get rid of every manager in the IT chain of command, as well as the executive who oversees IT. The process is broken. If the only backup for the data was on a PC disk that a technician could reformat, then they have no control over their business critical data. They have no business contingency plan.

This is classic Murphy's law behavior. Everyone takes Murphy's law as some kind of pop philosophy on life, but the real Murphy was an engineer, and he used the law to describe manufacturing processes that allowed bad assembly to happen. There was a component that could be plugged into a circuit board two different ways, the right way and the wrong way. The solution was to change the design of the components so that it could only be inserted the right way.

Every business process has to be designed with the assumption that people will make mistakes. Any executive that doesn't realize this isn't qualified to lead a business.

joe shropshire said...

This is a growing business for the large IT service companies like the one I work for. We provide the data storage, backup and recovery; the client's IT management moves on to a more strategic role. The downside for you is you lose staff; the upside is that if we do to your data what this fellow did we pay to recover it, and then you fire us and hire somebody else. We are doing a pretty good business with municipal and state governments for that very reason.

erp said...

So many of the commenters here are technical and/or scientific wizards, perhaps someone can explain why if I want to delete an email I need to confirm same several times, while complete hard drives and backup files can be wiped out with the click of a mouse? No warnings that here be dragons? No yellow triangle ! danger icons?

BTW - completely off topic, but I'm like a kid with a new toy. My laptop screen had gotten pretty icky and the stuff I bought at Office Depot was useless, so I googled for help and the advice I received here worked like magic.