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Episode 30: Governance

I drift off in the middle of the monologue. Somewhere at the back of my mind I realise that the Boss has worked out how to launch his browser again. Deleting the icon on his desktop could only stop him for so many weeks… Anyway he's in the middle of a long speech on project governance when I lose the will to live. Governance, stake-holders, ITIL, SEI, requirements, ITIL, business cases… It stops, finally, and I realise that he's waiting for a response.

'I'm not sure…' is the best response I can come up with, not having listened for the previous ten minutes.

He looks a bit crestfallen. 'You don't agree we need to put a new governance process and structure into place?'

'That goes without saying,' I respond, knowing that I need to be taking some evasive action otherwise I'm in for a direct hit.

'Good. I'm thinking we follow ITIL on this,' he adds decisively.

'ITIL? You know we've got some real ITIL experience in the team,' I lie.

The Boss looks suitably impressed. 'Really? That's great. Who is it?'

I look around the room. Suddenly everyone in the team looks incredibly busy. Eyes fixed hard on their screens. No breathing as they're all holding their breath.

Alison? No, she's too useful to piss off. Kevin? He's near a deadline. Crispin? He owes me a favour, so I can pay that off by dropping someone else in it… Colin? Colin's not here. Perfect.

'Colin,' I announce loudly. Sighs of relief all round the room.

The Boss turns round. 'Is he in today?'

'He's in a meeting.' I neglect to say that he's probably meeting with a doughnut and a cup of coffee in the kitchen at the moment. 'He'll be back in 15 minutes. Shall I send him your way?'

'Good idea,' the Boss agrees.

Colin's still smiling when he walks into the room. Alison gets there first.

'Colin, what's ITIL stand for?' she asks innocently.

He looks blank. 'What's that?'

'ITIL. I. T. I. L. What does it stand for?'

He's waiting for a punch line. 'It's a joke, is it? Does it stand for I Think I'm Lovable? Or is it something rude?'

Alison starts giggling. 'Glad to see you're such an expert…'

Colin looks even more confused. 'Is it something to do with computers then?'

I rescue the poor sod. 'It stands for Information Technology Infrastructure Library,' I explain gently. 'It's a set of best practices for running IT organisations. It's like a set of things to do and not do.'

'Sounds good,' Colin agrees, being gently guided to my desk.

'It is. You've got 15 minutes to read a couple of web pages then you're in a meeting with the Boss.'

'Better read fast,' Crispin calls out, 'because the Boss thinks you're an expert'.

'He does?' Colin asks.

'Sure he does,' I lie. 'With your years of experience it should be a doddle.'

Fifteen minutes later Colin can just about remember what ITIL stands for, which puts him at about the same level as the Boss.

'Now remember,' I tell him, just before he goes into the meeting, 'the Boss wants to create a new process for deciding what projects we do and what's in them. He'll want something complicated. We want something light and simple. Not too many people involved. Not too many meetings and groups getting in the way.'

'I know, I know. We want to keep it simple. Nothing complicated, no huge bureaucracies weighing us down.'

'Perfect. With luck you'll be done in a couple of hours…'

Three days later the Boss and Colin are finished. I'm called to the Boss's office for a grand unveiling. I don't have a good feeling when I enter the room and see the process diagram printed on an A3 sheet.

'Joe,' the Boss tells me, 'I had no idea that Colin had so much experience in this area.'

Neither did I. Colin smiles sheepishly. 'Well, you know how it is…'

'Anyway,' the Boss continues, 'Colin suggested that we stick to some of the core ITIL principles. Simplicity. Transparency. And, er, good stuff like that.'

'So what have we got?' I ask, trying to take in the mess of interlinked boxes on the diagram in front of me. It looks like they had to shrink it to get it onto A3.

The Boss takes a deep breath and launches into the explanation. 'OK, we start with the Support Desk. They know what problems people are having. They look after the support database and keep track of all the problem reports.'

Colin chimes in. 'There's three support teams. We figure one person from each team, plus the head honcho. They meet once a month to provide input.'

Back to the Boss. 'Now, along side that there's the Business development people. They've got a lot of ideas, so we figure they form a separate stream feeding input into the process.'

Colin. 'Obviously we want some user input too. We're going to form a User Community, and they'll create a development committee, as well as a separate team to provide feedback to the Support Desk committee.'

Boss. 'Corporate HQ drive strategic input. We figure a standing committee should do the trick. They'll liaise with Business Development as well. Every two months they can meet to iron out any wrinkles.'

'Finance have to have a say too,' Colin adds, 'so we figure they become part of an over-sight committee, alongside the CEO.'

The Boss smiles at this point. 'I can see you're impressed so far,' he says, his finely honed people skills mistaking mute incomprehension as enthusiasm.

Colin grins. 'I'm not forgetting us,' he tells me. 'We've got a say in this too. I think we need a Developer Council, with me as chairman, to co-ordinate our responses to all of this input.'

'Of course development doesn't take place in a vacuum,' the Boss continues. 'There's development standards and procedures and…'

Please, someone, shoot me now!

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