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back to article Want a promotion? Study economics, says HDS economist

Want to get noticed by the higher-ups in your workplace? Forget about a new certification or home lab, an appreciation of economics and its application as a tool to define precise metrics about just what it costs to operate your employer's IT kit will see you get ahead. That's the opinion of Hitachi Data Systems' (HDS') chief …

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Anonymous Coward

Never

Promotions are nice, but there are limits to what I will do to get one. I have standards!!1!

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Unhappy

Re: Never

"Promotions are nice, but there are limits to what I will do to get one. I have standards!"

Indeed. I have a reasonable degree of experience in capex management, and the point here is not about knowing the costs and setting things right to produce a perfect IT service, but rather it is about justifying the costs of the next upgrade, using your knowledge to decorate the investment proposal, and to work with your finance colleagues to produce a beautiful, irrefutable business case. It doesn't matter if it is a work of financial fiction, wishful tech thinking, overlaid with an element of vested interest, and adorned with a tiny bit of dishonesty, because truth and accuracy are not what the proposers want.

The strikethrough of "knowing where the bodies are buried" raises an interesting issue in that such knowledge won't help you, because dishing the dirt on past poor decisions is likely to harm those who made them, and that group are probably now a further rung up the ladder. If you are the little boy who shouts that the emperor is wearing no clothes (eg "costs are five times higher than they need to be because we do zero server virtualisation") then you'll also be the little boy given a good hiding for being disrespectful to the emperor. And in future you'll find that another fairy tale applies, in that you'll be the new Chicken Little. But not the Disney version, in which it all comes good, no. You'll be in the traditional version where nobody wants to listen to you, and eventually you end up associating with a bunch of unpopular whiners, and all of you wander round being ignored until you get eaten and shat by a fox.

Look at your average Bigcorp outource. Costs go up, service goes down, and Bigcorp loses the ability to serve itself, leading to a five yearly cycle of dissatisfaction and re-sourcing to a company every bit as bad and costly as their predecessor. But who will thank you for standing up and telling the board that outsourcing only works if they really know what they're doing (and if they did then there'd be no need to outsource in the first place)? The directors will have already told investors that they will "cut costs by outsourcing". The senior managers involved know that simply getting the outsource airborne is enough to declare success and add shine to their CV, regardless of the possible negative outcome. For any investment project, I've yet to come across any company anywhere that does any effective post-investment appraisal - and that's across multiple sectors, and investment of hundreds of millions of pounds. Even if the investment makes an unintended "kabooom" noise, all that happens is further investment to mitigate that, and blame of the contractor.

So my recommendation is learn to talk to, understand and work with the accountants, and you can be part of the winning team. Bad decisions are either rarely recognised, or soon forgotten, so you can ride on the coat-tails of the merchants of change, and I think that's what the article is really saying. Don't be the fat, bearded, grumpy, insular IT guy (well, you're all like that in the films, like Jurassic Park), be the co-operative, go ahead, business aware IT guy who wants to "make things happen". Bad things maybe for the wider business, but at least you'd be polishing up your reputation by engaging with something that was going to happen anyway.

Be assured, I've tried the Chicken Little route concerning poor investment decisions costing many tens of millions of pounds, and all that got me was a visit to a director's plush carpeted office in order to be told that I was wrong, and any more cage rattling would see me purged. In due course that director was given the shove, policy was changed, and he was named and shamed by the SFO in connection with fraud. But who do you think is still working down the corporate mine, and who's retired early on a six figure pension in all of that?

Standards are all very well, but my view is that the righteous individual will only suffer themselves by trying to stand up against organisational inertia. You can try and do the right thing in the early stages, but once a bad idea is rolling you have to go with it. There is only one red line, which is saying no to fraud, and ensuring that you aren't covering up or complicit with fraud.

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Devil

AC is right.

Looking at the predictions/judgements/assessments of all sorts of 'economists' over the last few years tells me that they all have one thing in common.

And they share that one thing with 'analysts', horoscope writers and seaside fortune-tellers.

That one thing is an almost unerring consistency in their guesswork (for that is all it is) being completely wrong yet at the same time convincing other muppets that their guesswork is worth paying huge amounts of money for.

Even Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel and our very own Kray Brothers were a little more subtle...

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Anonymous Coward

yup...

Sounds about right, I'm sure we all know talented IT guys who are unable to advance their careers because they can't understand the wider aspects of the business they work in. I worked for many years as a financial services IT guy and now know an upsetting amount about pensions and banking, those who don't still hover around 2nd line support or helldesk.

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Anonymous Coward

over-protected by 200 to 300 per cent.

I live by the philosophy of "good enough", i.e. a system doesn't need to be perfect, just good enough.

But there is not a "good enough" point when it comes to protection - especially when its your head and job on the platter if and when things go wrong.

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Anonymous Coward

It's the measurement, not the maths

The maths of cost/benefit, total cost of ownership, exposure to risk etc is all pretty well understood. Even minimax optimisation, linear regression and monte carlo simulation are well understood techniques that most people can grasp with some background reading - no formal economics education required.

The problem is measuring the inputs. If you know there's a 10% chance that you will lose a million, you know it's worth spending up to 50k to lower that chance to 5% - easy. If you know a project is 25% complete and has taken 2 weeks, you know it is going to be complete in 8 weeks - don't you?

The trouble is we are largely ruled - in business and in politics - by numpties who are overwhelmed by their ability to do simple maths, and forget to do critical thinking about the numbers themselves. Not just the financial whiz kids who went round thinking their incredibly complex (and "stiff") models could be summed up with a single number 'value at risk' - despite their PhD 'technicians' trying to explain that it was a bit more subtle; but right down to facilities managers who think that reducing the number of bins on each floor simply reduces the cleaning bill, when in fact it causes people who are paid a lot more than cleaners to waste an amount company time that probably dwarfs the entire cleaning contract.

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Boffin

There is already a discipline dedicated to getting stuff done at the right cost - its called engineering. Off hand its difficult to think of two occupations more different than engineer and economist.

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Anonymous Coward

"There is already a discipline dedicated to getting stuff done at the right cost - its called engineering."

You should try the real world, where I routinely had to deal with engineers determined to buy three of anything - duy, duty assist, and standby (plus an additional one just in case). This included a now mothballed three lane press facility costing £20m, where one lane provided sufficient capacity for all throughput, a second lane was fully fitted out as a standby, and the third lane was civils only as part of the "just in case" scenario. After commissioning, it was noticed that existing capacity existed to do the job using the compay's pre-existing assets on another nearby site.

Kept engineers employed, mind you.

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Want a promotion? Study everything!

While I'm sure that studying economics well help, will it really help more than say "Windows 8 deployment"?

I don't need to study economics to know that a quick way of saving money is to get rid of employees that don't know how to do their job properly.

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Happy

Yes

Two of the senior developers at my company have advanced degrees in accounting and one is a CPA as well. Over the years I've found them to be invaluable assets as they have skills that can be applied both to the IT group and to the business as a whole. Since they're involved in nearly every aspect of the company through various systems it only makes good sense that they understand that the business (thus their salaries) are sales and revenue driven.

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"The book is a free download"

Maybe I missed it, but don't see a link...

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Link

Can be found here: http://www.hds.com/solutions/it-strategies/storage-economics/

HTH

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