back to article IBM: ALL travel must be approved now, and shut up about the copter

IBM UK and Ireland has told the Global Technology Services team that all travel to customer sites must be approved by divisional general manager Tosca Colangeli irrespective of "value or business justification". This is a more extreme version of the previous directive issued by IBM for its calendar Q2 that all employee trips …

It's not the size that counts, when it comes down to it, it's discretionary spending. In a year when you are doing "workforce rebalancing", you have to try to find short term savings from somewhere to cover the cost until they are off the payroll in the following year.

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IBM said staff will be covered by IBM Life Assurance if they are on "approved" travel.

I dread to think what counts as "approved travel" if life insurance is a requirement.

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Black Helicopters

Re: IBM said staff will be covered by IBM Life Assurance if they are on "approved" travel.

"Unapproved" travel is covered by IBM Death Assurance, where you are tracked down by blue helicopters and terminated.

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Joke

Re: IBM said staff will be covered by IBM Life Assurance if they are on "approved" travel.

All "approved" travel must be via "approved" warzones (Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Chicago). This is in collaboration with IBM's "approved" heacount reduction scheme...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: IBM said staff will be covered by IBM Life Assurance if they are on "approved" travel.

Don't know what it covers - but it could be one of the few good things.

My company also has coverage for employees who travels for the company - if anything bad happens you're not on your own only for any expense - i.e. if you need medical transportation, etc.

When you travel don't you buy an assurance (if not already included in a travel packet)?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: IBM said staff will be covered by IBM Life Assurance if they are on "approved" travel.

Based on my recollection of the relevant documentation, this should be read as a reminder that staff are covered by the "death or injury in service on company business travel" insurance if [AND ONLY IF] the travel is approved. As I suspect, IBM UK are self-insured in this area it follows prior art.

You're on your own folks ... travel at your own risk even if you don't claim expenses for it.

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Just like old times.

Happy days! I remember a senior and very well paid IBM manager distributing a memo setting out the correct way (meaning his preference) for stapling the pages of a document together when submitting it to him for approval. Staple at approx 10mm from upper left corner and at exactly 45 degrees.

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Re: Just like old times.

Did you use that guide to staple said memo to said manager's arse?

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Facepalm

Re: Just like old times.

Same thing at the DSS. Some bloke was paid to come round and optimise everyone's desk layouts for efficiency.

"Are you right handed? It's best your pen holder is on your right, within reaching distance. I recommend you place you coffee on a mat somewhere it is less likely to get knocked over". That kind of shit.

That's the same place you had to prove your pen was out of ink by physically showing the office admin manager it couldn't write any more before he'd issue a new one.

At BAe there was once an introductory class for new secretaries on "the correct use of the mouse". Nothing to do with software, this was which-way-up-it-goes level training.

What a co-incidence - IBM have a big presence at all those sites.

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Re: Just like old times.

The Pheonix Pay System is an IBM product no? I can imagine just how useless their customer support and preparation was for their implementation of the Canadian Government's disastrous rollout of the that pay system.

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Re: Just like old times.

@ Mr Vistakin,

I once had a desk ergonomic assessment, to tell me where to put things. He couldn't understand why my mouse was to the left when I was right-handed, ditto my phone. I had to explain that I was ambidextrous and that picking up the phone with my left hand while I picked up my pen with my right, to take notes, was an efficiency gain. As for tea, that could be on either side as the mood took me. He could not take my anarchistic, boho ways, poor chap. He wrote up his recommendations, I ignored them.

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This post has been deleted by its author

Re: Just like old times.

"Did you use that guide to staple said memo to said manager's arse?"

No, but I submitted the memo to the site exec (anonymously of course, I had 3 years to go to a comfortable retirement) with a covering note asking if this was the best use of resources in a division repeatedly turning in a loss. I did have many a happy thought at the conversation that, hopefully, took place in the exec suite.

It gets worse. The reason the manager required hard-copy docs for approval was that he disliked the electronic email and soft-copy document distribution system, so every evening his secy printed everything he received and put it on his desk. If you wanted onto that pile it was best to walk a hard-copy up to her before she left. This was in the late 90's.

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Re: Just like old times.

@bob vistakin

In some languages mouse has the same double meaning as beaver. Just sayin'

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This makes sense in the proper perspective: IBM's product is share price, not hardware, software, nor goods and services. (Not even dividends)

As long as Wall Street drinks the kool-aid, IBM's management is golden

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FAIL

There are a lot of pump-and-dump companies these days that could use the invisible hand of the free market upside their heads.

But alas, the game is rigged and the platitudes only for consumption by the gullible punters. Free market just means free to fuck you, the customer, up the arse without consequence (or even lube) while socializing the consequences and privatizing the profits.

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IBM makes some rather large machines for some rather large companies. If something goes wrong it can be extremely expensive and may need someone on site immediately.

"Sorry sir, can you wait a few minutes while the bloke who has to sign off the travel gets out of the toilet?"

"Oh dear, he's now signed it off but it looks like the delay meant that the engineer missed the next flight."

"Stuff it where, sir?"

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It'd be interesting to get a customers view, knowing that they're now going to struggle to get an on site presence from IBM.

I wonder if the reason stated on the submitting engineers paperwork that this is a contractual requirement is enough to get the travel authorised?

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I wonder if the reason stated on the submitting engineers paperwork that this is a contractual requirement is enough to get the travel authorised?

Possibly not.

I used to work for a once-great UK company that had been taken over by a three-letter behemoth from across the Atlantic. We were having a conference call with faceless ones from Head Office across the Pond. I was quizzed about why we were doing something on my project - for one of the largest companies in the world - because it wasn't "the company way". My reply was that it was a contractual requirement, that my first and second objectives were to fulfil the contract and to keep the customer happy, and that "the company way" came after that.

I was then told "Never let anyone hear you say that again. The company way IS how we do everything, and it suits most customers".

Fortunately, there were a number of us at the UK end of this call, and we all stared at each in open-jawed astonishment. My resignation followed shortly thereafter.

Hi to my former colleagues who will recognise me from that!

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Wow.. Not sure what else to say!

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Suspect I worked for the same three letters

I had that attitude too when we borged into the largest US company. I kept proposing efficient, cheap ways to do things, only (after sighs of regret from the actual users worldwide) that no, we would do it the company way: worse and more expensive. I realised that I could not 'live the values' and left.

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Wow.. Not sure what else to say!

I do: this is a very common attitude among all large American companies and has been for decades.

No exaggeration.

I've said it before and I never get tired of saying it: the goal of every large American business is to force a customer to pay them but not have to delver a single damn thing.

Again, no exaggeration.

You know, like a Wall St broker.

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Get rid of all the layers of middle management

They do not contribute any deliverables, they are a net drain on margins, and it is THEM that are imposing the travel bans in order to save a few pennies (chairs and Titanic...).

The CEO needs to strip the company right down. Nobody else will do it. Turkeys don't vote for Christmas.

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Anonymous Coward

Was at a company once where micromanagement was the norm - and they also installed satellite trackers on _all_ company vehicles, which was duly monitored by dedicated staff.

Every km travelled had to be approved for, and accounted for afterwards.

Said rules did not apply to top manglement.

I escaped after a couple of months.

anon, obvious reasons.

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Anonymous Coward

Company vehicles? Last place I worked, that was one of the first things they got rid of.

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Anonymous Coward

Investment

There is a famous investor who maintains you can learn a lot about a company by looking at the value of the cars in the company car park in relation to salaries and the share price. If the ratio is too high then someone is being paid too much. Have you seen an IBM car park lately?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Investment

@Anonymous coward

> Have you seen an IBM car park lately?

Last time was about a year ago, IBM Warwick, and all of the cars were normal: no ranks of Ferrarris, Bentleys, Porsches or even large Mercedes.

What's your point exactly?

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Anonymous Coward

IBM would...

Probably make more money if they had a less impenetrable product portfolio.

I see IBM adverts plastered all over the place saying IBM can power this and that but I'm not entirely what that means and what their products actually are. Everything Ibread related to IBM is marketing guff and bluster.

Can someone clearly and concisely explain what it is that they do? I can't be alone here right?

Same goes for SAP and various other airport billboard space wasters. I swear those boards exist specifically to give PMs and CTOs something to say at meetings.

PM: *Wanders around airport eating duty free Toblerone, sees IBM and SAP billboards.*

*8 hours later after arriving at meeting in another country*

PM: I've been hearing a lot about SAP and IBM. Lets see if their solutions can resolve our tech problems.

Engineer: But which product and what solution?

PM: Just look at all of them and send me a report on pricing and features.

Engineer: *back at desk, opens browser, visits IBM.com, flips desk*

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Re: IBM would...

Deliberate obfuscation is the hallmark of the scam artist and con man.

You would think grown adults with power and money would understand this.

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Anonymous Coward

Here we go again!

As a former IBMer, I remember the days (last month of the quarter) when the "no travel" email would come around.

I also remember the "Can you go see a customer next week?" requests ... if only the approval were that quick!

This is nothing new in IBM, been going on for years! So has the demise.

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Surely IBM are missing a sales opportunity here.

Get Watson to decide if travel is necessary. It's a win-win because the utilisation of Watson improves and you can reduce the number of divisional managers for expense reduction. If it works IBM can show the world how great Watson is and then sell it to everyone else.

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Terminator

Re: Surely IBM are missing a sales opportunity here.

Rather than act on individual decisions, you could get Watson to decide whether the overall travel policy made sense. Not sure how senior management would then feel about being contradicted by Watson though.

Hell, just have Watson make all the decisions that senior management currently make. It can't be any worse or show less humanity...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Watson

Watson was asked to review the problem and replied, 'Don't bother me with this nickle and dime stuff' so it was handed down to an exec

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What did you call me?

> To get approval the delivery project executive (DPE) must get approval in writing

I wonder for how long they were called Delivery of Project Executives, before someone noticed

[ and yes, I know there is a Dilbert cartoon along very similar lines ]

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Anonymous Coward

I'm curious to hear the talk at IBM's board when a bunch of clients start threatening to defect if their problems aren't fixed tout suite...

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Well, that's been happening already, along with numerous breach of contract and SLA failures and it hasn't stopped them yet, has it?

See an above post regarding IBM's attitude toward customers.

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Hmm. IBM's publicly traded on the NASDAQ. The investors must be kept in the dark, then, or you would think there would've been some backlash by this point.

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Childcatcher

Ginni Speaks

Greetings, humble subjects. I've heard that some of you took issue with my helicopter the last time you were graced with my presence. Do you like the one I have now? It's five stories tall with it's own landing bay and banquet hall. I wonder if any of you know how many of your annual salaries it takes to keep it in the air for an hour. Well, that number has just gone up.

I was going to share a special surprise with you today. Since our policy has changed to support more reasonable restrictions on travel spending we, your rulers, had decided to help you out. There was this marvellous Canadian invention that they came up with in the 1930s called "Bennett Buggies". We had purchased a fleet of these highly cost effective and stylish vehicles for you. However, since so many of you seem to have problems with our travel restrictions we have decided to update our policy. There will be no travel without approval and we have instructed your local magistrates to never approve travel. Since we won't be needing the Bennett buggies any longer all of the horses have been shot.

Thank you for your unquestioning loyalty and support. Do please try to be less filthy and unwashed the next time I grace you with my presence. One last thing, that one there, yes, the worried looking one, have her shot. Cheerio!

(Ginni boards her massive helicopter which then takes off, making a sweeping turn that causes the massive blades to puree half of the audience)

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Thumb Up

Re: Ginni Speaks

Thumbs up for the Bennett buggies!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Ginni Speaks

Yeah well...my helicopter has a helipad built into it and it's capable of landing on top of itself.

Just like IBM its capable of disappearing up its own arse but it can do so in one handy, portable helicopter format.

Its also powered by SAP, IBM, ORACLE and SUN MICROSYSTEMS aaaand it has Intel Inside.

Whatever the fuck all that means.

Also, next month ill be upgrading itnto an i9 CPU so ill halve the features but gain loads of cores. Winning!

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What about the top management ?

Corporate golf jollies scrapped ?

No just employee travel

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This is likely to upset some customers

If they are spending lots of money with IBM on a big project and suddenly the IBM folks quit showing up at their site and being working remotely instead I can see some of them unhappy about this change.

Especially if it is customer funded - i.e. the consultants charge their travel to the client. It sounds like their numbers so far in Q2 are looking bad for senior management bonuses, and even customer funded travel costs them money up front since travel in the month of June typically wouldn't be reimbursed via billing the customer until at least July.

Bet this policy loosens up in a month, though it may come back at the end of August.

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Re: This is likely to upset some customers

Running the biz with short-term, reactionary policies doesn't seem particularly wise.

HP had all but clinched a 3Par purchase from a former employer. Two weeks before we were ready to request demo hardware, they cancelled their demo hardware program. I pleaded for an exemption, to no avail. Dell was gleeful about the opportunity. They not only loaned us test equipment, but also provided us with a T3 engineer for installation and testing guidance.

Guess who got the contract?

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Re: This is likely to upset some customers

Looks like an opportunity for IBM SI and support partners though...

Ability to pick up plum IBM customer contracts and also create opportunities for those in IBM looking forward to redundancy...

So does anyone here know the new IBM sales commission rules? ie. are sales people being better rewarded for sales through Partners?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is likely to upset some customers

"i.e. the consultants charge their travel to the client."

Big consultancies don't do this. They stick a per-person-per-day charge onto every consultant on the project and absorb the excess as profit. It means senior managers get to swan about expensing any old shit while delivery staff get ranted at for spending three quid on AWS to prototype a solution.

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Re: This is likely to upset some customers

If IBM was charging me 'per person per day' and I had a bunch of guys coming on site every week, and then they stopped coming and worked remotely, but I was getting billed the same, I'd raise holy hell.

I guess it depends on how the contract is written, maybe the customer has to lump it, but that would sure guarantee IBM isn't invited to bid on future contracts.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: This is likely to upset some customers

The customer has to lump it.

It's also why they clamp down on expenses. If they were billable they wouldn't give a fuck. Because they're not billable it means they're coming out of the margin. It means cutting down expenses even a small amount can have a disproportionate impact on margin. It's buried deep enough in the figures that Wall Street can't tell if it's a real bump in efficiency or penny pinching.

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Anonymous Coward

Depends what is being rejected

Sadly resorting to AC but ... we've been on a travel regime for all travel above some small limit to go to the board member for approval for some years now.

The problem is not the presence of such a policy for a senior sign-off which is easily managed with a few decent rules and good organisation, but whether this is causing valid travel to get rejected and damaging business.

Not rocket science to make it work well for the business. Explaining to the external travel agent that budget airlines exist and can fly me to the continent for a tenth the quoted price is a different matter.

(We are smaller, maybe 5,000 staff, but define some business rules like whether the client is paying for the travel and whether there is a budget allocated to give it some financial context. If the red flags don't rise, it gets approved typically in less than a few hours and in practice usually by the board member's competent PA as a delegate. Anything outside the limits usually gets kicked back unless it is a problem already on the exec's desk.)

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Holmes

How to fail in business

Sales are down? Reduce customer service. Yeah, that will work.

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Paris Hilton

Re: How to fail in business

For some inexplicable reason, this seems to always be the go-to solution for many companies.

Truly clueless, the lot.

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