back to article Uni of Manchester IT director resigns after chopping 68 people

The University of Manchester's director of IT, Gerry Pennell, has resigned after three years in the role – with no explanation as to why. Former employees say that 56-year-old Pennell leaves the British uni with a severely understaffed IT services department: 68 jobs were axed in 2015, with the last of those having finally …

  1. Harry the Bastard
    Childcatcher

    his work there is done

    sadly

    always baffled me how serial screw-ups go from one highly-paid position to another, leaving devastation in their wake

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: his work there is done

      You are assuming that you know what is in the secret parts of these people's job descriptions.

      Including in some cases the ones that they don't share with their employers.

      Like the HMRC revolving door with the firms of accountants whose job is to defeat HMRC for less money than the tax being avoided.

      1. phil dude
        FAIL

        Re: his work there is done

        and generally speaking the OTHER senior execs do not want to be associated with failure in any shape or form.

        Hence once you reach a sufficiently senior level the guy who hired you becomes tarnished with your screw-ups.

        That's why really expensive screw-ups don't end up with criminal charges and firings, because the nature of lawsuits with money at stake.

        Basically, one rule for us, no rules for them.

        P.

        1. EnviableOne Bronze badge
          Devil

          Re: his work there is done

          Nah, its classic application of Murphys golden rule

          "The one with the Gold, .... Makes the rules."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: his work there is done

      "always baffled me how serial screw-ups go from one highly-paid position to another, leaving devastation in their wake"

      Incidentally, for a massive serial screw-up (though he stayed in the same job throughout) one of the most extreme historical examples must be Henry 8th. Just about everything he touched turned to shit. But he's the one who gets a big write-up in the history books, while nobody is really interested in the kings who presided over periods of stability and prosperity.

      The human race just seems to enjoy a good car crash.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: his work there is done

        Of course we love a good crash. We're social animals and these give us a reason to talk. Gossip, don'tcha know.

      2. boltar Silver badge

        Re: his work there is done

        "one of the most extreme historical examples must be Henry 8th. Just about everything he touched turned to shit. "

        I'd stick to commenting on IT. Your knowledge of history is rather lacking.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: his work there is done

      "always baffled me how serial screw-ups go from one highly-paid position to another, leaving devastation in their wake"

      It's called nepotism - "It's not what you know, it's who you know". Once part of the Old Boys Club, via a single overpaid hire, they hopscotch from one overpaid position to another via their network links...of other overpaid halfwits.

      If a CEO runs a company into the ground the other CEO's, who are on the board of the company in distress, do NOT want to openly punish the failing CEO as that means that if they, themselves, screw up...they will have to pay the piper as well.

      It is a club of Cover My Ass, I'll Cover Yours. Nobody is ever guilty because it means that every one would, after the example, be called to the same standard - and who wants that? It will end the Eternal Gravy Train of Golden Parachutes and management that never is called to task for failures (as they are always caused by someone else, usually the lower workers) yet success is only, and exclusively, due to their absolute brilliance.

      Note that a failing manager is never blamed when he/she leaves office, they simply "Transition to the next chapter of [their] career". In yet another, overpaid no-backlash-for-failure position,.

      See also: Crony Capitalism

      1. WonkoTheSane Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: his work there is done

        "It's not what you know, it's who you know"

        Actually, it's what you know ABOUT who you know!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: his work there is done

          Or as an acquaintance of mine used to say,

          "It's not who you know, it's who you blow"

          ;-)

          1. Triggerfish

            Re: his work there is done

            They are to big to fail, or their ego is.

            I say this as someone who watched a MD lose 40K on a project, (to give you some idea I was lambasted for almost losing 30 quid on a project I was making a nice extra profit of 16K over the profit margin target). Who took time twice to personally sit down in front of me at work and tell me I should consider myself lucky his project was such a success (honestlly we will lose the money but its worth it for the advertising (it was not and it did not get us more work)), otherwise he would be personally sacking me.

    4. timbow

      Re: his work there is done

      Never been in a car crash, but seen plenty in his rear view mirror.....

    5. Halfmad Silver badge

      Re: his work there is done

      I once worked at a local council, my first non-private sector job. We ran one IT section and when merged with another council proposals were put forward for how we'd work together - essentially merging the two departments, with us being the smaller one.

      Surveys were sent to customers, our approval rating was over 80%, theirs was under 40%. Guess which way they opted to run the department? Yes the way the 40% one worked, all implemented by a temporary "head of service merger" who left about 3 weeks after the work was completed and before the first raft of complaints came in.

      None of our department managers were given managerial roles in the merged department, none of our team leaders were team leaders, they were on protected salary and every one of them left within two years, the place is now mostly outsourced.

    6. LDS Silver badge

      Re: his work there is done

      Because they know very well how to sell themselves, to people who have the power but not the brain to make the right choice.

      In a ISV company I worked for years ago, one day they bought another one, which was in some troubles. We believed they bought it to acquire its customers, maybe a product or two, and expand the company.

      With our big surprise, the owner of that company was made head of all development activities, and is vice (one of the worst person I ever met, as I was going to discover later, always ready to stab someone in the back as soon as it could), the technical head.

      They didn't take much to put in troubles the company again, with a string of bad decision while making skilled people go away - eventually the company went bankrupt (among other stupid decisions).

      At least one of them is no longer in IT, now he's in the "art market" - probablly selling fakes or the like. But this too tells a lot of how some people are very good at selling themselves for roles they can't really fill.

      1. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
        Childcatcher

        Re: his work there is done

        Because they know very well how to sell themselves, to people who have the power but not the brain to make the right choice.

        Foreshadowing the results of now-ongoing US elections?

      2. montyburns56

        Re: his work there is done

        Sadly a lot people in seniors positions have got there due to their (over) confidence and their bullshitting skills rather than any useful talents.

    7. Magnus_Pym

      Re: his work there is done

      "always baffled me how serial screw-ups go from one highly-paid position to another, leaving devastation in their wake"

      Boss: We need to improve services and reduces costs. Can you do it?

      Applicant1: It's not possible and there are already too few staff.

      Applicant2: It's not possible and there are already too few staff.

      Applicant3: It's not possible and there are already too few staff.

      Applicant4: Easy. And I can do it and make the board of directors look good too.

      Guess which applicants are telling truth? Guess who gets the job?

    8. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: his work there is done

      That's "serial screw-up OBE" to you, mate.

    9. enormous c word

      Re: his work there is done

      They are feckin' idiots who speak the same language as the feckin' idiots who employ them. They then tell each other what they want to hear - never bothering (or having the capacity to understand) the organisation they are feckin' up. We all have OutSourcing Horror stories. Does anybody have any OutSourcing success stories (> 4 years after the deal was signed)?

      '

      '

      '

      '

      '

      Nope - thought not.

  2. Gene Cash Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Truely disturbing

    That list of items in the webpage... Michael Jackson's sperm? Really?

    Icon for "I can't unsee it!"

    1. x 7

      Re: Truely disturbing

      " Michael Jackson's sperm?"

      what? you mean he actually had one?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Truely disturbing

        And it was white ;)

      2. Potemkine Silver badge

        Re: Truely disturbing

        Yeah, he didn't like to swallow.

  3. Chika
    Flame

    You are assuming that you know what is in the secret parts of these people's job descriptions.

    And there you strike at the heart of a problem I have lived through on more than one occasion. Such people will wander the work landscape, chopping heads from companies and public sector organisations alike, only to take their ill-gotten booty and move on to the next location to do the bidding of those that don't have the guts to do their own dirty work.

    In some respects I feel a degree of pity for these folk that have to do this sort of work. Otherwise I have no love for such characters in the workplace. All they do is put people out of work and destroy the morale of those left behind, both at the time because they fear for their own jobs and afterwards when they have to tidy up the mess.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      A friend was made redundant several times and in the process acquired a good knowledge of the laws and staff traumas. She re-trained into an HR role, Then started a new career in short term jobs for companies who were desperate to downsize but who had little idea of the legal and human pitfalls.

      She organised the redundancies in as equitable a manner as possible - the last one out being herself.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        She organised the redundancies in as equitable a manner as possible

        As somebody who's been shown the door three times, I can assure those who've not been acquainted with redundancy that there is no real concept of "an equitable redundancy", nor any gentle way of doing it. The only thing that helps is a generous pay off, and IME the best way of going is the quick and clean "collect your things and hand your pass in". Any "consultation process" merely prolongs the discomfort and introduces unrealistic hope, and "role counselling" is pure bollocks since there's too few jobs to go round. Even for any retained employees, a protracted process means they have to work with the dead men walking for months.

        Anyway, fingers crossed for my current lot to have a cull soon, I'm looking forward to taking the money and running (although they do like their protracted processes).

    2. LucreLout Silver badge

      In some respects I feel a degree of pity for these folk that have to do this sort of work.

      Half or more, in my experience, of their ilk are psychopaths; your pity is wasted because they simply wouldn't understand it.

      All they do is put people out of work and destroy the morale of those left behind, both at the time because they fear for their own jobs and afterwards when they have to tidy up the mess

      In cases such as the one in this article, failure [of management] seems the most relevant description, rather than redundancy.

      Redundancy is a sad fact of life. Its inevitable on a long enough timeline. It should never be personal, and it should always be handled with compassion by those wielding the axe. Companies need to be able to shed staff.

      However, rampant outsourcing and off-shoring as a driver for redundancies never works; it gives you a short term hit on the costs bong for one year only, and after that you've lost your capability to achieve change in your business.

      If a private enterprise wants to reward the top dogs with large compensation payments, I care not. What I do care about is when that becomes decoupled from accountability, which is the situation in which we now find ourselves.

      Gen Xers will be old enough to remember the last Conservative government, which was really the last time we had accountability in Britain. The rot set in quickly under Blair & Brown, and has only grown worse with time including under Cameron & Clegg. The coalition and current Conservative government have continued making matters worse. The "brazen it out until a new headline comes along" approach has its roots firmly in public life but has quickly taken over the corporate world (see Dido at TalkTalk for proof).

      We need change. I just don't see how that can readily be achieved when we have a generation at the top that has never been held to account, and a generation coming into the work place that have never seen adults behave in an accountable manner in their lives.

    3. Chika
      Trollface

      I take it that the downvote was probably from one of my former bosses...

  4. x 7

    ex Co-Op bank?

    good riddance

    maybe the department can now sort itself out

  5. Rich 11 Silver badge

    Gah! Same old, same old...

    Does Pennell hold shares in KPMG? Ah, no, it's not public. Oh well, at least he's free now to take up a seat on the board, or to oversee a particular consultancy division if it should be offered.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: Gah! Same old, same old...

      More likely the link would be with the outsourcing company he had dealings with before. First make the outsourcing deal, then hire KPMG to say it is a good idea to sell it to the boss.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gotta laugh!

    The spokesman added that the university is "not aware" of any cuts to the IT transformation budget

    It's remarkable how much you can be unaware of if you really try hard enough.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's not a firm.

      This is a university. Above his position as head of IT will have been a committee with its members drawn voluntarily from various faculties, all with a belief they know something about IT, irrespective of the reality. They're academics and easily fooled by glossy external presentations, particularly if restricted budgets have meant that internally provided services have been run on a shoestring and therefore had some minor issues which they have experienced. Outsourcing is an easy sell and would have been a private part of his job description, as it has been at other institutions.

      Academics, particularly senior ones, have enormous expertise in their own restricted field. Most of them, with a few exceptions, feel that this makes them just as expert in everything else.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe he was forced by senior mgmt to see through the firings against his will and then afterwards he resigned because of what he'd been forced to do? Just a thought

    1. Roo

      "Maybe he was forced by senior mgmt to see through the firings against his will and then afterwards he resigned because of what he'd been forced to do? Just a thought"

      "Forced" how exactly ? Surely he could have refused and quit *before* firing people if he felt strongly enough about it... Free country - nothing to hide etc etc etc.

    2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Scapegoat?

      Or he could have been brought in by senior management to do the firing so they didn't have to take the flack if the cost-cutting didn't work.

      1. Efros

        Re: Scapegoat?

        I must admit on reading the story my first thought was that he had been brought in to be the Axe Man the management didn't have the balls to be.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Scapegoat?

          Hachetmen are routinely hired for this kind of job.

          The mistake some make is thinking that such a person would EVER be suitable for managing a growing outfit or having any kind of decent staf relationships - invariably putting someone like this in a position where he's expected to look after the company will result in things rapidly going pear-shaped.

          (WRT outsourcing: My opinion - it's useful if you need to cull a lot of deadwood or reorganise the internal workings of the outfit but should never be left outsourced for a prolonger period for the same reasons the report authors put forward.)

  8. Andy Non Silver badge

    He finally figured out...

    the correct person to fire. Himself.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As an 'IT Leader' who moved up the ranks via the technical route and spent the last few years plugging the management holes, I'm increasingly troubled by the percentage of my peers who, to be frank, haven't got a f*cking clue and, even worse, wear their lack of technical expertise as some sort of badge of honour.

    It's no wonder that the modern workplace is littered with the corpses of ballsed up IT transformations, cloud initiatives, ERP implementations, etc,..

    1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
      Holmes

      In many (most?) organisations, the career progression for specialists (geek, engineer, scientist, teacher, etc) is to become a manager. There are two small problems with this, though.

      Firstly, not everyone wants to move away from their specialism and become a manager. Heck, they may even enjoy their current work.

      Secondly, some people just aren't any good at being a manager. They may be the mutt's nuts in their field, but they may not be management material.

      Unfortunately, our friends in HR don't understand this...

      1. Archie Woodnuts

        I used to work for a manager who'd been a techie (supposedly) and had ended up being promoted by attrition. He'd simply outlasted everyone else and ended up with the job. We called him The Ass due to his general nature and level of competence.

        That said, he outlasted me, too, because when you're a sysadmin and your boss is shouting at you that he doesn't see the point in VLANs in any circumstance, you realise you're being Assed and it's time to move on.

        1. ukaudiophile

          You have my sympathies Archie.

          How can a company be big enough to justify multiple levels of seniority in it's IT dept, yet be small enough to have a network which doesn't require VLAN's?

          To have a manager who cannot understand their use is frightening, how many clots like him are there out there in IT management? I take it the company is now out of business? Did he move the corporate internet connection to TalkTalk to save money?

          1. Archie Woodnuts

            Believe it or not but our IT department consisted of two sys admins, six helpdesk chaps and four managers of various flavours as a result of business mergers. We could have done without the managers, mine in particular, though I do now have a lifetime's worth of work anecdotes.

            Curiously enough the company did go bust shortly after most of us escaped, something we found hilarious. The VLAN argument was in regard to QOS on VOIP services because "we'll be fine without VLANs" didn't seem a sustainable policy to me.

            There was the day he wanted to move servers at one site to another site (and subnet), just because, and asked if we'd need to change the IP addresses on them or if they'd just work.

            Or the day we had a flood of spam that was traced back to one of the directors complaining that an email had been blocked and our glorious leader turning off most of the filters instead of just releasing it.

            I could go on :(

            The truly distressing thing was the fact that the directors seemed to think the sun shone from The Ass despite his obvious lack of, well, everything. Boggles the mind really.

      2. Greem

        Ab-so-bloody-lutely right

        I made my way up the ladder across a number of jobs - school technician, university networking, commercial sector sysadmin & net eng, senior role of that one (management!), sideways move after a takeover into a 'roving specialist' role which I loved, then back into higher ed as a technical manager because that is "the thing to do" as you get older.

        After years of not being allowed to recruit to replace leavers/movers I had less than half the team I'd had and became acutely aware of the fact that I (a) didn't have time to do the paperwork and (b) hated doing it. I became "The Peter Principle" in person.

        Thankfully due to a wise senior manager I got moved into another team, no management responsibility, now I can do tech work again and enjoy it. I have no intention of ever being in management again.

        I do feel sorry for my colleagues in Manchester though.

        1. cbars

          Re: Ab-so-bloody-lutely right

          Thanks Greem!

          I've never heard of the Peter Principle before, this explains everything!

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_principle

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The basic problem in this field is that the work is intensely technical, but the senior management do not see that good techies must be paid as highly as managers. The net result is that beyond a certain level, good techies must become bad managers in order to get paid any more.

        Pennell also failed big-time by trying to rush his staffing reduction by threatening redundancy. This forced all staff to look for new jobs, and in addition to the reductions wanted by Pennell, a lot of other techies also resigned or retired, and with these other people a lot of expertise has also left the organisation. This is then a textbook example of how not to do it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Yes, there's a lot of ill feeling across campus, and many IT staff who were unaffected by the culling feel let down by their employer, and as you say, some are leaving on their own accord because they don't like being there any more. And some are considering leaving because they don't want to deal with all the s**t once knowledge and expertise has left the building.

          A lot of the transformation and other developmental programmes of work are being handled by contractors, who will mostly all be gone by the end of this year. The remaining senior management will no doubt be blaming Gerry and all the contractors for the changes.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      These kind of idiots can be useful to cunning lazy employees around them. Just make sure you're seen doing even token amounts of their work for them and its amazing how tolerant colleagues and management become of your lack of results or effort on real work.

      It halted the promotion path of the last screwup that gave me this slacking opportunity before he reached high enough to really damage the company:)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Linux

    Drive necessary to make the project a success?

    "The Bank CIO (Gerry Pennell) .. left the organisation in late 2008 .. With his departure, the organisation lost some of the capability and drive necessary to make the project a success."

    Having seen that a disaster was coming, mostly caused by his own bad decisions, decided to jump from a sinking ship more likely. If a project fails because one man leaves them maybe it wasn't much of a project in the first place.

    http://www.co-operative.coop/PageFiles/989442031/kelly-review.pdf

  11. Peter X

    Bird-skeleton

    ...is titled "Crucified Hope".

    Or "The Crucified Hope of Gerry Pennell" these days I'd imagine.

    His Wikipedia page says he's an IT Executive and he studied maths, but I can't see anything else - presumably he did something else to qualify him for these jobs?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bird-skeleton

      He has a Wikipedia page? Oh yes. Looks suspiciously self-published to me.

  12. ecofeco Silver badge

    When you know the right people

    ...then nothing succeeds like failure!

    Will he work for HP next?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    co-op IT are dysfunctional

    Caused by incompetent management

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: co-op IT are dysfunctional

      who flew the coop.

      1. wolfetone

        Re: co-op IT are dysfunctional

        While it may be dysfunctional, I can tell you (as a customer since 2009) that their IT systems haven't gone done.

        Something that HSBC and Natwest can never say.

        1. x 7

          Re: co-op IT are dysfunctional

          " haven't gone done."

          I read that as not working?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: co-op IT are dysfunctional

          probably because they're so basic! Colleague of mine is with Co-op its online banking is like something from 2002! Its so basic you can hardly do anything with it, compare it with Santander.

          1. wolfetone

            Re: co-op IT are dysfunctional

            "probably because they're so basic! Colleague of mine is with Co-op its online banking is like something from 2002! Its so basic you can hardly do anything with it, compare it with Santander."

            And? I have the same system and there's nothing I've wanted to do with it that couldn't be done with the interface. It does what it says on the tin, and I'd like to think because of it's simplicity it's more robust.

            And yes, I "gone done" was meant to be "gone down". The coffee hadn't kicked in at that point.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: co-op IT are dysfunctional

              well it drives my colleague nuts! Can't say I've ever had a problem with Santandar

  14. Howard Hanek
    Linux

    Co-Op Bank?

    I can't get this image out of my mind of them issuing books of rubber checks.....

    I can see them wanting employees who are 'flexible'.....

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    no explanation as to why.

    google wikipedia on "remorse", that's why.

    p.s. what's his leaving bonus?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    replatform

    You call it replatform, I call it refuck.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Having worked for the organisation in question, the agenda for this man was clear from the start. Like many others, I jumped ship because I was tired of the multiple rounds of "competency mapping", "knowledge consolidation" and "management bullshit".

  18. happy but not clappy
    Holmes

    Ooh, disaster smell word...

    "Transformation"

    Any IT program with "Transformation" in the title leads to pain and failure, mainly due to top-down consultant-led fuck-wittery. Extra points for adding "digital" at the front.

    Ooh, what is this I see before me: https://www.gov.uk/transformation. I rest my case m'lud.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ooh, disaster smell word...

      more points for adding "moving forward"

      WTF is all that about, why is "moving forward" being added to every fecking thing!? totally redundant words

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ooh, disaster smell word...

        My personal pet dislike is "Leverage" & "Leverageing".

        Apart from the fact that the 2nd one isn't even a real word, wouldn't words like 'Use' and 'Utilise' be better fitting?

        1. Chika

          Re: Ooh, disaster smell word...

          For me, the words I have learned to fear and hate are "best practice" (usually means "we are going to lay off people then expect the same work to be covered by an inadequate workforce") and "reorganisation" (usually means "we have raped the coffers for something we didn't need so we need a quick topup to avoid having to cut the CEO's perks")

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They best hurry up with that hand over, Mr Pennell is due to be sharing his wisdom as a lead speaker at the IDC CIO Summit Middle East in Abu Dhabi later this month...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Unfortunately they take heckling very badly in Abu Dhabi....

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Devil

    Carp managers

    perhaps he could be moved to ISIL/ISIS if they don't catch on in time before he ruins them - a result,

    if they cotton on well one less carp manager - a result!

  21. mstreet

    The great circle jerk

    I used to be surprised and angry at this sort of thing, but it's pretty much becoming the norm.

    My current employer has a COO, who openly lies to the employees, and makes personnel and salary decisions, without apparently letting HR know about it (being HR they obviously do know, they just lie about it). All the rest of the senior management knows this is going on, but none of them have the stones to say anything about it.

    The weird part, is that EVERYONE in the company knows it is happening. The management keep coming up with all these new initiatives to "help improve morale". These initiatives are all met with incredulous laughter by the employees, who are perfectly aware what they are. The local manager KNOWS the employees are laughing at the whole thing, but tells the head office how well the initiative was received, because telling the truth would make him look bad, or even worse, put him in a position were he would have to call out the COO in front of the CEO (the CEO of course, also knows this is going on, but trusts the COO to work it all out).

    It's like a house of cards, made of lies.

    It becomes more apparent to me every day, that just about anybody in a position of power these days, be it corporate, charity, government, or lynch mob, is probably a sociopath. By there very nature people of this sort strive for power for powers sake. The decent people who aim for power with the goal of actually improving the common lot, are either marginalized, or quit once they see what they are up against.

    Sorry, that got way more ranty than I'd planned

  22. Eclectic Man

    Reminds me of ...

    the extreme loyalty to their crew and passengers of the officers of the Medusa*.

    (*Look it up)

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    He's purely the hatchet man hired for a purpose which he achieved, transformation. Standard practice for organisations who want to cull the under performing IT department without the stigma sticking to them. Harsh but true. Try looking in those ivory towers for someone to blame

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yes, well...

      Given they've just spent roughly a million pounds to get a big chunk of the most experienced and knowledgeable IT staff to bugger off and get jobs somewhere else, leaving several core business IT systems with... questionable levels of support, in this case the people in those Ivory towers are possibly now trying to figure out which one of them will get the blame if/when it all goes tits up.

  24. Frank Rysanek

    Would love to hear some context...

    How big is the organisation being thus treated? How many in-house IT staff (before the layoffs), how many staff total, how many students? What does university IT mean nowadays, exactly? In the old days, it was a few computer "labs" (a couple dozen desktop PC's networked in a room), some file servers, some printing... The school I went to had a nice in-house client/server app keeping track of the students, lectures, allocation of seats in the courses to students... coded and supervised by a single guy. That was in the second half of nineties. I am told that much of the in-house DB software (then native MS-DOS apps) was later ported to web-based environment. I can imagine that a big enough university might appreciate something like an ERP business package... And then some departments might manage servers of their own, for special apps, HPC and whatnot. Technical schools are likely to have more of this arcane specialized stuff - but the chairs/dept.s also tend to have post-grad people / lecturers who take care of the high-end stuff as part of their highly specific jobs.

    So... 68 people laid off. How many per cent is that of the total IT staff? What professions were laid off? Are they gonna outsource the grunts replacing broken keyboards, adding stolen mice, fixing broken Ethernet links, taking care of toner cartridges...? 68 people in university IT sounds like quite a lot... then again, my post-commie school catered for just about 1000 students per year, which might be a relatively low count, compared to universities of the western world...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Would love to hear some context...

      "How big is the organisation being thus treated? How many in-house IT staff (before the layoffs), how many staff total, how many students? What does university IT mean nowadays, exactly?"

      In order :

      Probably one of the 5 biggest Universities in the UK by numbers. Turnover in the hundreds of millions.

      IT department of roughly 300 souls before 'Transformation', I'd say 66% actual techies - no manager grade staff have been 'offered the chance to explore new opportunities'. So say 200 total with 68 to go.

      Something over 20,000 staff - academic & business

      Something around 60,000 students.

      And lastly : everything from helping a student connect their phone to the University email & scheduling systems up to and including multimillion pound research HPC installations with terabytes of RAM. An estate of 10's of thousands of PCs and a network - both wired and wifi - that is required both to be secure and 'open'.

      So yeah, not much like a 1000 student college in the mid 90's at all really. Most of the staff who have been laid off are straight support guys or developers. Some of the stuff you mention has already been outsourced (printing for one) so not really that stuff.

      1. Frank Rysanek

        Re: Would love to hear some context...

        Excellent, thanks for the insight :-) 200 IT staff to cater for 60 000 people actually sounds pretty lean to me... and indeed a good candidate for some uniform printing solution :-) among many other technical challenges...

        1. Frank Rysanek

          Re: Would love to hear some context...

          Oh actually it's 60 000 students, 80 000 total. = even leaner IT.

  25. aldownie

    Do some research!

    Kelly's report into the Coop Bank IT problems states that it was Pennell's *departure* which derailed the replatforming projects; not any mistakes that he had made. And as far as I'm aware (from several colleagues who work in the University of Manchester), the University has been beleaguered by bad IT services for many years before Pennell's arrival, and drastic changes were essential and long overdue. Well managed outsourcing isn't a bad thing, necessarily. Who, among all the IT professionals commenting here, could have managed IT for the London Olympics without outsourcing?

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Do some research!

      "Who, among all the IT professionals commenting here, could have managed IT for the London Olympics without outsourcing?"

      Temporary events like the Olympics are a good fit for outsourcers. Not so much for large companies/outfits, where outsourcing invariably leads to a race to the bottom in terms of enduser satisfaction and service levels.

    2. Grottybird

      Re: Do some research!

      The University of Manchester IT services were functional, but would agree that they were in need of modernisation, investment and leadership. What exactly has Gerry Pennell achieved during his 3 years as IT director to improve these services? The IT transformation is not complete, a vast sum of money has been spent by a public institution on consultants and external contractors for very little return on that investment. And Gerry has resigned before completing his ambitious transformation project, just as he did at the Co-op.

      Please can we forget about his performance at the Olympics, because this is Gerry's track record now.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Do some research!

      " Well managed outsourcing isn't a bad thing, necessarily "

      Maybe you should speak to the 10,000+ of members of administrative staff, researchers and academics who had built up good working relationships with the people who have left.

      If the University attempts to demonstrate that IT can be outsourced, the thousands of researchers who are externally funded will also decide to outsource their IT, and they'll find their own providers !

  26. x 7

    Does this affect the IT teaching department? Manchester is high on the list of possibles for my son. If the teaching unit is at risk he may have other thoughts

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      At Manchester University Computer Science (the academic department) is separate to IT Services (the business department). The departures are all in the latter, so teaching of techy stuff is not directly affected.

    2. Grottybird

      The IT teaching department is separate from IT Services. From everything I've seen and heard the tuition is pretty good there, and has the added bonus of being 'the home of computing' for extra geek cred.

  27. Snipp

    comment tu dis...

    This article is operating on the false premise that a reason is needed to recuse yourself of IT duties three years in.

    1. Grottybird

      Re: comment tu dis...

      How is this a false premise? An IT director taking a job and being charged with the task of transforming IT Services is not the same as someone walking away from 'some IT duties', a phrase that puts me more in mind of someone who refills the printer with paper every now and then.

      Gerry has now 'recused' himself from the both the Co-op and the University of Manchester, partway through a glorious transformation scheme of his own design without completing either transformation.

      I think that's a fine premise for an article. Given the amount of public funding involved in the 'transformation' of IT Services at the second institution, I would suggest it was a premise for a lot more investigation.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wowzers

    For the world of higher education IT - this is seriously exciting stuff!!

    Anon because I work in said sector and don't wish to be part of such excitement

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The rumour is the IT function of the University is currently ground to a halt. The rest of the University are the ones to ask as to whether it is business as usual there.

  30. mancobserver

    UoM IT Services to be outsourced

    UoM under its current IT director and its leadership team are outsourcing all of its IT services. Will ultimately lead to IT services giving a poor and very delayed service with even more job cuts.

    Interestingly, all this leadership team's salary are over 50K, yet they bring little & often poor value to the universities teaching/ learning and research operational departments.

    And these departments are told by this group that IT services no longer can support them fully due to staff cuts.

    Should the Universities senate not be looking to reduce staff that bring poor value to its IT operations and on salaries of over 50K, isnt this where to true financial burden lays.

    You only require 2 maybe 3 strategy staff in the directors team and certainly not over a dozen on 50K?

    http://devices.governmentcomputing.com/news/university-of-manchester-launches-end-user-computing-tender-6098583

    How outsourcing doesnt work:

    http://manchester.web.ucu.org.uk/files/2016/03/UMUCU-IT-Outsourcing-Working-Group-Report-v2.pdf

    https://www.mbs.ac.uk/news/how-outsourcing-goes-wrong/

  31. mancobserver

    Malcome Whitehouse

    We know who screwed up the universal credit IT programme and now working at the University of Manchester IT services.

    With a 6 figure salary, all the students and research programmes should be asking why at least 20% of their fees/ funding goes into his and his leaderships salaries?

    When his leadership team actually bring nothing of financial value to the institute...

    http://central-government.governmentcomputing.com/news/universal-credit-director-steps-down

    https://forums.theregister.co.uk/forum/1/2013/03/07/universal_credit_work_suspended_claims/

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