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[Discuss] Justify your existence

On 12/15/2011 10:56 PM, Edward Ned Harvey wrote:
> You're in a social situation - at a party or something - You're talking with
> some CFO or otherwise interesting financial person about work, and Dilbert
> cartoons, and the wastefulness and inefficiencies of typical corporations or
> typical organizations, etc.  Somebody uses a term like "overhead" or
> "secondary" referring to support roles.  But you're an IT person - You're a
> support role, and depending on what is your core business, most likely
> you're overhead.
> With only a moment's thought, and only a few words, how do you describe the
> value that your role adds to the organization?  How do you justify your own
> existence, casually, when talking to a CFO or somebody in a social
> situation?
Having been both in management and in overhead positions. In many
businesses there are cost centers and revenue centers. IT is usually a
cost center providing essential services. But, IT is a cost that in many
cases cannot be tied directly to revenue. This is one reason why many
companies moved their customer service groups to India. At Digital,
years ago, we moved the entire Unix commands group the Bangalore, and my
group (compilers, development environment) moved the assembler support
to India. (We ended up writing a new assembler in the long run).
Basically up the hierarchy, senior managers look at things quite
differently than we do. For instance, in a Windows shop with a few Linux
servers, management might look at the LInux support team as overhead,
and decide to train some of the Windows people. especially in tough
times, managers are under severe pressure to reduce costs. A good
manager will look at both the savings and risks.

Years ago, we were told in a meeting that we were supposed to arrive by
9 and not leave before 5. Why did our manager tell us that. He used to
get complaints from other departments that they would see us come in
late and leave early. But, what they did not see was programmers coming
in late at night for fire calls. They didn't see programmers finishing
up projects late at night so that accounting could have "cost of goods
sold - french fries". It is the responsibility of the department manager
effectively manage his/her department, but also communicate to upper

But, to more specifically answer the question, you look at your role and
possibly say that we are the people who keep the infrastructure up and
running 24X7.

Jerry Feldman <gaf at>
Boston Linux and Unix
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