Today was just awful in work, probably one of the worst work days in a long time, and that is saying something. It basically revolved around complaints from other bits of the university, and external companies, that we were either doing things too efficiently or not efficiently enough.
The first problem actually arose yesterday, when it transpires there was some confusion over when exactly a student has finished a part of their course, as deemed by their status on the student system. and when we take them off all the relevant mailing lists and resources. Now without going to deep into this lets just there is some fundamental disagreement with how some schools see this and we process it, with the upshot being that I feel we are being a bit hasty at times with the core of the universities processes.
Rights or wrongs, we’ve had to restore a clone of a complete system over the last two days to get information that quite frankly didn’t belong only in that system back.
Hassle number two is much much much more of a problem, and I suppose could go down as a lesson in not rocking the boat. Again I am going to be vague, because it’s already bad enough, but it started out with us just dropping an idle query to someone, to check that we where updating an external system (for which we have no integration support, or API, so in the time honoured tradition we have hacked it to bits) correctly.
Anyway that query somehow got misconstrued, and then a call was made to the said company who supplied the software. Who unsurprisingly blew a gasket when they found out we where bypassing there “nice” interfaces and writing directly to the system behind it. Quite how this company expects us to manually do 30,000 updates a month on the system via a creaky interface is beyond me. We have being bypassing all their stuff for about 7 years now, in one way or another, so really that ship has already sailed.
Given the company do offer us hardware and upgrade support, and that they wrote the system it’s quite understandable that they aren’t to keen on the situation, but as a university we have to function with these systems so we also have no choice. The potential problem comes if the said company choose to take their ball home; at that point we have a choice. We can either; remove all automatic links and require a very small number of staff to do lots of manual updating, or chuck support and just carry one regardless (I’m not even sure if we could do this, legally).
So I left work today with a bit of a sense that it’s all falling apart, but the biggest thing that gets me down is the culture of fault finding in the university.
The first problem was mainly driven by people who are fundamentalistic in their nigglyness of the system, and are super quick to jump up and down on the smallest of problems. The current problem jumped from school admin staff straight to Senior Executive members of the university in one email, missing whole rafts of the organisation that could have explained and dealt with the problem. So instead of the impression fairly well ran and responsive system, which runs faultlessly for 99.9% of the time, we have the higher levels in the university breathing down our necks to fix a problem caused by someone else bypassing all procedures.
The second problem also escalated out of all control because of the nature of mistrust across the university. Basically the company was called, when the problem was minor, and now we are jeopardizing 3 years of work, all because of what will probably comedown to a single flag somewhere in a database, but through all of this no one has ever mentioned that it is quite good that on a daily basis 1000s of modifications to our staff and student bodies are quickly and accurately reflected in a number of foreign systems all of which contribute to an easier life for hundreds of staff and students.
So it’s now 10:20 at night and I am left with a dilemma, should I stay or should I go? I have in front of me a job application form to work for the council, getting paid a bit more money, to focus more on programming, and to develop my skills more in the development process. But it’s the council, and the politics will no doubt be the same, and actually the university is quite advanced in terms of IT infrastructure, and I get loads of holiday. So would I be throwing away more than I would gain? And can I get it all done tonight (deadline for applications is tomorrow), and will all the beer I had watching England affect my writing style?