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the more they overcomplicate the plumbing August 20, 2009

Posted by That Guy in A Stunning Example of Synergy, Technology Trouble.
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In Star Trek III, Mr. Scott said of the U.S.S. Excelsior:

The more they overcomplicate the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain.

James Doohan as Captain Montgomery Scott

James Doohan as Captain Montgomery Scott

Monday morning, my co-worker Bill had to transfer a video from DVD to our proprietary system. Now, when Bill used to work in Jackson, MS, he could pop the DVD into a DVD player, press play, and press record on the computer system. It wasn’t a perfect system, but the quality was good and it took him all of five minutes for a four-minute video.

Bill and I both work in a major city now — you’d know it instantly if I named it for you. You’d think that when Bill got here things would be at least as easy.

You’d be wrong.

Here are things we don’t have here:

  • A DVD player hooked up to any computer system anywhere in the building. (DVD players in PCs notwithstanding.)
  • A connection from the DVD player to the video editing suite. (All of our mega-awesome video editing software is in a single suite.
  • A connection from the video editing suite to any network drives Bill can access from his desk. (He has to edit the video, then export it and send it to himself via FTP.)

So here’s what Bill had to do to obtain a four-minute piece of video that someone sent us on a playable DVD:

  1. Put the DVD in the DVD player.
  2. Find someone who can let him into the server room (our keycards don’t work; only IT’s do).
  3. Find someone in IT who can cross-connect the system in such a way that the DVD player is spliced into the internal CCTV network and the internal CCTV network is sent down to the video editing suite.
  4. Go to the video editing suite (on a different floor than the server room) and reboot the computer he needs (because it’s ancient and needs to be rebooted before each use).
  5. Start recording from the CCTV network, wasting hard-drive space.
  6. Go to the DVD player and press play.
  7. When the computer finishes recording the footage, edit it down to remove all the useless parts.
  8. Export the footage in a format that his computer can read.
  9. Upload the file to the FTP.
  10. Go to his desk and download the file from the FTP.
  11. Put the file into the Flash component where it’s going to play from.

Total time spent: one hour. For a four-minute piece of video.

This is why we tell our clients to upload the video to our vendor FTP.

The more your company overcomplicates the plumbing, the easier it is to kill productivity and lower employee morale. When employees like Bill come to the big city after working in smaller cities where everything works — not perfectly, but efficiently — they get discouraged and their productivity as a whole slows down. That extra 45-50 minutes Bill spent getting the DVD player to play in the video editing suite could’ve been spent responding to e-mails, or planning out new projects, or coding, or eating lunch. With the amount of meetings and e-mails the average employee has to deal with each day, every productive minute counts, and wasting that much on a tiny chunk of video that’s less than 10 percent of the entire project is extremely disheartening.

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