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Our smaller company was acquired by a larger company and we became an business unit within their larger corporate structure. Now, many IT infrastructure and architecture decisions, especially around security, lie with them. Many of the tasks around those considerations must be carried out by them (e.g., firewall changes, some server setup). We make most of our profits through hosting and consulting.

We often disagree with their decisions and are unhappy with their performance on the associated tasks. We have to setup networks in a way that can make things really inefficient, not scalable, and costly (more overhead) with little benefit. They exhibit a poor sense of deadline ("I'll get to it when I can"), where we need a deadline to manage the timeline correctly. When we ask them to complete a task, they usually do not meet our requirements and we have to ask them to do it again (sometimes multiple times, we started planning on this). Then they blame us for not asking "correctly". We try to involve them in the planning and design meetings, that way we can submit our requests "correctly" but they refuse to attend these meetings. At one point they (corporate folks) joined such a meeting and then silently dropped off the call one by one as the leader was presenting and trying to encourage discussion. Everyone gets the feeling that they doubt our competency (you talk to them and end up feeling like they think you're not very good, or they think you're childish/naive/inexperienced, etc).

This all has a number of detrimental consequences, including:

  • This situation drives our profit margins significantly down (to the point that managers are saying they are "driving our business into the ground") due to the associated costs, and many are forecasting the death of our hosting business
  • The time it takes to complete even simple tasks is now 2x-5x as long as it used to be.
  • We look bad to clients because they get wind of the internal struggles, as much as we try to hide it
  • We are unable to efficiently resolve issues because they will not allow us to use certain troubleshooting setups that they deem insecure (which we believe are fine on a temporary basis)
  • Many people are dissatisfied want to get out (resign). Many people have plans to leave or have long since left.
  • Quality of life suffers and people become averse to work, get stressed out, etc.
  • People find ways to work around having to reach out to Corporate folks, even if it means circumventing policies. This is accepted and encouraged by local management.

Lastly, this part is a little difficult to state objectively but.. not only do we disagree with their decisions and beliefs about security.. I think we're right. I think that most competent IT professionals would agree that their decisions do not help enhance security, are not scalable, are needlessly driving up costs, are not the right way to do things, etc. This is often evidenced by their setup failing and them having to "resort" to our design. Or by costs rising significantly. Or project timelines slipping.

Any insight the stack community has on how to:

  • Get them to change their behavior
  • Reverse their perceived incorrect decisions
  • Improve our working relationship
  • Get through the day without tearing hair out/acquiring ulcers/wishing for an early demise/etc. negative morbid crap

Would be greatly appreciated.

EDIT1: kubanczyk brought up a good point in getting me to clarify where I perceive the responsibility to lie (individuals, group, the system, etc.). I think as individuals, most of the corp people are competent, able-to-be-worked-with people (though that sort of conflicts with the bit about them silently dropping off the meeting.. I get a lot of this info second-hand but that definitely happened). There is, however, one person who is responsible for a lot of the decisions and policy and from what I've heard.. he makes bad decisions and his reports follow suit.

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  • smaller companies often do higher quality work and have more realistic protocols and procedures in place... just an observation
    – Kilisi
    Feb 20, 2016 at 6:32
  • Did the parent company used to be a competitor? Maybe they bought the business just to sink it.
    – Andy
    Feb 22, 2016 at 2:39
  • Nah, they weren't in our specific part of the industry. Though I speculated whether they are doing it intentionally for a different reason.. I doubt it
    – Exit42
    Feb 22, 2016 at 3:43

4 Answers 4

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An old tactic I used was "Reverse delegation". Make THEM accountable for their actions by pestering them CONSTANTLY, directing upset clients to the people responsible, making sure people who control the purse-strings know WHY profitability is down, and being a constant thorn in their side.

Document EVERYTHING. Be able to quantify loss in performance, loss in profits, number of customer calls.

Now, here is where you can get your customers to do some of your dirty work and set up a win-win at the same time. Be VERY genial and apologetic to your customers, tell them that their concerns are your highest priority and ask them if they would like to elevate their complaints. Then give them the numbers of the people who are holding you up.

I've done this and it works. It didn't make me popular with management, but I was so popular with customers they didn't dare fire me. I eventually left on my own, but I used our customers to protect me while I was there.

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I have worked for a GIANT tech/communications company. We were bought out by said company - us being a mini-giant tech company.

When we were being bought out corporate 3rd party consultants came in to give GIANT company recommendations. Just note that our tech was far superior to GIANT company and our company's issue was around out of control spending and account management. After 6 months of having some consultant shadow me and my group around it went down like this:

  • GIANT company consolidated most of their tech operations to our location

  • GIANT company was told to let our location control tools and software

  • GIANT company staff came to our location (while keeping their higher salaries)

  • GIANT employees were scared to death that they would lose their jobs to us

So what happened next:

  • GIANT company tech managers acted like everything we did was stupid

  • GIANT company management cut off all funding to our network environments

  • GIANT company management got rid of basically all upper management looking to move to our network/systems

  • This went on for 5 years. Even without funding and the GIANT network getting full funding customers still asked to be on our "legacy" network. This pissed off management even more.

  • There were so many design issues with GIANT company networks/systems they were never going to succeed. So instead of move to ours, they decided that all customers would go to ANOTHER NEW NETWORK. Initially this network was basically our stuff on better equipment.

  • Then last step - BIGGER GIANT COMPANY merges with GIANT company (that is two major mergers). They see what is going on. Fire pretty much everyone that had to do with the GIANT company fiasco. All original people from my location were promoted.

We played games for 6-7 years and went through a lot of what you describe. At some points it was hell, we lost people tired of the games, and we lost innovation momentum that we have never regained. Looking back I wish I would have focused on the following things:

  1. Get numbers on spreadsheets. It is one thing to say XYZ isn't working or we do it better or it was done better in the past. Prove it with numbers. Of course you can manipulate the data a bit because no one will ever dig into the numbers. Management will ignore your emails and discussions but they can't ignore numbers or they will be fired.

  2. Try to align yourself with decision makers at the bigger company. Try to get them to understand how they can look better from doing it different. Note that I said different, not your way.

  3. Most importantly try to get someone or a group that is an expert in your area and not affiliated with either group. Both times that we did this we gained the most traction and we should have emphasized this more.

Most importantly don't get caught up on logic and doing things the right/professional way. I doubt they care about that.

0

I only wish I could tell you this is an isolated problem.

If corp is dropping off calls when you try and present your case that is clearly a very bad sign.

Not telling you anything new but they don't have expertise in your business and also don't have skin in the game. They don't get a penalty for their slow and or poor actions and yet they hit your bottom line hard and fast.

A corporate one size fits all security for a closed network does not fit for a hosted business.

I know so that confirms the problem. How to fix it? Right now you are victim of a corporate culture and a fix is not likely to come from the technical level. Your CEO or CFO need to address it at a business level - it is killing the business (and it will). Corp IT will say local IT is incompetent - that is not going to change by itself. You need to sell your CEO and CFO this is killing the business and then give them tech support to lead the charge. If your CEO and CFO don't get this is killing the business then you need to get your resume out there. Let the business fail to prove your point is a little late.

Were you acquired for the hosting or did you just kind of come along as part of the deal? It happens a lot that big company will acquire a smaller nimble company and then just kill them by forcing a structure that does not work.

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  • Thanks for your answer. We were not acquired specifically for our hosting business but rather as a way into a certain part of the IT industry (e.g., sales IT solutions or payment processing but those are just examples). They are, however, aware we had a hosting business when they bought us (not sure to what extent). So probably more along the lines of "part of the deal". They don't do hosting, almost all external consulting and product sales. Regardless of any plans I may/may not have to stay/leave, I would like to make things work while I am here.
    – Exit42
    Feb 19, 2016 at 20:18
  • Then again - your CEO and CFO need to be on board and willing to take some arrows. Those are the people you need to sell. If the business can survive without the hosted component then it may just be a sacrificial lamb.
    – paparazzo
    Feb 19, 2016 at 20:36
  • Haha that's like over half of our unit's business. Not to mention all the "land and expand" consulting and product sales pipeline we get from it
    – Exit42
    Feb 19, 2016 at 20:39
  • Haha? If language like that is how you sell then you are not going to get very far. If your business leads are not standing up for the hosting portion of the business then you are not going to fix this at the technical level. Sorry I tried to help.
    – paparazzo
    Feb 19, 2016 at 20:43
  • 1
    You did help, sorry, I must have came off as rude. Believe it or not, I don't maintain the same linguistic register for informal stack comments as I do for professional communications.
    – Exit42
    Feb 19, 2016 at 20:45
-1

From your question it seems to me you don't yet realize what it means to work in a huge organization, and how ineffective it feels from the inside, so let me use an analogy. Huge organization is like a complicated mechanism made of turning cogwheels, unnecessarily complicated and unnecessarily meshed in many-to-many fashion. This also works on many levels (people are cogwheels, teams are cogwheels, departments are cogwheels, etc. on their own level).

The point is, each cogwheel (and on each level) needs to learn how to cooperate with its peers. If the cogwheel turns too slow, it breaks some teeth; their own and others'. If the cogwheel wants to turn faster (for any reason, like satisfying the end customers), it breaks some teeth; their own and others'.

Your small organization looks like a new cogwheel, spinning out-of-sync, basically thrown into an existing huge mechanism. Those of you who stay, would experience how mindbogglingly slow the spinning becomes at the time when you start to actually move together with the huge organization. For now, your wish to "to change their behavior" in a controllable way is naive and, excuse me, laughable. There is no "them" conspiring against you. Every one of other cogwheels is surrounded by their own perceived troublemakers and they have grown more frustrated than you over their long way. But rest assured none of them cares for your end customers!

Is it possible to make this setup more lean in a non-disruptive way? I don't see it. The immediate managerial response to every problem is to create a new cogwheel. From the point of view of any manager, the worst thing you could propose is to decrease the number of their cogwheels. Thus, the cooperative efforts of all manager causes mesh to grow more complicated, not less, on every level. For example, if there are too many critical events from IT monitoring system, the instinctive response is to create another team of people to "handle" these events.

The positive thing about large organization is the stability of the work environment. But it's really not for the people who want to change things.

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  • Thanks. I understand things will move slower, less efficiently. I would expect that as a company grows larger. Makes sense. What doesn't make sense (to me/us/local IT) are the decisions they make that are patently wrong in our perspective or will lead to less profits or even make our business process no longer profitable. Some of their decisions are simply ones that result in higher costs or longer timelines that don't realize any benefit. Would you characterize wanting to change their behavior/actions so that they don't sink our business into the ground as naive?
    – Exit42
    Feb 19, 2016 at 22:04
  • There is no "them" who designed the policies to make your life harder and who could change said policies on a whim. Don't attribute to malice what you can attribute to (collective) stupidity.
    – kubanczyk
    Feb 19, 2016 at 22:11
  • I never attributed any malice.. I doubt that they are evil people or doing evil things.. just incorrect/harmful things. I do appreciate your point about the system being broken rather than individual people. In fact, as individuals, "they" are relatively competent people. But there is one person (their manager) who is responsible for a lot of the decisions/policy that I consider bad.
    – Exit42
    Feb 19, 2016 at 22:15
  • If they have one team responsible for security policy with one manager causing the trouble, then they ain't a large corporation. Forget my rant then.
    – kubanczyk
    Feb 19, 2016 at 22:21
  • They are > 1000 and < 10,000 employees large
    – Exit42
    Feb 19, 2016 at 22:23

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