The Rules of IT

The Rules of IT

Rules matter because they define how we get on with other people and what is considered normal

Wherever you go and whatever you do, it is a given that some set of rules will be in force. If you want to drive, you need to know the rules of the road, and if you want to be socially acceptable, you need to know the rules of behaviour for eating in public and attending parties. The list is endless, and we learn many simply by growing up in a culture.

You can see from those examples that while some rules are written down and clearly laid out - for example, rules for games, writing, flying aircraft and sailing boats - there are thousands of rules that are not codified.

These informal rules are learned from experience or because someone was kind enough to lay them out for you. These are rules of convention that countless years have evolved to regulate society, protect individuals and keep us from throwing away a million years of evolution and resorting to hitting each other with rocks.

Which brings me to the rules of IT. There are a number you must observe if you plan to have a career in IT:

Rule No. 1: Do not annoy the guys with money. That means everyone above you with any influence on your budget or salary. They are all your best friends or, at worst, close acquaintances no matter how annoying and loathsome they may be.

Rule No. 2: Always back up first. No matter how simple the task, if you change something, and you haven't got a backup in the bag, you are flirting with disaster. This rule is covered by Murphy's Law: If something can go wrong, it will. And without a backup, it will. Particularly changing router tables.

Rule No. 3: The leading edge isn't. No matter what you are told by the press, the vendors, the resellers, the integrators or anybody, the leading edge should be nowhere near your shop unless you have insanely huge piles of money and can avoid taking responsibility for cosmic-level disasters.

Rule No. 4: Document everything. You never know when that off-the-cuff, seemingly harmless request from a CXO is going to turn out to be a huge python that wraps itself around your throat. If he (or anyone else) asks for anything that has even vaguely related IT repercussions, then get it in writing. Going to change the router tables? Back up first (see Rule No. 2) and then document what you did and why. When I say document everything, I mean everything. In some organizations this might even include bathroom breaks.

Rule No. 5: Document nothing (see Rule No. 4). Once you document everything and make it known that you do so, you should then make sure nothing that implicates you as to being part of the decision process gets documented. Plausible deniability is what we're looking for.

Rule No 6: It is not your fault. Whatever it is, someone else is responsible. And you have the paperwork to prove it (see rule Nos. 4 and 5).

Rule No. 7: Do unto users before they do unto you. There's a fine balance between career-furthering, fawning care and feeding of users and the satisfying but inadvisable practice of torturing them. Get the balance right, and you will be seen as fair but firm. Get it wrong, and you are a bastard who needs to update his resume.

Rule No. 8: You can't afford any piece of equipment or software that is priced high enough to make you shudder. If you have to have it, then it must not be your decision (no matter how much influence you think you have), and your signature won't be on the purchase order, will it?

Rule No. 9: Always tell the truth, never tell a lie and never be the one to change the router tables (see rule Nos. 2, 4 and 6).

Rule No. 10: Always cover your arse (see Rule Nos. 1, 2, 4, 5, 6 and 8).


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