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Sun 30 Dec 2007 04:00 AM

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Secret CIO

Secret CIO finds himself between a business rock and a technological hard place.

Secret CIO finds himself between a business rock and a technological hard place.

There's an air of freedom

In the office at the moment - a feeling that we're all counting down towards the end of December, and that nothing really important is going to happen in the few weeks until the end of the year.

With Eid falling just before Christmas, and the Gregorian New Year coming straight afterwards, everyone in my company - from senior executives on down - seems to have tacitly agreed that December is a month for winding down.

All of this would make a pleasant prelude to my own winter sojourn with the family - if it weren't for the fact that I urgently need to install new backup and e-mail systems.

Not the most glamorous of projects - but potentially two of the most critical and/or disruptive systems in the company, which have both chosen to give up the ghost this side of the holiday. Our aged tape backup system is starting to make funny noises, and I know in my bones that the day where it starts eating tapes is not far away.

The e-mail - well, it just can't cope. Designed for a company less than half the size, it's been causing woe for many users for a while now - but in the last week it's started dropping more and more mails, and anything with an attachment is usually delayed at least three hours.

So, cap in hand, I go to my CEO. Normally fairly sympathetic to IT problems, even if they need extra budget, I found him in an expansive mood in his office.

"Hello, my dear fellow - come in, come in!" He greeted me as one might a long-lost relative, despite seeing me that morning in the car park. After a few minutes of small-talk about our respective families, and our wives' unquenchable shoe fetishes, he eventually starts getting to the point.

"Now, what can I do for you? You never just come to chat..."

"Well, it's about the back-up systems, and the e-mail. They're both on their way out, and we need to replace them asap."

"Oh." The CEO looked nonplussed. "Well, that's fine - can't you just go ahead and do that?"

"Not really - we should go through and do some planning about future expansion, information life-cycle management, and for the e-mail, it might be worth looking at a hosted system..." Even as I speak, I can see his eyes glaze over.

"Oh, come on - it's Christmas! Well, nearly. Can't you just get a new server and tape backup thingy, and have done with it?

"Well, yes I could - but that would waste this great opportunity to-

"I'm sure you'll sort it all out - you always do." The CEO draped a good-natured arm around me. "Now, if you send the requisition forms up by tomorrow, then everything should be wrapped up by the 20th, right? Right.

He ushered me out of the office, with a final reminder not to forget the executive team meeting at 5pm "in the Grosvenor House".

Great. Now, if I just go ahead on my own, I know - KNOW - that three months down the line someone will start asking questions on why the new system can't do this that or the other. And I'll inevitably get the blame.

Alternatively, if I wait, there's a good chance the e-mail server will crash completely before the new year, and that some vital tape backup becomes Tape McNuggets. And I'll get the blame.

The CIO's life is not a happy one sometimes. Merry Christmas, Eid Mubarak, and a stressful New Year to all..

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