For the fourth time in as many weeks, I have just spent at least several hours explaining DNS, IP addresses, SSL or TXT records to the marketing business owner at a very large client company. This is fucking stupid.

I understand the need for process. I do. I like process, and part of my job is to create (intelligent, non-intrusive) process for my development team, my IT department, etc. But when Tracy from Marketing is filling in a techops form that requires her to understand how DNS works and this is your fault, you fucking fail at life. Or at least at tech.

I spent no less than 6 hours back and forth with a client explaining the difference between a domain name and a hosting company. Why did it take 6 hours? Because it’s not her job to know the difference between a domain name and a hosting company – and yet these large companies give me no direct access to their techops team. Rather than having one 20-minute conversation with someone in techops to explain the situation, what we need, and how to quickly resolve, I spent 6 hours in email with someone who, while lovely, has an MBA and doesn’t realize that having a domain name is not the same thing as hosting.

This is not her fault, and I’m certain it was as frustrating for her as it was for me. This is directly the fault of large companies who try to to put tech processes in silos, and automate the crap out of it to the point where any monkey can execute tasks. Except the problem is that technology is hard, and some level of human intervention is not only required – it’s *good*.

In another recent case, I spent 5 hours explaining SSL certificates to an account executive, because we have to obtain all of our SSL certificates through their corporate techops, we can’t purchase our own. First I had to explain why we needed SSL at all. Which then made me have to backtrack and explain what SSL is. Then I had to explain why I was asking for a multi-domain SSL (since we have a Facebook application and a non-FB version which live on separate sub-domains.)

So I filled in the CSR with what I thought they’d want, they kicked it back (through her) with changes.

Please change the company name to “Blah”. Okay, fine. CSR regenerated, done.

They kick it back (again, through her). Please change the department to “Foo”.

I replied back to her with all of the fields in a CSR, and asked her to ask her techops team to complete the CSR fields, and I would regenerate it again. They refused to do that for me, so I had to repeat this process 2 more times before I had a CSR they were happy with.

Seriously?

I’m the fucking VP of Technology. Is this seriously the best use of my time? Is this the best use of her time? Or of the techops team’s time?

I asked several times to be put in touch with their internal techops team, to cut out the middle man, make sure I had everything they would need at one time, and streamline this a little. One techie to another, generating a CSR and a subsequent SSL certificate is a trivial task. But like in many companies, internal techops was verboten from dealing directly with agencies or vendors.

This problem is not specific to one industry. I’ve had these conversations with technology companies, financial companies, you name it. In some companies, they’ve nailed it. I start a new project and we immediately schedule a call with their techops team to discuss our planned system architecture, DNS/SSL requirements, scaling plans, deployment strategies, etc – and they are part of the conversation the whole way through development. No surprises, no one feels like an idiot, and the company itself is served better.

Tech-siloing turned what should have been a 5-minute task into hours involving several parties, some of whom served only as a messenger to the other. (We’ve all played Telephone as a kid and know how well that works to convey messages.)

There are a few clients that we have multiple projects with – each with separate marketing/project owners in the client company. Because there is no human interaction in this process, I cannot suggest solutions that benefit multiple clients within that company at once.  Everything is a new request, with no peripheral vision towards other projects or finding the best solution for the company. Box checked, job done. I’m sorry, but if that’s how your techops is set up, you are doing your own company and your vendors a huge disservice.

If these companies would hire ONE person in their techops team whose job it is to interface with the outside world, that person’s salary would be paid for in time-saved within the first month. Failing that, give competent agencies access to techops so we can get in, get it done, and move on with our lives.

And let’s consider the poor marketing/project contact who has been wading through this waist-deep pile of technobabble. I genuinely feel badly for them. The emails always end up the same way: “Please forgive my ignorance here. I’m sure you can tell I’m not really tech-savvy. I really appreciate your patience and time in explaining this to me.” Way to make a professional in your company feel like an absolute idiot for not knowing something they should never have to know to do their job.

You wouldn’t ask your techops team which paid media keywords would have the best reach for women ages 20-26, would you?  You wouldn’t ask your marketing team to write code or architect your network, would you?

These companies have lost sight of the actual purpose of their internal departments – to help the company make money. This “streamlining” doesn’t make money. It doesn’t even save money. It wastes money, and it wastes time. A techops department that is invested in the success of these projects is a far better investment – one that isn’t impossible to quantify over time if you’re doing your job right.

Let people spend their time doing their fucking job, not tripping over your crappy processes. It’s frustrating, demoralizing, inefficient and stupid.

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I’m a tech geek/dev/infosec-nerd/scuba diver/blacksmith/sword-fighter/crime fighter/ENTP/warcrafter/activist. I'm the CTO at Mass Mosaic and the CEO of Grokability, Inc. in San Diego, CA. Tweet at me @snipeyhead or read more...

  • Amen. Have similar situation doing webmaster and technical consulting for client who has a contract with a company actually doing the coding. I am not allowed to talk directly to this company; everything I suggest to fix or enhance must first be explained to the marketing director, who was formerly the customer service manager, and has NO tech expertise whatsoever. [headdesk]

  • Yep. That’s pretty much a lot of my headaches too.

  • Coming in to this very late but you awesomely nailed it. Most of my dealings with customers and clients go this way. I have to use small words, it’s not their fault it’s just that they’re non-tech staff caught between me and their management.