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The A-Team of IT — and How To Assemble One 246

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i-love-it-when-a-plan-something-something dept.
snydeq writes "InfoWorld's Dan Tynan offers insights into building a crack special ops team ready to tackle the toughest IT assignments. From Air Support (think: the guy who shares a cigarette break with the CFO), to Infrastructure Sherpas, to Über Hackers (Mohawk optional), each of the seven essential members of your IT A-Team must bring his or her special blend of expertise, connections, and temperament to ensure the success of mission-critical assignments. 'Remember, there is no Plan B.'"
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The A-Team of IT — and How To Assemble One

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  • step 1 (Score:5, Funny)

    by thanasakis (225405) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @11:37AM (#33650954)

    get a big cigar and practice saying "I love it when a plan comes together" while smoking it

  • Wildcard (Score:3, Funny)

    by DrugCheese (266151) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @11:37AM (#33650966)

    Yeah I turned off all the environmental controls in the server room.

    Wildcard, bitches! Yeeehaaw!!!

    • Do you work in a bar in south Philly? How do you like your milk steak cooked, over hard with a side of jellybeans?

      Hehe, man I love that show. :)

      • by elrous0 (869638) *
        I'll take an order of your FINEST jellybeans, please.
      • That was an amazing episode; especially when he cuts the brake line to the van filled with gasoline cans. The "Who Pooped the Bed" mystery one and the "Extreme Home Makeover" episodes are probably my top two, though.
        • by spun (1352)

          I like the one where Charlie writes a play to impress the waitress. All the Charlie/Waitress episodes are funny, IMHO, because they are married in real life.

    • EXACTLY! Why is there no love for the Physical Infrastructure folks? All that expensive gear and all the networking in the world ain't gonna help you when that nice, clean A/C voltage from the UPSs stops humming down to the L630s you're plugged into, or if the room should happen to reach about 100 degrees with about 80% Relative Humidity.
  • "I pity the foo' who doesn't encrypt his wireless network with WPA2!"
  • It's a joke. (Score:2, Interesting)

    The site hung up when I tried going to the third page, but what I read was a joke.

    This article belongs on one of those Onion wanna-be sites.

    • Re:It's a joke. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kalidor (94097) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @11:48AM (#33651204) Homepage

      You made it to the third page? The article lost me when they tried to get advice from effective team leads on someone from TCS. It would be so funny if I didn't have such sad vivid memories of the ineffective team leadership displayed every time a Morgan Stanley employee cuckolded any of the management / leads.

      • by spun (1352)

        You made it to the third page? The article lost me when they tried to get advice from effective team leads on someone from TCS. It would be so funny if I didn't have such sad vivid memories of the ineffective team leadership displayed every time a Morgan Stanley employee cuckolded any of the management / leads.

        Morgan Stanley employees enjoy the Droit de seigneur of Jus primae noctis? Damn. this really IS corporate feudalism.

    • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionary@@@yahoo...com> on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @11:49AM (#33651222) Journal

      Sure, you think it is a joke, but maybe they are just trying to hide from the federal government that is hunting them down for a crime they didn't commit!

      I wonder what "The A Team" of IT would look like?

      They would be unable or unwilling to kill any process, no matter how corrupt it had become.
      They could build a Cray out of old disk drives and EISA cards, but if they tried to hack you they would accidentally hit the Pottery Barn right behind you.
      Most of their proposed solutions would involve tossing someone or something onto or into something else.

      • by syousef (465911)

        I wonder what "The A Team" of IT would look like?

        Bald, fat and losing hair, or skinny, awkward and wearing glasses...either way middle age and can't get laid.

    • Re:It's a joke. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by somersault (912633) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @12:03PM (#33651458) Homepage Journal

      Yeah it was a load of crap, I skimmed it and saw this

      Here the challenge is to find someone who mixes the requisite coding chops with a measure of humility, says Minco's Adriana Zona.

      "You want the genius guys who aren't arrogant," she says. "They want to impress you, so they do in an hour what would take standard developers a week. But the most important thing is they don't challenge you. You don't even have to explain what you want or provide a document. They just complete the job."

      Though extremely rare, the humble coding genius can be found via word of mouth, says Zona. She also weeds out the arrogant ones by asking prospective employees to rate their skills on a scale from 1 to 10.

      "A good developer will never say 10," she says. "Technology changes so rapidly no one can possibly know everything. But the arrogant ones will. And a nonhumble developer will destroy your department."

      A good developer doesn't need to "know everything", they just need to know how to use a reference manual and be able to adapt and learn. Sounds more like she just prefers people with no self confidence who are desperate to impress others to feel validated - people that she can order around.

      Good developers will require specs and explanations otherwise they will probably waste a lot of time barking up the wrong tree. I certainly have made incorrect assumptions in the past about the direction a project will be heading or how the end user will be wanting to use things, so now I make sure to discuss issues where there is any doubt.

      It's also great to have a specs document to refer back to if someone comes to you and says "where is [feature]" or "we need this feature!". I try to be accommodating, but it's really not a great idea to be adding features in halfway through the first implementation of a project. Any new features can be added into version two. Or if the "new feature" turns out to be an essential oversight, you may have to rethink the whole project from scratch.. but if they didn't put it in the original specs, it's their own fault.

      • Trained Monkeys (Score:3, Insightful)

        by sycodon (149926)

        Notice that each position called for people with very explicit experience.

        This illustrates very nicely what I am finding in the job market: No one seems to want people with lots of diverse experience who are flexible and adaptable. Instead, they want trained monkeys that have years and years of experience in one thing.

        Thinking for yourself is verboten. Just take the specs and churn out code, or diagrams, etc.

        I think this is just asking for trouble, especially in smaller companies. How many trained monkeys c

        • Specialization is for insects.

          Sounds like you are looking for employment at the wrong places. You're much better off being well rounded and perhaps having expertise in certain areas than you are specializing in one thing only. A place that expects that out of employees sounds like a factory job. And a dev shop that is factory like is really just a sweatshop. Who wants to only be able to do one thing well? What if your area of expertise is the next J++ (remember that?)

          If you look for jobs at smaller pla

          • by sycodon (149926)

            J++ ROFLMAO

            I've actually seen that once...5 years experience they wanted.

            C, C+, C++, Objective C, C#, F#, J++, J#

            Oh, the humanity!

      • But the most important thing is they don't challenge you. You don't even have to explain what you want or provide a document. They just complete the job

        Yeah this line just blew my mind. "So, in addition to being an awesome coder you need a developer who is psychic? Because that's the only way you're going to get the product you want without providing any specs." What a moron. Also, if you're not providing them the least amount of guidance, of course they're not going to challenge you. You're effectively letting them write whatever strikes their fancy and implement it without any controls. Sounds like a dream job to me (at least until the boss comes b

  • If you take someone on your team because he's an "uber hacker" or a "Sherpa" then you are spending too much time diddling and playing WoW. Get a good team of professionals with complimentary skills, but don't give them stupid handles.

    • You're just jealous I'm an uber hacker and I have more epics than you. Also, Gothmolly is a great handle, you should insist everyone call you that.

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @11:43AM (#33651096)

    The guys in sneakers are more like a real team to base things off of.

  • by dcollins (135727) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @11:45AM (#33651134) Homepage

    Always have a backup plan.

    • by McNihil (612243)

      and a plan C, D, E, F..... Z. One can not have enough backup plans.

      • by dcollins (135727)

        Yeah, it's recursive.

      • by Abstrackt (609015)

        and a plan C, D, E, F..... Z. One can not have enough backup plans.

        Accounting for what can/will likely go wrong is a great idea, a backup plan will save you a lot of time, money and headaches under those circumstances, but when you start thinking about everything that might go wrong you run into diminishing returns pretty quickly.

        For example, my backup plan for my car is my bike, my backup plan for my bike is walking and my backup plan for walking is calling a taxi. Sure I might benefit from a canoe if the road ever washes out or an alternate exit from my yard if a tree f

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nerdfest (867930)
      ... and a backout plan ... just in case.
    • by Yvan256 (722131)

      On tape or hard drives?

  • Ugh.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by The Living Fractal (162153) <banantarr.hotmail@com> on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @11:46AM (#33651156) Homepage
    What a horrible idea. Not trying to emasculate nerds here, but I think it's pretty safe to say that the "A-Team" embodies a certain degree of testosterone-fueled machismo that just doesn't really work when you're trying to debug 30,000 lines of code by noon on a green screen.
    • by Pojut (1027544)

      Computers aren't threatened by knives or guns.

      Now, a degausser...THAT'LL get 'em to sit straight and fly right!

      • Now, a degausser...THAT'LL get 'em to sit straight and fly right!

        You should ask your employer to wander into the 21st Century. LCDs are the way to go and no degausser PTSD.

        Now, if you really meant an EMP gun ... then I'd agree with you.

    • by pilgrim23 (716938)
      Then fill out an incident report specifying what happened in language appropriate to pointy hair, including the requested power point presentation on how to better schedule unscheduled outages... These being the Geek skills that get the promotions..
    • by Herkum01 (592704)

      CxO's did not get there because of their decision making abilities, they got to where they were by DOING stuff. Even if the stuff is fluff.

      Having an A-Team makes it look like you are doing stuff.

    • Well, I was* going to be the ladies' man...

      Hey, I can dream, can't I?

    • You need to meet more Unix and Mainframe admins, who are either Howling Mad Murdoch or B.A. Barrackus types - the folks who handle the really, really big boxes in the datacenter the boss won't let you breathe on. The two archetypes break down like this:

      1) If they can't OS it, patch it, conf it for the network, install software for it and get users authenticating on it, you need to be terrified of it, 'cuz it's not of this earth. Favorite hobbies include comparing stats of completely incomparable systems and

    • Re:Ugh.. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Atrox666 (957601) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @01:18PM (#33652556)

      Yes these dramatic measures generally are a symptom of bad IT.
      If you have an administrator that's always saving the day, 9 out of 10 times you should fire them. You'll find out that most of the looming disasters that were happening will stop happening. A white knight can't justify their existance if there is no peril.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Belial6 (794905)
        Bingo! That's exactly what I was thinking. IT is full of 'Munchausen by proxy'.
      • Re:Ugh.. (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @02:32PM (#33653610)

        Careful

        Do you really think its the IT admin who overhears why a dev release is broken and then fixes it that he is to blame?

        Try dev's who don't understand cluster systems then put the payment gateway in place with a fixed IP address to one server, when the wrong node of the cluster goes down its the admins fault for fixing it? Get real. I can only assume that you have NO real world experience in being an admin. Your probably one of the dev's who makes this mistake.

        I am in the rather unenviable position of being an infrastructure guy who moved into coding. To be honest I am shocked you monkeys keep your jobs, its only cause management cant tell the difference between good code and bad code. Christ the amount of coders who don't even understand OO let alone classes.

        The amount of times it has come to the few hours after release and I have a bunch of code-monkeys asking why it dose not work, to find basics like "C:\documents and settings\someidiotdev" in their source code. GRRRRR. Static IP address's no use of DNS, no thought of the firewall. I once had a contractor brought in to redesign the payment gateway and say to me "What is PCI?"

        You wanna know why IT is crap as a whole? It's cause 90% of you should not go near a computer. Management puts out adverts at low pay so they can increase immigration and lower wages for the industry. Then we get the glut of "programmers" we have now being paid a poor wage with their day-care degrees that taught them nothing about IT in a business environment. IT is crap because the elite mad it a blue collar job and employed blue collar employees.

        So no, these dramatic measures are a symptom of bad middle management and even worse upper management. Pay decent staff a decent wage and IT will rock.

  • by dkleinsc (563838) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @11:49AM (#33651218) Homepage

    That's why you should read this. Not because it provides useful information to people on the tech team, but because people in the business of managing IT departments really take this stuff seriously. They will try to shoehorn the people they have into the stereotypes, archetypes, and roles they know about, and once they've assigned you to a part, you're going to be doing that part until you leave or the show ends. And if you don't fit one of the parts, they're going to consider you useless.

    This sort of thing is especially true for managers who didn't work their way up through the ranks, so they're now faced with a bunch of geeks who are exacting, relentlessly uncovering BS, demand facts and figures, and speak in a jargon they can't understand. It can also be a big issue for the CTO, because even if the CTO is someone who does understand the geeks, the CEO doesn't and often demands that the CTO make the geeks follow a plan they can understand.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      F'N A when you're right ....

      The other thing is if you don't fit into those pidgeon holes, they won't even hire you and just say "you don't have the skills" or "you don't fit in" and then bitch and moan as to why they can't get "qualified" people.

    • I find this is true, but only to a point. If the "IT grunt" is smart, and a good communicator they should be able to convincingly argue for a position that isn't an exact fit into one of the stereotypes or archetypes. They should be able to show a good business case for their position such that the manager can understand why their IT grunt is useful in more than one way. Naturally, it helps to have a manager who isn't just a walking suit.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BobMcD (601576)

      Challenge: Spin this into a useful observation, if you can.

      It's one thing to say 'management sucks, I need my blankie', but it's quite another to scout the lay of the land and pick your way safely through it.

      Which are you, former or latter? Which are you encouraging with the tone of your post?

      Think about it. Particularly in an economy where being disgruntled isn't exactly an advantage... :)

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by dkleinsc (563838)

        The observation is easy: If you want to change your professional role significantly, expect to change companies.

        And it's not simply "management sucks", it's that management doesn't understand you, so they're doing their best to muddle through, and they seize on information like this because it's all they have, and once they think they understand you they're probably going to keep that understanding of you. They don't have a lot of time to spend understanding each employee, so once they think they've figured

        • by BobMcD (601576)

          And when you switch, how do you know that the new management hasn't also read this same article? Or otherwise developed similar ideas?

          • by dkleinsc (563838)

            They don't know you yet, so you can present yourself as fitting into the role you want rather than the role you had. You'll still get shoehorned, but you'll get shoehorned differently.

            • by BobMcD (601576)

              They don't know you yet, so you can present yourself as fitting into the role you want rather than the role you had. You'll still get shoehorned, but you'll get shoehorned differently.

              Again, I'll present the opportunity of doing this now, in your present job. There's got to be something on the list that you're good at...

    • That's why you should read this. Not because it provides useful information to people on the tech team, but because people in the business of managing IT departments really take this stuff seriously. They will try to shoehorn the people they have into the stereotypes, archetypes, and roles they know about, and once they've assigned you to a part, you're going to be doing that part until you leave or the show ends. And if you don't fit one of the parts, they're going to consider you useless.

      Seriously, I'm gonna forward this article to my boss and his boss so they can read it and then they'll truly understand why I've been calling myself the Magnum P.I. of the IT industry! I wonder what other 80's television tropes I can draw upon to secure myself a job for life...

  • ridiculous (Score:5, Insightful)

    by roman_mir (125474) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @11:57AM (#33651344) Homepage Journal

    you know this entire article is ridiculous because it's full of stupid shit like this:

    You don't even have to explain what you want or provide a document. They just complete the job."

    .

    The entire article is written as if by somebody who just watched 'Charlies Angels', 'Swordfish', 'True Lies' and 'The Core' and decided to write about this subject as if those movies actually represent reality.

    • by RedK (112790)
      Actually, I think he was watching "The A-Team". Hence the name of the article. What did you expect going in when the very title draws a parallel to a series about a team who "gets the job done, no questions asked" ?
  • I quit reading (Score:3, Insightful)

    by codepunk (167897) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @11:59AM (#33651386)

    I quit reading as soon as I ran into the comments by the VP of Tata Consulting. The article pretty much lost any sort of credibility right at that point.

  • Very unrealistic (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vadim_t (324782) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @12:05PM (#33651492) Homepage

    In my understanding, an "A-Team" isn't something that gets created by management, it's a group of people who happen to work together so well that they keep sticking together, because it works great for them. I don't think that's something you can build to a formula. At most you can try to find such a group in a large organization.

    And of course, they have the most unrealistic requirements for the developer:

    "You want the genius guys who aren't arrogant," she says. "They want to impress you, so they do in an hour what would take standard developers a week. But the most important thing is they don't challenge you. You don't even have to explain what you want or provide a document. They just complete the job."

    Just how is something supposed to get coded, if nobody explains what should it be? That kind of thing only works for independent coders who already know what they want to do, and community open source projects where nobody tells you what to do, you just do it, and if it's good it gets merged. But that's a very un-business-like development model.

    • by BobMcD (601576)

      You don't even have to explain what you want or provide a document. They just complete the job."

      Just how is something supposed to get coded, if nobody explains what should it be? That kind of thing only works for independent coders who already know what they want to do, and community open source projects where nobody tells you what to do, you just do it, and if it's good it gets merged. But that's a very un-business-like development model.

      We have one of those here - probably two, actually. They only politely listen to your ideas as to how it should function. They're looking for the end product, mostly, and are otherwise waiting for the meeting to end. Then they go back to their desks and draw on what they've already done in the past. They hammer it out 'their way' in short order, produce the result, and move on to the next project. A lot of these requests are so routine to these developers that planning it would readily take more time t

    • Just how is something supposed to get coded, if nobody explains what should it be?

      They don't want to have to explain because they don't KNOW what they want.

      They only know the end result that they want. Success and fame and more money.

      Translating that into real-world products is beyond them. So they want people who can do that for them. They want magic. They want people who can read their minds, predict the future and turn out world changing products ... and then give all the credit to their "manager".

      Why wo

  • I can just see it:

    In the year 2000, a 'leet' admin team was sent to the breadlines by the dot-com bust because of a business plan they weren't allowed to see. These men promptly escaped from a Geek Squad Double Agency into the Information Technology underground. Today, still owing taxes to the government, they survive as admins of fortune. If you have a problem...if no one else can help...and if you can find them...maybe you can hire...The A-Team

    Hey, maybe I can someone to make this into a show!

  • Why is this on six pages? Fail!
  • by bl8n8r (649187) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @12:12PM (#33651614)

    We have Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in Windows support. Bert and Ernie (both guys are gay) in the Mac Support dept and then Gonzo and Beaker in Unix/Linux systems department (one of them doubles as Oracle admin). They just hired a new IT manager, promoted from HR, who looks and acts a lot like Miss Piggy.

  • by petes_PoV (912422) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @12:27PM (#33651846)
    Your first hurdle is trying to reign in those egos. Once geeks get above a certain level of (in their own minds, at least) elitism they tend to presume that everyone around them is an idiot. Put two of these people together and tantrums are far more common than any actual progress. Next up is the politics. Who works for whom? Does the network geek take orders from the database wizard? Can the storage guy tell the hairy-arsed windows hacker what needs to be done? Even if you can walk the tightrope of keeping everyone calm - there will almost certainly be tears before bedtime when it's time to apportion the recognition (or blame).

    Finally, people with bleeding edge skills need to continually push the limits in order to keep those skills sharp. Does your organisation have enough crises happening frequently enough to stop these people getting bored? (If so, please tell me the organisation's name - I'll sell my stock immediately, at any price). Shorthand secretaries used to often leave jobs where they felt their abilities weren't being used - in the fear that they'd get rusty and their speeds would drop. Real geeks tend to be attracted by the next sparkly, shiny opportunity much more than staying put in one single job for long periods of time.

    I cant see this sort of team being a practical proposition - except in the movies.

    • Once geeks get above a certain level of (in their own minds, at least) elitism they tend to presume that everyone around them is an idiot.

      Think back to your school years. You progress through 12 years of school or whatever. Now compare yourself to someone who's repeated the 3rd grade over and over while you've been moving on.

      In most of the sciences (yes, we're talking about computer science) there are a few people who know a LOT and LOT of people know very little.

      If you keep learning, you WILL leave more an

      • Now, how do you feel when you're working extra weekends because those people who decided NOT to continue learning are partying with all the hot chicks?

        There, thats fixed it for all of us!

    • by swb (14022)

      Where DOES that ego come from? I really make an effort to be gracious and understanding when I work with other IT people (I work as a SMB consultant, usually solo) but to this day when you walk into a room with other IT people you can almost feel the ego battle growing, like two magnets pushing the same pole together.

      Even while trying to avoid the ego trap, I do occasionally fall into but it seems to be almost a defense-mechanism -- if you don't put up some front, you get walked on, and usually there it's

    • by qwijibo (101731)

      In my experience, the ego problems go with the people who proclaim themselves as experts, not the ones who everyone else points to as the real experts. Mature geeks recognize ways to benefit from everyone available. The lowly grunt that watches a screen and follow scripts to make red things turn green reduces the number of times the uber-geek gets paged to resolve problems. The DBA may be able to take a program that's running slowly and speed it up significantly all behind the scenes in the database.

      I wo

    • by Xugumad (39311)

      > Does your organisation have enough crises happening frequently enough to stop these people getting bored?

      I'm co-ordinating an A-Team-alike (actually, we prefer to go with the Impossible Mission analogy, but eh), and I'd agree with this. Some really huge organisations may be big enough to warrant a full time independent troubleshooting team (which is what we're really talking about, daft movie analogies aside), but mostly if you need a group like this either something is terribly wrong, or something was

    • Real geeks tend to be attracted by the next sparkly, shiny opportunity much more than staying put in one single job for long periods of time.

      Not sure that's true in this economy. I probably qualify as a "real geek", but I'll be damned if I'm going to jeopardize my family's well-being by trading my interesting and stable job for a more-interesting, less-stable job.

  • by Tetsujin (103070) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @12:34PM (#33651964) Homepage Journal

    First rule of making a team of this kind: You don't need a demolitions expert.

    I know, you'd think any kind of team like this would need a demo man, but in fact, at least 80% of the time, high explosives are not the correct answer to your IT woes. This is the voice of experience talking.

  • "You can't tell the business side an idea is nonsense if they're the ones who came up with it," she says

    If you can't then:

    1. you lack the necessary credentials in their eyes. Your team is not even the "B" team;
    2. you lack integrity in your teams eyes. They will not back you up, and with reason.

    "It's not a good idea to piss off someone who can have you declared dead on every computer system on the planet," says Kadrich. "You're looking for people with the ability to break into systems and do things to people

  • OT in a big way (Score:4, Informative)

    by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @01:03PM (#33652328)

    But, I watched Breakfast at Tiffany's a few years back with George Peppard as the male lead. He has one of the epically greatest monologues at the end. Kind of a shame that he'll be more remembered for the A-Team than that performance.

  • So the "best" way to build a team is to make sure that you have exactly one person who is good at each thing, and ensure that they don't have any kind of backup or "Plan B"?

    That's frakkin' brilliant.

    Until someone on your "A-Team" tries to leave the company. Or take a vacation. Or even go out for lunch. Then your entire organization suffers its justly deserved fate.

    No-one is irreplaceable and anything can happen at any time. Just ask Johann Hölzel. Relying on this kind of team is not just puttin

  • Humour article (Score:5, Informative)

    by Frankie70 (803801) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @01:37PM (#33652838)

    The article is supposed to be a satire.
    Look up the author [wikipedia.org]

  • If you need an A-Team to run your IT, you're doing it wrong. Not only would they be more expensive and harder to find, but losing any single member means that you have put your entire organization at risk.

    Probably a better solution is not to try to cover management laziness and ineptitude with an RFP for unicorns and fairies.

  • by DeBaas (470886)

    If you have a problem, if no one else can...

      It's just an incident, you fool....

  • by Terje Mathisen (128806) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @03:37PM (#33654480)

    15+ years ago I started exactly such a team for my then employer (Hydro, Norway's second largest corporation), I ran it until Hydro was split into multiple independent units, some of them sold off.

    They way I set it up was to pick one or two top guys from each of the crucial departments (LAN/WAN/FW, Oracle & MSSQL dbs, Java, C#/.Net, C(++) developers, Unix & Win* admins, etc.).

    Each of these departments got the money to hire some extra help, in return I could grab any of the required people for a specific assignment with 2 hours warning. From then on we'd all work on nothing else beside the current task.

    I had one requirement for the group (business unit/division) that declared such an emergency: They had to designate one person to work with my team full time, and that person would have authority to accept any kind of change in the project, both technical and economic.

    This requirement alone reduced the number of "emergencies" by 75%. :-)

    So how did it work?

    Pretty good actually: With a total of more than 100 such projects over a 15-year period, we had just two failures.

    Terje

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