The Royal Bank is getting a public knocking for laying off a group of 45 or so IT workers — most in their 50s or early 60s, apparently — and replacing them (through a subcontractor) with foreign workers. The federal government, staunch supporters of loosening the rules around foreign workers, are also getting caught in the crossfire.
What the bank doesn’t realize, though, is that it’s a bigger mistake than simply a question of dumping long-term employees to replace them with foreign workers — although that is not popular for a bank that posts profits so high they are barely comprehensible (and is also telling customers this week that its fees on things like Interac withdrawals are going to increase by 33 per cent on June 1).
No, the bigger problem is that mid-sized and bigger companies already suffer from the fact that, to promote efficiency, IT support has been ever-more
centralized and formalized. RBC apparently doesn’t understand the suffering that comes with this process and sees only the bottom line.
When you move your IT people away, you can no longer bribe them to solve quick problems with chocolate muffins or a cold can of Pepsi. No, you have to fill out a Form 3492346XT Trouble Ticket and email it to an address that you’re not even sure is monitored on a regular basis.
If you’re pressed for time, you can try to call the emergency trouble line to speed things up, but they will request the unique ticket number that’s been applied to your Trouble Ticket, a number that should have been emailed back to you automatically when you filed your Form 3492346XT — unless, of course, it’s your email that happens to be broken. Then, you’re SOL. (That’s apparently an IT term, much like CAD-CAM and XT and MS-DOS. You’re not supposed to know what that means, outside the fraternity.)
That’s not the only problem.
What is the single-most difficult thing you can do in the world of human communication? Simple — fix a computer problem long-distance.
Does this phone call sound in any way familiar?
“Hi, honey, my email’s not working.”
“Did you check the router?”
“Which one’s that?”
“The one with the flashing lights.”
“Which one with the flashing lights?”
You can’t even imagine the brain-twisting imminent peril that accompanies the words “Kenny’s favourite game won’t run…”
But you get the point.
See, even if your IT people work right in the building with you, the chances are their desks are empty, and they’re in that high-stakes poker club known as “the server room.” No one outside of IT knows what happens in there, but it has a keypad lock that only IT knows the code for — and it changes every Thursday. It’s like an electronic secret handshake.
It’s harder still if your IT people are somewhere else in Canada — unless they’re using that remote desktop thing to move things around on your computer screen, so that it looks possessed as they finger their way through your email and your stash of vacation pictures.
Imagine how hard it will be when they’re a continent away. Are they even in the building? Of course they are. They’re logged on, aren’t they? They’re just busy …