Overregulation in Standard Operating Environments. A Developer’s worst nightmare

Before you get bored of this blog, let me point out that I have to elaborate on my current work situation in order to get to the point. So please try to read the whole thing.

I recently ventured from the world of permanent employment into my second stint as a contractor. I was getting bored with the lack of challenge at my last (unnamed) company. I also felt that getting involved in some big BI project was just what I needed to help me on my journey to calling myself an expert. I knew that a new company meant a different working environment and that some adjustment would probably be needed. Yet very little could have prepared me for my new environment.

Firstly, let me say that I am now on contract at a large government organisation. I expected that this would bring with it many security issues, but I am a software developer, and surely they would provide me with the tools I need to get the job done and to hopefully enjoy my work. Let me interject here and say that job satisfaction is not a luxury IMO. I will spend 40 – 80 hours a week working, so I expect to enjoy my job and enjoy the tools I’ve been given to do said job. Secondly, let me say that I have taken over a proof of concept BI system which has been given the go ahead to evolve into production, so I am in a prime position to engineer some cool solutions, and that excites me. But…

So, what faced me initially was a bit concerning. I sat down to a Windows XP desktop with the following installed:

  1. IE6 (I know… Can you believe it?)
  2. Office 2003
  3. Only the MS SQL client tools and BIDS. No Local SQL Services (for messing with of course). No AdventureWorks. No full blown Visual Studio (for those excursions into CLR dev).

So my first thought was that this was just a recently installed computer from a century old image. Boy was I wrong,  it turned out to be their standard. Then I discovered to my absolute dismay that I was not a local administrator. When I mentioned some of these things, it was made clear that it was very unlikely to change and there was talk of requests going to seventeen thousand desks before I’d hear anything. On my third day there I realised how rudimentary their security was and I managed to install Google Chrome and BIDS Helper simply by installing them outside of the “Program Files” directory. I was not so lucky with other software.

Moving on to the development SQL Server that I had to work with. Firstly, let me say that I accepted that this project had been “proof of concept” up to this stage and probably had very little budget. Initially I was pleased as I realised that I was set up as an SQL, SSAS and SSRS administrator (sysadmin). It didn’t really bother me too much that I wasn’t a local admin of the actual SQL server. What did bug me was the single core and the 2GB RAM (for the database engine, SSAS, SSRS, and SSIS). I think my iPhone has more power. However, I eventually got used to the 10 second response times from a select top 1 *. This server was also serving other projects!!!

About a week into my tenure there, the SSAS database failed to build due to a lack of disk space. It turned out the Cubes were still set to build on the primary OS drive (in program files). I reported this, and three weeks later I am still waiting for the go ahead to perform my 30 seconds of work to rectify it.

Today I wanted to change the default measurement settings in SSRS (which requires a change to a RDL file somewhere in the Program Files directory). I couldn’t since I don’t have write permissions to that file.

Today was the last day for the Project Manager on my project and they don’t have budget for a good replacement.

At this stage, you’re probably thinking this person is ranting. And maybe I am. But in my opinion, Software Developers should be given the basic tools and rights to do their job and enjoy doing it! The changes I would want at my current contract would not cost them a cent in licence fees, so why is it so hard to get it to happen?

So to the point

  1. At the end of the day, there are people who will associate me with this project. My reputation is important to me. Given the current environment and tools, it is hard to see it being successful. So should I stay or should I go (getting 3 calls a week at the moment)? The sad reality is that a really cool project will get totally undermined by red tape (yet again).
  2. Software Developers deserve to be given good tools to do their job to the best of their abilities. If you are an IT manager that disagrees, I can take comfort in the fact that I for one will not be working for you for too long 🙂

Let me know your thoughts


Posted in Business Intelligence, Contracting, Development | 2 Comments

First Blog

Hello world!

I have been resisting the blogging culture for quite some time now. This is probably because I normally have nothing interesting to say, or I’ve felt that some people like to say too much (and I don’t want to be perceived to be one of those). Today, for the first time, I have felt like I should blog about something, so look out for my second post following soon.

When it comes to technical discussions, I sometimes feel I can contribute, but in my line of work I need to progress much further before I will feel that I am an expert. I compare myself to some of the leaders in my field (Mosha Pasumansky, Christoper Web and Darren Gosbell being my favourites) and I see how far I have to go. Still, I am yet to walk into a job and not add value, so maybe I’m ok at what I do. Given this, I will focus my blogs on general issues around operating as a BI developer and contracting. Hopefully I don’t end up sucking at it 🙂


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment