Episode 5 – The Operations Meeting

“Monthly Ops meeting at 10, Dave.” Flux Larson seemed surprisingly chirpy this morning. “I can’t make it, can you cover for me?”

“Another activity that falls on the team leader side of the line?”

Penelope Crank lifted her head up from her computer. “He wishes. Brenda keeps a secret attendance register. If you miss more than two meetings a year you get a bollocking.”

“How do you know that?”

“Just because I won’t join in with all the stupid management nonsense, doesn’t mean I don’t know what is going on around here.”

“Penelope is right.” said Flux, “I have to pick and choose which ones I can miss. But I am treating myself this month, it’s all yours.”

Brenda de la Rue was busy being busy as she marched purposefully towards the board room for the Operations Meeting. This was her favourite time of the month. All areas were represented, and she could pick and choose who was to suffer the most. For the last two months it had been Infrastructure and for the two before that, Operations. This month she was still debating whether it would be the Cloud Innovations (non-core) team or Risk Management. Perhaps even HR, she still had five minutes to make up her mind. It was a shame the meeting only lasted for an hour as she would love to pull the wings off more than one person a month.

As Brenda passed the lifts, Lars Effendic got out.

“Ah, Lars. I wanted to ask you something.”

“Good morning, Brenda. What can I help you with?”

“Stop being smug. I want to know if we have deployed virtual desktop technology in the bank.”

“VDI? Yes, we have, pretty clever stuff.”

“So, if I saw a desktop on level 22, it might not be real at all?”

“Exactly. Delivered by the cloud but looks indistinguishable from a real desktop.”

“Well it had me fooled. I supposed if I had touched it, my hand would have gone straight through.”

Lars didn’t get a chance to answer, as at that point they arrived at the boardroom’s open doors and Brenda swanned in waving to the victims as she left Lars to close the doors behind her and began the meeting even before she had sat down.

“We have a lot to get through today so let’s leave the small talk for later.” Brenda said in response to the chorus of good mornings that greeted her.

Brenda sat at the head of the table next to her assistant Maddy Shovel who was busily taking note of who was in the room.

“First up I want to go around the table and for everyone to explain what they do.”

Maddy whispered to Brenda, “That agenda item is left over from the last meeting.”

“I don’t care. Let’s do it again. It changes rapidly around here, and I want to stay on top of things. You. Who are you and what do you do?”

“Dave Starling, Brenda. I’m the team leader for the Cloud Innovations (non-core) team.”

Brenda grunted and pointed at the man next to him. “You?”

“Timothy Useful, Head of Risk.”

“Peter Ness, Head of Operations.”

“Lars Effendic, IT Security.”

“Justina Goose, Manager of the ROFL team.”

“The what?”

“Risk, Operations, Finance and Legal.”

“You chose that name.” Maddi said to Brenda helpfully.

“Wait a second, what’s going on here?” Brenda was clearly confused. “You, Timothy. You said you were responsible for Risk, do you work for Madame Goose here?”

“Er, no Brenda. I report to you. We have those catchups, remember? I manage the risks inside your team, Justina runs the systems that the Risk department of the bank use to manage their risks.”

“Well that’s as clear as mud. In future, if anyone asks you, tell them you are the head of IT Risk, to avoid confusion.”

“That’s a different department within the IT structure. Run by Bruce Forceknife. You go to the IT Exec meetings with him.”

“I thought that was you? You look very similar. So you are not really head of anything then are you? More like the feet and ankles. Is it the same story with you, Peter Ness, Head of Operations?”

“Actually, it’s a bit more complicated. There are multiple operations teams in the business and Justina looks after some of them, but not all. I look after IT Operations for your teams…”

Brenda raised her hand for Peter to stop. “Let’s keep going. All of these introductions are taking up too much time. We’ll finish them off next month. Maddy take a note of that. Item two on the agenda, review and feedback on the operations reports.”

Brenda looked around the table for signs of weakness, she saw them everywhere.

“Now this is even more confusing. Operations do an Operations Report, but so do Risk, Infrastructure, HR, Project Office and Finance. We can’t keep using the word ‘Operations’ to mean random things. Agenda item for next time Maddy, find a new name for the Operations Reports.”

Maddy nodded and started typing on her laptop as Brenda continued. “The Operations Reports are critical to the smooth running of this department and I personally read every one of them in great detail. Now, has everyone submitted their reports for this month?”

Dave couldn’t help but notice the contradiction in these sentences. If the reports have to be submitted in advance of the meeting, and if, and this is a very big if, Brenda reads them before the meeting, why would she need to ask if everyone had done their reports? He decided to let it slide.

Brenda still wasn’t sure who to attack, and the clock was ticking. She decided to use her fall-back technique of throwing some bait into the water and seeing what happened. “Did anyone have any comments on any of the reports?”

This one always worked. Brenda now sat back and soaked in the silence. The deafening, stifling silence that someone would soon break, either offering themselves up as a sacrifice to the Gods or turning on a fellow gladiator and striking the first blow. Brenda didn’t have to wait long.

“Brenda.” Timothy raised his hand politely, “I notice there was no mention of the WebMethods outages in the Operations Operations Report and no indications that a RiskMan record has been raised for last month’s mainframe performance problems.”

Peter Ness cleared his throat. “The reason we don’t raise a RiskMan for these is that the Risk team then blow it out of all proportions and it gets escalated to the board, reflecting badly on this team before we have had a chance to get our remediation plans in place.”

That was it. It was on for young and old. Dave, along with everyone else in the room apart from Peter and Timothy, relaxed into their chairs, safe in the knowledge that they would not be selected to put on armour and enter the ring, at least not this month.