Fleeced

I’m a big fan of Dragons’ Den. I know I gave the first episode of season 1 a lukewarm reception, but the truth of the matter is that I watched every episode afterwards, and found myself looking forward to the show each week.

Season 2 is even better, although the ratings are not so hot. But hey, it’s up against Dancing With the Stars and Prison Break, so we should cut it some slack. And the producers made some good, subtle changes. The stick-in-the-mud cattle lady has been replaced by a lady with a witch’s hairstyle. The music is not so obnoxious. They breeze through a montage of rejects about 40 minutes in, to keep things lively.

I’m not sure what the appeal is for me. It’s both sickening and fascinating to watch Kevin O’Leary go in for the kill when he sees something he wants. His method is to totally disregard the deal offered, proposing an insulting ripoff skewed in his favour. But with his counterproposal comes some kind of psychological indoctrination, reinforcing to the rube the value of the shit sandwich now before him.

Older people are more resistant to his hypnotic spell, so Kevin usually leaves them alone. What he wants are students. Nervous nerds. Young people with bright ideas. And you watch, he gets what he wants. Every time.

So I guess that’s part of the appeal for me. I know that if I were on the show, I’d be fleeced in a minute. I wouldn’t even make it to Kevin. The benign lingerie guy would walk out of there with my idea, my patent, and my underwear.

A lot of us at the CBC are not “money people.” Maybe that’s why we’re at the CBC.

3 years ago, before the CBC shop had a proper website and a store in the TBC, they used to wheel a hot dog cart into the atrium for a few hours every Thursday and sell odds and ends.

Imagine. Tourists coming from all over the country to the CBC, money falling out of their pockets, with nothing to buy unless they showed up on Thursday afternoon. Then we might have a Rex Murphy t-shirt or an Anne Murray Christmas Special VHS tape for them. Maybe.

Sometimes, some of us just don’t get it.

I often wonder about what goes on behind closed doors when we negotiate with vendors for some of these multi-million dollar “capital projects” that are always behind schedule and suck up money like nobody’s business.

They are supposed to solve a bushel of problems at once, are almost always technology-based, are sold to us by 3rd-party vendors, and are implemented by consultants.

Projects like Vision, DTV (Desktop TV), EDC and the Deep Archive, and even the intranet.

Vision is the granddaddy of them all, truly the CBC’s Chinese Democracy. Meant to manage contracts and content and costs and promotions and the temperature of the coffee makers at Ooh La La, it’s been years in the making with no end in sight.

I’ve heard the numbers of millions of dollars that have been spent on it, and I hesitate to post them here because they can’t possibly be true. But my point is that every project goes over budget, and every project runs behind schedule.

What’s wrong with us?

I hate to say it, but I think we defer to IT too much. Those delightful imps are great to have around when you’re trying to install a printer. But when you’re making a decision on something that costs millions of dollars and has to work perfectly in 2 languages and solve the potential snafus of 11,000 employees, you’re looking at a whole different skillset.

So, we call in the consultants, like Axl called in Buckethead.

Their job is to help you help yourself. But their job is also to crank up the billable hours. You can probably guess where this goes.

No, we’re not good at this kind of thing. But if nothing else, we’ve got to use our illusion and play to our strengths. Next time we close the door to talk turkey with these vendors, someone please bring in Kevin O’Leary.

And make sure he’s on our side.

21 comments:

  1. Ouimet
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 3:05 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Is the Hollywood Reporter trying to break my computer?

  2. Anonymous
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 5:14 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Someone remind me who it was that set 1 million viewers as a threshold which shows must reach to survive on the schedule. Who was that?

    What does any self respecting executive who has failed to meet performance minimums usually do?

  3. Anonymous
    Posted October 29, 2007 at 4:36 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Ouimet, that link you just posted sends ppl to a site that while having an interesting article also has malware that will infect and take over your computer…

  4. Ouimet
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 7:06 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Anon, try this.

  5. Anonymous
    Posted October 28, 2007 at 4:28 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Link goes nowhere Mr. Happypants

  6. Johnny Happypants
    Posted October 27, 2007 at 5:02 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece
  7. Allan
    Posted October 26, 2007 at 6:40 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    The Toronto Star City Desk on Rogers Television
    Hosted by Antonia Zerbisias.

    that didn’t last long

  8. amy hoo hoo
    Posted October 15, 2007 at 6:26 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    honestly, and without meaning to sound too nasty, my own experience with IT workers at the “front line” level is rarely satisfactory.

    they do stuff wrong. they take stuff out for repair and bring it back either the same or with worse problems. They have a very high level of confidence that isn’t matched by the quality of their work.

    They come in to configure stuff, announce that they’re finished, and leave, all without actually checking to see if the damn machine actually works.

    Now, some of them are great. And admittedly, we have some real crap software that they have to deal with.

    But, given the attitudes on the front lines of the IT department, I can hardly imagine what their managers are like.

  9. cbcfrank
    Posted October 15, 2007 at 6:01 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    To ‘IT’s gonna track my IP for this one’ and all the anonymous posters: relax, now you need only tack on the boilerplate

    the views expressed here are my own and not those of CBC/Radio-Canada.

    Voila!

  10. IT's gonna track my IP for this one ...
    Posted October 14, 2007 at 5:19 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I think that the process of getting vendors is pretty much on the up and up, what with all the large scale stuff going through the MERX website.

    That said, when the vendors do come in, it seems to be a real mess most of the time. That intranet project really needs a light shone into some of the darker corners.

    Two main things seem to go wrong. Remember when the Harris govt. contracted out workfare to Andersen? Similar elements in play around the corp.

    First is a misunderstanding of scale. If you have to bring in outsiders, it’s gotta be big, big, big, right? Bollocks. Getting it right on a pilot basis is something that IT needs to learn about. Compare Live-stink to Brazillweb sometime and see how the organically developed, smaller, in-house application (Brazillweb) trumps the giant sized big-brother project that is pocked with simple usability problems and misunderstood needs of CBC when it comes to customization.

    The second part of the problem is an almost sycophantic love fest on behalf of the contractEE to the contractOR. Granted, having someone from the outside world to do all the fart catching might feel pretty good after years of public service styled in-house projects. But come on… if the vendor fucks up, underdelivers, or increases the scope as they go, management needs to be on them like flies on doo-doo. Instead, it seems like working with vendors is a way for people to feel like they’re paving the way for the final Stursbergian outsourcing of everything. They get to play ‘private sector’ for a while and get caught up in throwing money at these misadventures.

    I agree with the above poster. Everything that ever **really kicked ass and got the job done in around here was prototyped in house, or done with **very careful but firm pressure on the vendor to acknowledge CBC’s very unique niche.

    Look at Leitch or McCurdy for good examples of the way it used to be.

    Just when is that new intranet gonna roll out anyway?

  11. IT's gonna track my IP for this one ...
    Posted October 14, 2007 at 5:19 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I think that the process of getting vendors is pretty much on the up and up, what with all the large scale stuff going through the MERX website.

    That said, when the vendors do come in, it seems to be a real mess most of the time. That intranet project really needs a light shone into some of the darker corners.

    Two main things seem to go wrong. Remember when the Harris govt. contracted out workfare to Andersen? Similar elements in play around the corp.

    First is a misunderstanding of scale. If you have to bring in outsiders, it’s gotta be big, big, big, right? Bollocks. Getting it right on a pilot basis is something that IT needs to learn about. Compare Live-stink to Brazillweb sometime and see how the organically developed, smaller, in-house application (Brazillweb) trumps the giant sized big-brother project that is pocked with simple usability problems and misunderstood needs of CBC when it comes to customization.

    The second part of the problem is an almost sycophantic love fest on behalf of the contractEE to the contractOR. Granted, having someone from the outside world to do all the fart catching might feel pretty good after years of public service styled in-house projects. But come on… if the vendor fucks up, underdelivers, or increases the scope as they go, management needs to be on them like flies on doo-doo. Instead, it seems like working with vendors is a way for people to feel like they’re paving the way for the final Stursbergian outsourcing of everything. They get to play ‘private sector’ for a while and get caught up in throwing money at these misadventures.

    I agree with the above poster. Everything that ever **really kicked ass and got the job done in around here was prototyped in house, or done with **very careful but firm pressure on the vendor to acknowledge CBC’s very unique niche.

    Look at Leitch or McCurdy for good examples of the way it used to be.

    Just when is that new intranet gonna roll out anyway?

  12. Johnny Happypants
    Posted October 13, 2007 at 10:31 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    “They are supposed to solve a bushel of problems at once, are almost always technology-based, are sold to us by 3rd-party vendors, and are implemented by consultants.”

    You might have mentioned the 3rd party vendors often have former CBC staff on their sales teams, but I’m sure that doesn’t help them win the contracts.

  13. Anonymous
    Posted October 12, 2007 at 4:24 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    hey ouimet
    im sending you this from the new ipod touch at the APPLE STORE in the eaton centre

    Allan

  14. Anonymous
    Posted October 12, 2007 at 4:34 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Allan, your comment makes no sense. You say that CBC is in it for the money, then you agree with Ouimet that we don’t make the most of things like cbc.ca and the gift shop.

    Great post, Ouimet. I remember that cart – what a joke! Oh, and never mind that with our great minds in the real estate business, Movenpick is STILL. EMPTY.

    Actually Kevin would probably write us off as hopeless – “I’m out.”

    Good points, cbcfrank.

  15. Anonymous
    Posted October 11, 2007 at 7:39 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Even the dumbest IT manager knows better (or should know better) that you get System A working before you introduce System B.

    So the question we must ask were the TV managers conned by those consultants, where they just dumb or did they sacrifice virgins to silicon idols in hopes that things might just work?

    They introduce DTV and then find out it doesn’t work for getting graphics, there is no way to export a single frame from DTV. Then they find out it doesn’t work for the web, you can’t convert DTV to web video.

    So do they wait and get it working before doing something else?

    No they jump right in and go to 16:9 and now graphics has to do five times the work they used to get a graphic to work. They have to get the item dumped from DTV to tape. But then on tape it is squished (anamorphic). Since it has be unsquished manually from the 16:9 4:3 squeeze, it takes a lot longer than taking a video frame and then putting it in a fancy graphic format. Back in the 1970s, the EAs used to cut pix out of magazines and use rubber cement to put them on bristol board for graphics. We may have to go back to that system.

    And DTV is so overloaded that it crashed three week days out of five just about the time the load on the server is increasing…say around 3:30 or 4 o’clock ET.

    One of these days the whole DTV system is going to implode.

    Hello this is CBC@6 somewhere in Canada….since we have no video because of a computer crash, we offer a simulcast of The World at Six… (roll the beeps)

  16. Allan
    Posted October 11, 2007 at 3:37 pm | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    It’s a nice illusion, Ouimet, that CBC’ers aren’t “money people”.
    Volunteers, rebels, and some independent producers might be considered not “money people”. But not someone working at the CBC. They’re into money to be sure. Even more, they’re into “job security”, as is the basic characteristic of all civil servants. And rules, rules, rules.
    Today’s CBC is still riding on the reputation of the old CBC, the pioneers who could credibly say that they strove to break new ground and serve the public, and were noted for their courage and integrity. And veneration of the art of theatre and journalism. That CBC is long gone.
    Try suggesting to anyone today that the CBC needs more money.

    Doesn’t it make you wonder how the CBC became so great without computers?
    And doesn’t anyone stop to ask what all that CBC intranet accomplishes?
    It certainly doesn’t translate into being more responsive to the public or delivering better services in ANY area.
    And the expensive web presence of the CBC amounts to little more than a commercial. We know it’s expensive, but how effective?
    What’s the cost / income ratio for cbc.ca?
    And why is the CBC’s internet presence no more than a mirror of the regular CBC instead of a third outlet for expression and original content?

    The CBC’s gift shop is so obviously a place for old people to throw away their money. Shoved into a corner of the TBC, it almost begs to be left alone in peace and quiet.
    Doesn’t everyone have their Hour T-shirt by now?

    Dragon’s Den is great stuff because of the outstanding and really fun judges.

  17. cbcfrank
    Posted October 11, 2007 at 11:46 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Ok, substitute ‘wisely’ with ‘shrewdly’…

  18. Kevin
    Posted October 11, 2007 at 9:55 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    “I also like Dragon’s Den because we’re doing the nation a terrific service: we’re introducing them to the myriad of ways money can be wisely invested”

    You are being sarcastic, right? I can’t tell anymore.

  19. Toronto Tonto
    Posted October 11, 2007 at 9:30 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    cbcfrank nails it.

    Too much listening up.

    Especially when it comes to IT, or gawd help us, the internet, the people on the ground have superb and current knowledge.

    It’s obvious that people making a lot of decisions lately for the websites do not use the internet. Managers are supposed to facilitate good ideas, not stop them and replace them for their own Borgish attempts to impress his Richardness.

    The problem I see at the CBC in my short time is that people are not able to communicate across departments easily. It’s all hallway or atrium conversations. Rarely can someone put something in writing that others see.

  20. cbcfrank
    Posted October 11, 2007 at 7:43 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    Whoa, this is rare territory for the corp: nimble, informed, decisive, and business-savvy management. We have NONE of that. We have a sycophantic managerial culture that defers to the desires of the manager above, never to the problems below, even when the troups howl the solution.

    I also like Dragon’s Den because we’re doing the nation a terrific service: we’re introducing them to the myriad of ways money can be wisely invested, other than savings bonds and t-bills. I find this particularly attractive because we relinquish far too much finacial control to our banks, and frankly we do so for an outrageous premium. I’m going to bet Dragon’s Den will have a long run for this reason.

  21. Paul
    Posted October 11, 2007 at 6:10 am | # | Reply to this masterpiece

    I know it gives a lot of people a warm fuzzy feeling to blame “those nerds with the ringing bells and the flashing lights” for the boondoggles at the CBC, but you’ll almost always find clueless managers (in many cases non-IT managers) behind it all. You make it sound as though the managers in IT actually listen to what their staff recommend. Maybe it’s different in your area, Ouimet – maybe your management respects the skill and creativity of the staff, and so you don’t see that it’s not the case around the building. So please don’t lump the long-suffering IT guy in with his manager.


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