Gold Plating

Well, it has been another fun week at The Company with Skinny Project roaring like a giant T-rex looking for prey. That prey, of course, is us employees and one of its weapons is something called “gold plating.”

For those who don’t know, “gold plating” is also described as over delivering on your product. So in our case, if we have a 4-hour SLA to get a SEV 2 problem resolved and we are resolving problems on an average of 1-hour, that’s gold plating our service. If a server has an SLA up-time of 97.5% and we keep it up 99.5% of the time, we are gold platting. In these cases, it is clear that we are overstaffed and need to get rid of more expensive employees.

This is not a joke.

For my department, we have a 2-hour SLA on SEV 1 issues with a 15-minute SLA to respond to a SEV 1 event and get the SEV 1 process going. Often, we make these SEV 1 SLA’s but last week, we had an account (which I’ll call Foxtrot) have not one but three multi-hour outages, two of which were over eight hours in length. So what is my role in this adventure? I’ll go with outage #2 and #3 since they were the long ones.

In the case of outage #2, the customer called us (but is instead directed to our new “Router” team who then wastes time 1) figuring out what this call is about and 2) trying to figure out whom to route it to, assuming they decide to route it at all) frantic about a problem they were experiencing. My job was to get a ticket cut for her (something we rarely do for entitlement reasons, but when you have an account manager’s approval, you do it), start the bridge call, create an alert for duty management (because they are the interface to The Company management and have to write the reports for management once the outage hits 2-hours), page out any support people needed, and document the ticket.

Now, over the life of the bridge call, I’m not constantly doing things. I make notes in the ticket to document when people come into the bridge (because “who?” gets asked at Risk Cause Analysis meetings) and what progress is being made on the ticket (which also comes into play in those RCA meetings). From time-to-time they’ll request I page this person or escalate something to that person. When I’m not needed, I work on SEV 2 tickets.

Well apparently Skinny Project sees this as gold plating. While on the surface they acknowledge the need for my department to be on bridge calls, they reject the idea of being on the bridge for eight hours. However, thanks to Skinny Project, people we engage have also been told to not be on bridge calls for long periods of time. So maybe a DBA drops off the bridge because we don’t need them at the moment, but when we do need them, now I have to re-page them and we have to wait for them to re-join the bridge to do whatever they need. Before, they’d stay on the bridge to help get the customer back up as soon as possible. Now, outages last a lot longer (and The Company will be paying more and more SLA penalties) all in the name of not gold plating our service to the customer.

And this helps us how?

Because The Company has been keen on hiding all of this from our customers, one such customer (whom I’ll name VidCo) called expecting a bridge call for a SEV 2 issue. Now, I’ve never been in support of having a bridge call for this specific customer for simple issues because I do believe that is true gold plating and a waste of time (because it takes longer getting everyone including the customer contacts on the bridge and they discuss the matter for a while before (or after) actually solving it, which is stupid). But when that customer ran into Skinny Project’s limitations on what could or could not be done, a big management meeting later came back with the result that they could declare any issue they wanted a SEV 1 (because if they do that, The Company apparently gets paid a bit more for SEV 1 issues even if it isn’t really a SEV 1, but runs the risk of that 2-hour SLA). Nice.

Right now, The Company hasn’t been getting the numbers they want from the metrics and so their plans to boot more employees is failing from the justification point-of-view. So, the Project Skinny folks are looking at things with the strict light of “gold plating” and are attempting to change the metric numbers with that light by declaring more and more things as “gold plating.”

I’ve updated my resume but while The Company still employs me, I can pick and choose what I want. However, I get the ugly feeling that more companies may decide to do Project Skinny (which has been around for a long time and is supposed to make companies better, not a tool to fire folks) to get rid of folks. We’ll see what happens.

Reader Comments

  1. “Project Skinny” actually hinders the company because hell, who in their right mind is going to do anything faster than they have to and get marked “gold plated”?

    Reminds me of the project here where you were graded on lines of code produced. My, there were some fat progams coded back then.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.