Snafu cover-ups just delay the inevitable

Information technology pros are an insightful breed.

p>I know my fair share of them, and I’ve noticed that a lot of them tend to focus on how practical information and lessons learned can be applied to their work, even when the lessons come from outside of the profession.

An example presented itself a couple of weeks ago in an e-mail exchange with Dale Frantz, CIO at Auto Warehousing Co. I’d recounted a story about a mishap I’d had at our recent Infrastructure Management World conference at the new Gaylord National Hotel near Washington.

I had driven my beloved Mazda MX-5 (the model formerly known as Miata) from Massachusetts, and I entrusted it to the hotel’s parking valets for safekeeping.

On the morning I checked out, I called to have my car retrieved and waited at the hotel’s entrance. And waited. And waited.

After about 30 minutes and several inquiries, I was finally given the apologetic explanation that the police had one of the streets blocked off.

Another 15 or 20 minutes passed, and a sympathetic bellman said there had been an accident near the valet lot and a backlog was forming because a lot of people were checking out.

About 20 minutes later, a valet who had been fetching cars said he had seen the silver Miata and there was … um … a problem getting it out of the lot.

Finally, I was approached by the head valet manager. “Mr. Tennant,” he said, “I have some bad news.”

There had been an accident, all right.

It turned out that the young woman who was retrieving my car hit another valet who had run out in front of her, then she swerved into a pole and smashed up the left side of the car.

The poor guy she hit suffered a compound leg fracture and was taken away in an ambulance, so I could hardly get too upset when I saw the damage to my car. At least it was still drivable, and it can be fixed.

There was only one thing that really bothered me. Why was I kept in the dark for well over an hour? Why wasn’t I immediately informed? It’s not like I wouldn’t eventually find out, you know?

Here are some project management tips.


I found Frantz’s response to the tale very interesting.

“There’s a career IT parallel here,” he wrote. “When IT projects have problems, it seems that the ‘delay and cover up’ is what happens with reporting back to senior management. ‘Maybe the CEO won’t notice that we’re not delivering this project well past the time expected,’ or ‘Maybe the CEO/CFO won’t notice the fact that our project has been in a wreck and is severely damaged. Maybe our internal customers will just ignore it and go away.'”

People in the IT industry have some strange habits, Frantz said, most of which are self-destructive.

I would add that slipping into denial mode may be the most destructive of all.

You may recall from our reporting that Frantz has embarked on a pioneering project to migrate his formerly all-Microsoft IT shop at AWC to the Mac.

He mentioned in our e-mail exchange that the conversion, which began about a year ago, is ahead of schedule and has already saved him nearly $1 million in license fees.

Yet there is still widespread denial among IT pros that Apple in the enterprise is anything but a “novelty” or that it’s a viable Microsoft alternative.

Meanwhile, Frantz says AWC is “thriving during these bleak economic times,” due in no small part to his switch to Macs.

That’s something that all those IT pros who think their CEOs won’t notice the Microsoft money pit might want to consider.

Don Tennant is editorial director of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Contact him at, and visit his blog at

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