Connections: Margie, IT, and Steve’s VPN access

My assigned responsibilities include “mentor Margie.” Margie’s bright and capable, but after some time with an analyst job title she still thought of the position as sort of a glorified lead worker. We needed that changed.

Here’s some evidence that it’s working.

The maintenance contract on one of our client/server systems requires that the contractor’s support guy, Steve, have external access to the system. The system is, of course, within our firewall; Steve lives in another state and is often on the road working on stuff for other folks he supports.

I arranged for that access, via VPN, in July. Organizationally, the task should have been Margie’s, since the system supports her section, but I was available, am more technically inclined, and have working relationships with most of the key IT staff. Since IT is still finding its feet after a truly massive reorganization, it seemed better for me to handle the paperwork. I captured the instructions (a chatty, half-finished, and blatantly incomplete document), worked with Steve to fill out the forms, figured out who to send them to, and passed them up the line. It took about a month to get Steve on-line; the approval was dated August 4 and we got him the necessary software a day or two after that. Nothing Margie couldn’t have handled, but for me just part of the routine….

The documentation mentions that contractor access needs to be renewed every 90 days, but doesn’t specify a method for renewing that access. Perhaps more to the point, while I remember noticing the requirement, I’d lost track of it. Had I remembered it, I’d have expected the renewal period to key to the approval date. That, apparently, turned out to be a wrong assumption.

A couple weeks ago, Steve reported (to Margie, of course) that his connection was failing; access got spotty for a few days, then failed completely. Steve’s guess was that the recent security enhancements, at his end and ours, had gummed things up. Margie and I had a chat, and recommended that Steve contact the IT Help Desk about the problem. IT Help did some research, learned that the VPN guy had timed Steve out (early, in my opinion), and referred the question to me–because I’d done the original paperwork. I sputtered a bit about that (it’s Margie’s system, not mine; she shouldn’t be dependent on my availability), but made the phone call. I asked that 1) someone inform us of the process for requesting the renewal, and 2) someone contact Steve about the security (configuration) issues.

Then I got sick. I showed up at work last Monday, but left early. Except that I attended a meeting on Thursday, no one saw me again until Friday morning.

Margie handled it.

  • First she got Steve’s access restored. She accomplished this by bypassing normal channels. My guess is that I’d have ended up doing the same.
  • Then she got someone to address the configuration questions. Somehow that part of my request had gotten misplaced. I wasn’t surprised; CRM systems (they use Remedy) aren’t real good at handling multiple questions.
  • She got the security staff to commit to an access-renewal process. The process is weak, and I expect they’ll decide to improve it, but that’s not her fault. We at least have a method, now.
  • She documented the whole thing for management.

I followed up with a note praising Margie’s efforts, and discussed some process problems that IT still needs to address. It’s likely my note will get passed to our IT liaison staff. One of the messages they’ll get is that Margie can do this.

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