Some years ago my eye was caught by an e-mail from the European enterprise architecture leader. The e-mail contained a request for an IT architect who could help with a critsit in Russia. I responded to the e-mail writing that not only am I a certified architect, specialised in performance engineering and infrastructure design but next to that I understand Russian. I got the job and that marked the start of two years of commuting to Moscow.
The critsit had occured in a consolidation programme carried out by one of the largest Russian banks with its headquarters in Moscow and regional affiliates throughout the country.
The Russian period was an interesting experience from multiple angles. Not in the first place because of the huge differences in business culture between Western Europe and Russsia. As the bank was a high profile customer and the contract was large, I had the opportunity to work with the top leadership in CEE.
Our leading executive invited me and the database expert to help him prepare a presentation for one of the most influential IT managers at the bank. In the presentation we gave our view on the best approach to solving the issue. I remember how we were spending all evening in a hotel suite in Moscow reviewing and improving the materials to make sure the message came across.
At some point I wondered whether we should not be more conscious of and take into account internal politics at the bank. I will never forget what the executive said : ‘Politics does not solve any problems’. In other words – when the ‘shit hits the fan’ the only way to solve the problems is to be crisp and clear about what needs to be done.
This was one of the most helpful advises I have ever received in my professional career! It helped me believe in myself and stick to my ‘gut feeling’ on many occasions.
The day came when we had the meeting with the IT manager. We had to wait in his secretary’s office, next to his, for him to finish his previous meeting. She took our coats and seated us. When it was time to go in, she announced us. We were seated around a round table with sweets on it while the IT manager stayed behind his desk. We delivered the presentation. From the body language of the IT manager it was impossible to tell whether he liked it or not. The expression on his face was impenetrable.
At the end of the presentation I said in English that the fact that this application consolidation programme covered 19 different systems in 11 timezones led to a significant level of complexity. He answered something in Russian that I did not quite understand primarily because he spoke within his breath.
When we went out the door I asked one of the Russian colleagues what he just said. My colleague replied that he had said that the complexity of the consolidation programme had nothing to do with the issues – it was the crappy hardware that we had sold him that caused all the issues and he was not going to pay for it unless we solved the critsit.
Now that was one of the most ‘political’ phrases that I have ever heard in my professional career!
The critsit lasted for nine months but together with the database vendor and specialists from the bank our team helped solve it.