If you made me rate yesterday as a whole, undivided unit, I'd have to give it no higher than a four. If you let me break out the three or four hours we spent actually talking to people from NYC's IT organization I'd give that a 10. The getting run all over Manhattan, out to Brooklyn, back to Manhattan business would rate about a 1. Our so-called "hosts" spent most of the time we were on the street or in the subways blithely striding along leaving the stragglers in our eight-person crew in their dust. I spent much of that time playing Border Collie keeping the people in the front from losing the people in the back.
The trip was billed as "we're going to New York to meet with the city's CIO". We never did meet the CIO (though we had very interesting conversations with one of his deputies and two directors). It was revealed to us on the train by Host #1 that we would be meeting Host #2 and some other people at a Starbucks near City Hall. Then, he said, Host #2 would be getting us in to see Gino. Gino Menchini is the Commissioner of DOITT, New York's central IT organization. My boss was at a national mayors' conference on homeland security last week and reported that Gino was like a mob boss -- no one got near Gino at the conference without first getting through his entourage (I wonder if he made Tom Ridge kiss his ring?). Because Host #2 got us off to a late start from Starbucks, we missed Gino at DOITT's headquarters, and then missed him again at their 311 offices.
Among the interesting things we learned talking to the various DOITT people we met: Not only isn't DOITT the single IT agency for the city, but some city departments/agencies are so large that they have multiple IT organizations within them. NYC's Department of Sanitation, for example, has fourteen distinct IT shops. Kinda puts Hartford in perspective. Oh, and who does FDNY call at 2:00 AM to get a building inspector to come out and look at a building they've just extinguished? The building department? Not at two AM. They call 311!
I have to say that the people we met with were really friendly, engaged, and engaging people who seemed happy to make time to talk with us. Especially in light of the fact that Host #2 -- a hot-shot NYC consultant -- was basically blowing into these offices with us in tow, hot on Gino's trail and looking for people for us to talk to. We received a far warmer and more gracious reception than the folks at Connecticut's DOIT (the state IT operation) would ever condescend to give us. Perhaps it's just a New York thing -- they run fricking New York, they don't have anything to prove!
So, after a day that completely maxed out my tolerance for disorder, disorientation, and disorganization, I got to bring a little order to the world. HFD and HPD are hurling themselves pell-mell down the path to getting in bed with a vendor (with no bid or RFP) to provide them with an Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) system. They're paying $108,000 for a 30 vehicle pilot. The two department chiefs have been the recipients of so much glad-handing and sunshine-blowing by the vendor's sales team and their own underlings that the city is on the verge of executing this deal with precious few of the implementation details worked out. Today was workout day.
Once I had everyone in the meeting room at HPD it became one of those "I have an agenda, and I will stomp any one of you who gets in the way of our getting through this agenda" type sessions. I raised, and we addressed, every issue that I could think of in the 90 minutes we were there. There were a couple that had to be tabled for further research. ...One of which required me to tell the vendor's lead rep "we are not going to discuss this any more." People do not seem to grasp that when everyone else in the room says that they don't have the answer to a question, it's pointless to continue discussing it.
I must admit that after the chaos of yesterday, laying down the law today felt mighty fine. ...And we got everything done. And now, they might even succeed. I'll still probably be branded an obstructionist and a hardass for bringing up all of these bothersome details. But, hey, I'm not here to be popular. I'm here to get the job done.