[R] How do I get my IT department to "bless" R?

Warren Young warren at etr-usa.com
Tue Feb 3 13:00:20 CET 2009

Stavros Macrakis wrote:
> Condescendingly assuming that the IT department is run by idiots whose
> decisions are ruled by emotional attachments (as one correspondent
> suggested), or that they are irrationally prejudiced against free/open
> source, and that it is obvious and irrefutable that you know better
> than them (as was implied by some correspondents), may make you feel
> better, but probably won't help much.

I assume that I am that "one correspondent."

My longer post above was one-sided to drive a point.  I suspect everyone 
here is a logically-leaning sort, who has more than once fallen into the 
trap of thinking that if you just present a logical argument, your 
interlocutor will have no choice but to come over to your side of the 
issue.  This can work, but it's not all that common.  A likelier path to 
success includes an element of emotional jujutsu.

Something I neglected to touch on above is that we should also be aware 
of our own emotional tie-ups.  Most of those of us here *like* R, and 
not entirely for rational reasons.  Perhaps you enjoy the aesthetics of 
the language; maybe you think the default graph types look especially 
nice; maybe you think free software is the only ethical sort; maybe some 
of the people here are friends of yours.

If someone tells us R is no good, those emotions can turn on us, and you 
get a typical ugly advocacy battle.

On the other hand, our feelings about R and its community can give us a 
reason to develop and pursue an emotionally forceful argument, which can 
win the day where a purely rational one wouldn't.  It takes a certain 
amount of charisma or backing force for this to work; emotion again.

> It also won't help much if you don't explain clearly and calmly *why*
> exactly you need to use R for your work.

Certainly.  Just don't rely wholly on rational reasons.

Don't forget that you are trying to change a human organization, and 
that this is much harder than swapping two columns in an R matrix.

> Some companies will be
> more careful, wanting to vet any software that can open a TCP
> connection (which most non-trivial software systems, including both
> Excel and R, can).

Well, yes, I suppose I can't argue that there are probably some 
companies that do actually do this.  I can't prove otherwise.  What is 
obvious from just with a quick look-around, though, is that the vast 
majority of organizations don't.  If they did, it wouldn't have taken a 
decade to get from ActiveX to UAC.

> Even if the IT department *is* behaving irrationally, responding
> irrationally yourself probably won't help your cause.

I never said you should pursue the cause irrationally.  I just said you 
should never forget that those you're trying to convince are never 
wholly rational.  (A wholly rational human being is actually a pretty 
scary thing, so thankfully rare.)  If you pursue your campaign thinking 
your audience will respond to your questions with T's and F's, the only 
way you can succeed is if they were inclined to support you regardless. 
  Otherwise, you are lost.

By the way, another reading suggestion I kicked myself for leaving out:


Want to know how IT management thinks and how to work with them to 
effect change?  Read Bob's blog and InfoWorld column.  Some selections 
that are particularly on-point here:


More information about the R-help mailing list