Apple ParkSource: Rene Ritchie/iMore

What you need to know

  • A Buzzfeed report has published a detailed inside look into one of Apple's most important divisions.
  • A book by Alex Kantrowitz claims Apple's IS&T division is 'A Game of Thrones nightmare' of contractors vying for position.
  • Information Systems & Technology at Apple looks after all of the tech Apple uses to keep its business running.

An excerpt from a book by Buzzfeed's Alex Kantrowitz claims that Apple's Information Systems & Technology division is 'a Game of Thrones Nightmare' as contractors jostle for cash.

According to Buzzfeed:

A group inside Apple called Information Systems & Technology, or IS&T, builds much of the company's internal technology tools — from servers and data infrastructure to retail and corporate sales software — and operates in a state of tumult.

IS&T is made up largely of contractors hired by rival consulting companies, and its dysfunction has led to a rolling state of war. "It's a huge contractor org that handles a crazy amount of infrastructure for the company," one ex-employee who worked closely with IS&T told me. "That whole organization is a Game of Thrones nightmare."

Interviews with multiple former IS&T employees and its internal clients paint a picture of a division in turmoil, where infighting regularly prevents the creation of useful software, and whose contract workers are treated as disposable parts.

One former contractor described the situation stating "there's a Cold War going on every single day". The division is plagued by contractors competing with each other to "fill roles and win projects", usually these spots go to the cheapest option. The report continues:

IS&T is thus filled with vendor tribalism, where loyalty to one's contracting company trumps all. "Making a friendship is — like you wouldn't even think about that," Sabapathy told me, speaking of cross-vendor relationships. "It's not the traditional American way of working anymore. You build relationships when you come to work because you spend most of your time here — that's not there."

Amid the turmoil, internal IS&T clients at Apple can be left reeling as their contractors go dark. "The guy who I was working with got moved to a totally different team and they just replaced him with another guy, and then within a month that guy's gone. And after those people leave, there's a new IS&T project manager and no one told me. I just learned by accident,"

The excerpt also claims that the finished article often winds up causing more problems than it solves:

Multiple people told me their Apple colleagues were forced to rewrite code after IS&T-built products showed up broken.

The full report is an incredibly interesting read. Apple's IS&T division is responsible for all of the tech Apple uses to run its business, hardware, and software. Ever paid for something at an Apple Store and put your credit card in an iPhone with a huge case on it? IS&T. All the display products and the software that they run, also IS&T. The excerpt concludes:

For Apple, fixing its broken IS&T division would not only be the right thing to do from a moral standpoint — it would help the company's business as well. If Apple is going to become inventive again, it will need to give its employees more time to develop new ideas. IS&T could therefore become a division of strength at Apple one day, building tools that minimize work that supports existing products while making room for those ideas. But until Apple gives the division a hard look, its employees will be stuck spending their time reworking broken internal software, and wishing they were inventing instead.