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Muddying the Waters in FB ... and Moscow

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Today we read that Facebook intends to merge, in systems terms, various functions across various of the platforms it owns – FB, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, etc – in order to make it harder for regulators to split the company up, Standard-Oil style.  (Google, incidentally, spotted this wheeze a long time ago – and it cost them an astonishing amount of development $ to achieve.)

Reminds me of a similar but lower-tech story from my days in Moscow.  Gazprom, ineviably, was my main counterparty and I was in their fine new offices a lot.  My Russian staff used to get me to buy fresh bread rolls from the canteen there – the Moscow City bakery only baked twice a week, but Gazprom’s operated every day! – and to make this easier, they procured for me (I never quite knew how) a Gazprom pass …

I was professionally very keen to get an accurate company organisation chart for the sprawling giant.  I was supposed to conduct all my dealings through the Protocol department, but after I got a bit of a presence in the company, people would just invite me in for a chat (out of sheer curiosity, as much as anything: I didn’t conduct my affairs in quite the same way as many expats).  I had several memorable (and quite candid) encounters that way, which may be posts for another day.

Anyhow, I asked for the org chart, and was given this bizarre diagram, several times more complicated than the tube map of London, with dotted lines criss-crossing everywhere.  It was of course designed to indicate that there was no such thing as a modular division within Gazprom, oh dear me no: nothing that could be identified as a candidate for breaking off and floating separately – a fate which Gazprom dreaded.  (It was complete bollocks, of course, there were loads of meaty corporate chunks that could easily have been autonomous.)

This wasn’t getting me very far towards understanding the hierarchy (which, in Russia, is an extremely important thing to do – КТО КОГОwho does what, and to whom?, the first thing you need to establish in any dealings with a Russian set-up).  But having studied these matters in some detail in my soldiering days, I knew there’d be answer; and I had my resourceful staff procure me a Gazprom internal telephone directory.  The numbering system set it all out clearly …  



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