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What kind of company is Initech in the movie Office Space?

There are a few important things we know about Initech that the movie plot hinged on. Are there any real-life companies that actually fit this criteria?

  1. Initech hires computer programmers that "update bank software for the 2000 switch"
  2. Initech has access to "the credit union software"
  3. Initech has access to "the credit union mainframe"
  4. Initech's accounting department notices when the money goes missing
  5. Initech has a "Corporate Accounts Payable" department (although at least one transcriber disagrees with me and thinks it's "Corporate Councils Payroll")
  6. Initech has a "Logistics" department
  7. Initech has engineers who lack people skills sufficient to interface directly with their customers.

Items 1,2,7 make Initech sound like a software development house that contracts with financial institutions. Item 3 additionally makes Initech sound like a company that contracts with financial institutions for server and software maintenance.

Item 4 makes Initech sound like the actual financial institution.

Item 5 sounds more like a consulting firm, as I think "accounts payable" is more likely simply called "loans"; but an actual banker could probably clear this up.

Item 6 could probably be either a bank or a consulting firm.

I would think maybe Initech is simply a subsidiary of a large financial corporation, that does in-house IT consulting and programming for the parent company. But item 7 doesn't fit with this theory, as then there wouldn't be any real "customers" (in a traditional sense).

So... What kind of company is Initech? :)

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Answer: a fictional one. –  DisgruntledGoat Dec 31 '11 at 17:50
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When Peter checks his account balance at the ATM toward the end of the movie, the ATM says "Initech Employee FCU" or something like that on it. –  abby hairboat Dec 31 '11 at 20:13
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"Corporate Accounts Payable" is not mysterious. I'm assuming there must be some kind of regional English issue here. Every corporation has an accounts payable department, whether they call it that or not. It's just the department that pays the corporation's bills. This has nothing to do banking or loans. Similarly, the department that collect money from customers is called accounts receivable. –  Joel Brown Mar 10 at 1:33
    
@JoelBrown: What is your point? Who made the claim that it was mysterious? –  Flimzy Mar 10 at 18:42
    
@Flimzy - Your answer makes it seem like there is some room for interpretation. Perhaps "mystery" is too dramatic at term. My point is that every corporation has an "accounts payable" department, not just consultancies, and it has nothing to do with loans or banking, just paying their bills. –  Joel Brown Mar 10 at 23:48

6 Answers 6

up vote 28 down vote accepted

Initech is ostensibly a software company, but I don't think it could really exist. I'll take your points one at a time.

  1. Initech hires computer programmers that "update bank software for the 2000 switch"

    This would fit either a bank/credit union, or a software consulting company.

  2. Initech has access to "the credit union software"

    Again, this would fit both. Programmers at a consulting company absolutely need access to the source code in order to make changes.

  3. Initech has access to "the credit union mainframe"

    Access to the mainframe pretty much eliminates "consulting company." I happen to work as a programmer at a bank through a consulting company. There's no way any bank or credit union is going to give access to a consultant to run unchecked code on any system where it could cause harm.

  4. Initech's accounting department notices when the money goes missing

    This also eliminates "software consulting company" from consideration. A consulting company has their own accounting department that would track expenses and income for their own activities, not those of their customers. The bank or credit union would notice the money goes missing, not Initech.

  5. Initech has a "Corporate Accounts Payable" department (although at least one transcriber disagrees with me and thinks it's "Corporate Councils Payroll")

    This doesn't offer much information. "Accounts Payable" is a common accounting term that any company would use. Any kind of loan or purchase on credit would be recorded under accounts payable. A banker would refer to it as a loan, but an accountant (or accounting software) might still call it by the more generic term.

  6. Initech has a "Logistics" department

    This could go either way. A bank would have a logistics department, but so might a consulting company that worked for a bank.

  7. Initech has engineers who lack people skills sufficient to interface directly with their customers.

    Any company with an IT department has those. In programming, a "customer" might be anyone who uses our software. They can be internal or external to the company. In my department we call the quants and bank officers who use our software to make investment decisions our customers. Other departments write software for actual bank customers (people with checking or savings accounts). Many of us don't talk directly with our customers. Instead we communicate through a project manager or other intermediary.

Given all of this, I think your guess of "subsidiary of a large financial corporation" isn't far off. I think #4 would still eliminate a subsidiary company though. It's unlikely that the same subsidiary would handle both software development and accounting for the parent company. So in summary, Initech appears to be some kind of amalgam of a bank and a software consulting company that doesn't exist in the real world.

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What about a financial transaction clearing-house that does bespoke implementations for their clients? –  Jacob G Dec 31 '11 at 16:13
    
@JacobG I don't know. Add it as an answer? –  Bill the Lizard Dec 31 '11 at 16:26
    
Question: are/were Credit Unions ever wholly owned by another company whose employees form the membership? If so, they could be employees of such a company, or the credit union thereof. –  JeffSahol Dec 31 '11 at 18:51
    
@JeffSahol I don't know enough about credit unions to answer, but if that's the case it would seem like a possibility. –  Bill the Lizard Jan 1 '12 at 15:50
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I disagree about ruling out consultant access... There's no legal bar to it and I have worked as a consultant at a bank where consultants had (at least) as much access as bank employees to the systems they worked on. Consultants can be hired for any type of job, really, and they're going to need whatever access is necessary to do their job. Many companies, banks and government agencies included, have almost entirely outsourced their IT functions to consultants. –  JoelFan Jan 1 '12 at 17:21

I always thought of Initech as a financial transaction intermediary that did custom implementations on either end of the connections they were facilitating. This could be, for example, Credit Union to Credit Card company or Credit Union to Check Clearinghouse, etc... Not 100% sure as I've never developed software that close to financial transaction processing, but it seems feasible to me.

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For several years I worked for a consulting company developing software for what's called a "correspondent bank" - i.e., an intermediary that processes transactions on behalf of other banks. Customer banks are called "respondent banks".

It's possible that Initech did something similar. I could make the following observations:

  • Our customer (the correspondent or 'host' bank) would balance transaction totals to ensure that everything added up correctly. We as the consulting company did not have access to production data and did not perform this task.

  • We generally did not work directly with software from RBs (our customer's customers), but we did work directly with other systems in-house with our customer, some of which were commercial off-the-shelf products; for example, message queueing and/or GL accounting or core processing systems.

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I used to work at a software company that created products to run mid to high-end credit unions. (Taking care of pretty much all software needs.) It was also rumored to serve as the inspiration for Office Space, though I would imagine this is a rumor at many companies.

  1. "Initech hires computer programmers that "update bank software for the 2000 switch"" I'm pretty sure some adjustments were made and tests were performed, just like they were everywhere.

  2. "Initech has access to "the credit union software"" The company I worked for had complete control of the code running on client systems.

  3. "Initech has access to "the credit union mainframe"" Our clients would allow us to log on to their mainframe systems. Some clients would restrict what we could see, but most just let us see everything. At the time I worked there, many to most clients would keep a modem line available at all times that we could use to log in. Everything was logged, so if you changed something you would probably get caught, but you could do it.

  4. "Initech's accounting department notices when the money goes missing" The company I worked at wouldn't have had any reports like that, but the credit unions would generally do a nightly balancing and if something was off, we would CERTAINLY hear about it, usually even before business opening. (So the needed transactions could be reversed/fixed/etc) Having Initech notice probably makes the plot easier to follow, however.

  5. "Initech has a "Corporate Accounts Payable" department (although at least one transcriber disagrees with me and thinks it's "Corporate Councils Payroll")" No idea here. I suspect this was required by the plot once you had Initech being the one that notices the money is missing.

  6. "Initech has a "Logistics" department." Most any company can have one of these. The place I worked certainly had people working on logistics.

  7. "Initech has engineers who lack people skills sufficient to interface directly with their customers." We did not work directly with customers, but this was less because of a lack of people skills and more because engineer time cost more than customer service time and most issues could be resolved without programmers getting involved. Often on-call situations resulted in programmers interacting directly with customers, however.

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Hi Zurm, and welcome to Movies.Stackexchange! –  DForck42 Jan 26 '12 at 15:21

"Initech" is pretty much "any tech" company.

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Initech = every cube farm I've ever been to. –  Major Stackings Feb 5 '12 at 22:35

I worked at Intel at the time and the similarities were so great that I assumed Initech = Intel. Not specifically, but a play on words with a company everyone knows that they figured had the same undesireable cubicle culture. I figured they made the line of work different to not get sued.

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Can you expand on the similarities? How does Intel compare with the various points in the question? Does Intel update bank software? Does Intel have access to credit union software and mainframes? –  Flimzy Aug 25 '12 at 2:38

protected by Dredd Dec 31 '13 at 16:04

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