No good deed goes unpunished, government edition

This state agency depends on a commercial application that this IT pilot fish is responsible for managing.

"Ever since purchasing the application, we kept it under the vendor's support contract, thus giving us access to updated versions of the software," says fish. "That worked fine until the huge budget crisis hit several years back.

"At that point, mandatory budget cuts across all state agencies forced us to drop all contracts that weren't deemed absolutely essential, and since the version of the application we were using was relatively stable, the support contract was not renewed."

Unfortunately, the software version fish's agency is using only works under Windows XP, and in 2010 the XP end-of-support date is only three years away. And because his state uses two-year budgets, and budget proposals require another year in advance, reinstating support in time means fish needs to justify it immediately so the agency won't be orphaned in three years.

He builds the business case for reinstating the support contract and gets approval, and the money is budgeted for 2013. That should give fish enough time to test, debug and roll out a Windows 7 version before XP support ends.

Flash forward to 2013: Fish goes to the agency's budget person to get the money for reinstating support -- and he's told the money isn't there.

Why? "The budget person above this budget person who put the money into the budget left," fish says. "And the replacement raided the money for something else, since the upper management that approved the support contract money didn't remember anything about what the money was for."

Meanwhile, the software vendor is getting antsy because fish hasn't paid for the support contract renewal as promised, and is making noises about charging a penalty because the agency hasn't renewed when it said it would.

So instead of being able to congratulate himself for his foresightedness in preparing for the budget needs of the Windows XP-to-7 transition, fish is scrambling to smooth things over with the vendor and try to get a price break.

And at the same time he has to once again justify to upper management why the agency needs the support-contract money for what is now an emergency expenditure.

"Oh, and if I succeed, then I'll still get the opportunity to test, debug and put into production the latest version of the application, hopefully before XP support ends," says fish. "Only in one-fourth the amount of time I originally planned on."

Sharky's plans require lots of true tales of IT life. Send yours to me at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll score a sharp Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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