If it's not on my price list, it can't be done

It's a few years ago, and this IT pilot fish is responsible for software that runs the production lines for a barcode-scanner manufacturer.

"My system would pull bill-of-materials data from the company's older ERP system and use it to guide manufacturing at each workstation in the manufacturing line," fish says. "The system would then send a record back to the ERP system once a scanner was completed, so that inventories could be updated correctly."

In time, the scanner company decides it's time to upgrade to a new ERP system that's all the rage. The good news: There are lots of consultants who specialize in porting existing systems to this Successful And Popular software.

The bad news: Those consultants charge very hefty hourly rates for their services.

Fortunately, the manufacturing software that fish supports doesn't need to change except at two points: the place where it receives bill-of-materials data from the ERP system, and the place where it reports back to ERP that a scanner has been completed.

And all that requires is an interface with the new ERP software. Fish calls one of his company's $1,000-an-hour consultants to ask how to code that interface.

Consultant's response: "I don't think you can do that."

Wait, says fish, surely this new system has to be able to communicate with external systems somehow. I just want to know how to create the interface.

But the pricey consultant is adamant: It can't be done.

"Two days later, doing my own research, I stumbled across 'wizard functions' that were part of the new system," says fish. "They enabled a developer to create any kind of communications connection with external systems, in pretty much any data format, with the click of a few buttons.

"I was so grateful that our company was getting its money's worth."

Consult with Sharky. Send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com, and you'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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