And by the way, welcome back!

It's a short-staffed week for this IT pilot fish -- one co-worker has left for another job, another one is on vacation, and fish himself is just back from his honeymoon. But everything is still manageable until fish gets a visit from the customer service team leader.

"She needs a set of sample kits sent out," fish says. "I had developed a quick .NET application that would take a list of customers and a list of kit contents to generate a bulk order list for our ERP system. It gets the items from the kit definition and places an order with the kit, the components and the quantities and cost. This has worked great.

"The customer service team leader gives me the order sheets and I prepare to push the data into the staging tables. No problem, I think."

Until he looks at the data. It's not in the agreed-upon format. OK, fish will just load it into a temp table and rearrange it so it it's right.

Then he notices two new fields. One says "PO#" and one says "# of kits requested." Before this, the sheets were one kit per customer, with the generic Purchase Order number "SAMPLES."

Fish messages the customer service leader about the new fields. She replies, "Oh, that's what they want now. We need it in five minutes, too."

But she doesn't tell fish whether each kit request should be an order, or if he should combine the requests to one order per customer. It takes fish 20 minutes to determine that one-kit-per-order is fine.

Fish makes the necessary changes in the test database -- with the customer service leader calling him every two minutes to remind him that it's needed now -- and rolls the program back to production when he's satisfied.

But then he sees the data still isn't right -- the same customer is specified on seven different lines, and the ship-to codes (which the ERP system uses to pull the address) are incorrectly formatted.

He sends the spreadsheet back. Team leader insists it's right. It's not, and back it goes again.

"Finally I get it back and it's right, so I start pushing the orders in," fish says. "Then she offhandedly tells me that there should be seven pieces of style A and eight of style B, even though the kit spreadsheet clearly shows eight of each.

"Oh, and by the way, there isn't enough inventory of either item to push all these orders through. And the kit itself wasn't set up in the system, only its constituent components.

"Maybe next time I'll have her program the code changes."

Sharky's inventory of stories is never big enough. So send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. 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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