Sweet smell of skunkworks success

This pilot fish works for a subcontractor to the prime contractor that manages a government laboratory -- which puts him about as far down the government-contractor stack as it gets.

"Several months back, I mentioned to my boss that a co-worker and I had restarted a project that was shelved three years ago," says fish. "The government wants the project, the finance guys want it, but everybody is always too busy to get involved with it.

"My boss told me at the time that the project had not been approved and I should not be working on it at all."

So fish and his co-worker go back to doing what they've been doing: working on the project skunkworks-style, quietly and in between other assignments.

The project's three-year-old code isn't usable, so they scrap it, redesign the database schema and write the web application from scratch. After just a few weeks, they have a web application that's 90 percent complete.

The business-side owners of the project are too busy at this point to support its development by testing or providing feedback, so the almost-finished project sits in limbo for three months.

Then comes the October day when fish's boss tells her group that the project is back on -- and now has Director-level visibility. Turns out the business owners are blaming IT, telling the Director that the developers are dragging their feet and finishing the project by the end of the year is impossible.

"That same morning, my co-worker and I gave a 45-minute demo to our boss to show her exactly how much of the application was in fact now ready for end-user testing," fish says. "She said, 'It's fabulous!' and we told her how much was actually left to do, mostly dependent on input from the business owners.

"Our boss is informing the Director of the present status of the application and an expected go-live date before the end of the year. This is a big win for our team -- and all for an application I wasn't even supposed to be working on!"

Sharky's always working on true tales of IT life, so send yours to me 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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