Good thing this could never happen today, huh?

Flashback to the early 1980s, when this pilot fish is working for a big bank where management has decided to consolidate more than 90 separate computer systems to create the "business banking applications for the next generation."

"I and 30 teammates were introduced to a major mainframe database management system (IDMS) and trained on state-of-the-art interactive systems (CICS), and turned loose to research and design the new applications," says fish.

"Some months later, after hundreds of user requirements interviews and data-flow charting and design sessions, management declared a deadline for publishing the new specification."

The problem, as the team points out, is that the requirements description hasn't been finished, so the specification can't possibly be complete by this arbitrary cut-off date.

But management has set the deadline in stone, so specifications are written, packaged and presented to the user community -- which embraces them enthusiastically and without question or quibble.

And management says "Build it!"

"And we said, 'But it's not complete -- it won't work!'" fish says. "We know there are major holes in the design, which we've not been able to flesh out at that point, so it won't do what the users need. But management said 'Build it!'"

And so fish builds the section of the system assigned to him, and starts testing it against the database schema that was constructed from the incomplete specifications.

To no one's surprise -- certainly not fish's -- he finds that, while his application does the things it can, major requirements of the business are not included.

As it happens, it's on the very day that fish gives his notice that management informs him that they won't be using the application he's built. Reason: "It doesn't do what's needed."

"I replied, 'That's what I told you a year ago! That's why I'm leaving! I'm going to a business where I expect to build things that do what's needed and that will actually be used.'

"Alas, I never learned whether that multi-million-dollar team, which was reorganized seven times in the two years I was there, ever completed or implemented those applications."

Sharky knows you don't need impossible management demands to fail at a giant development project -- but it helps. Help me finish out the year by sending me your true take of IT life 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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