Almost ready, redefined

This software developer pilot fish and a teammate have been working on an overtime-request-and-approval web application for the past few months -- a project that has been off and on for four years, but is finally almost ready.

"We built it to spec, according to the functional specifications document that the Finance Department provided but would never sign off on," fish grumbles.

"Finally we got an electronic copy of the functional spec, signed by the analyst in the Finance Department -- and reading it over I discovered there was a new requirement nobody had even discussed."

The problem: The company has been through a recent re-org, and the 40 existing departments now report to 17 new directorates.

The new requirement is to store overtime requests and approvals at the directorate level, not by department. That's going to require a huge amount of work to implement in an application that has been architected for the pre-directorate structure of the company.

But fish and his teammate have a plan: They'll just add a directorate level, then have the requests and actual overtime hours roll up to the corresponding directorate. All they have to do is get signoff on that little work-around.

"We went into a meeting to do that," says fish. "But the line manager told us he didn't want to add a level. He didn't want it to 'roll up,' and didn't even know what that meant.

"He said, 'Just replace everywhere it says 'Department' with 'Directorate.'"

Which is the kind of thing that might work on an org chart or a memo, but it's not the way you can change an enterprise application.

Still, fish and his teammate spend the next two weeks coding changes and another week testing the code, and at last they're ready for the big demo in front of the CFO -- who has been kept completely out of the loop on this project by her underlings.

Apparently they want it to be a surprise. It certainly is. After the demo, the CFO asks a string of questions that make it clear she has no idea how much the spec has changed in the four years since the project was first launched.

Fish reports, "She ended the meeting with, 'Explain to me how this application is better than the current paper system.'

"I went back to my desk and got back to work on a different application. I figured, it can only get better!"

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