And that's how IT gets done in the real world

PC tech pilot fish lands a job at a plant that makes small consumer electronics products -- and just a few days in, he's called into a meeting about a software problem that's holding up the production line.

"An application written by one of our programmers was hanging up on the line, and the manufacturing supervisors wanted it fixed," says fish.

"Since it involved PCs, I was asked to accompany Barney, the programmer, who looked like Henry Kissinger and spoke just as eloquently."

Barney's software is used by workers at the end of the line who use a scanner to log each completed product, then place the product in a carton. When the carton is full, it's weighed to make sure it contains ten units, and a label is printed.

With a few questions, Barney determines that his application is hanging during the weighing process. And as the supervisors continue to discuss the issue, Barney suddenly raises his voice.

"How much longer are we going to continue this antiquated process of weighing cartons?" he booms, and the chatter suddenly stops. "This is a process we started 20 years ago, and over the years we have invested millions of dollars on our network" -- Barney thumps his fist on table for emphasis -- "millions on computers [thump] and millions on our EDI system [thump]. Workers open the carton before putting it on a pallet [thump], yet you insist they use scales on the production floor?"

As the supervisors begin murmuring to each other, Barney continues: "Gentlemen, we need to move on from scales. You have put many good checks in place to insure your workers do their job. Our customers don't require us to weigh boxes. Should we change our quality slogan to say 'You know it's right because we weigh the box?'

"Let's stop this process. As a test, I suggest we disable the scales and see if your problem stops. If you don't have any issues down the line from not weighing the box, then let's remove the scales and everyone will be happy!"

Suddenly several supervisors jump in: "He's right! We need to stop that!" "We can save money on scales and scale maintenance!" "I've always hated those things!"

Fish sees the IT manager look at Barney and wink -- and with that, the meeting is over.

"I was stunned!" fish says. "This guy was sharp! He knew his stuff! I wanted to be like him, and wanted him to be my mentor. As we walked out of the conference room, I told Barney, 'That was amazing!'

"Barney replied, 'Oh, don't be impressed. I was just trying to avoid debugging that app during football season!'"

It's always Sharky season -- and right now is the perfect time to send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll score a sharp Shark shirt if I use it. Comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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