No good deed goes unpunished

This pilot fish's post-college job for a credit card company largely involves typing data from telemarketers into a database and then printing out stacks of reports every night.

"One day, I got the bright idea to put my IT degree to good use and recommend putting the reporting data on the company intranet," fish says. "That would save me the step of having to print and reprint reports every night at the end of my shift -- and save a few trees and save me a few paper cuts."

So fish develops a simple, cheap proposal: nothing new required except a new Web server. Then he pitches the idea to his boss, who asks a lot of questions but eventually says OK. She pitches the idea to her boss, who green-lights it -- so long as it stays within its tiny budget and actually delivers the benefits.

Fish builds the new Web server to tap into the reporting database, writes a Web app to let users navigate the Web-based reports and creates a security model to keep the data secure.

At testing time, all the sales team managers are impressed -- now they'll be able to get their reports as soon as the data is input every night.

Rollout day comes. That evening, fish sends logins for the new system to all the sales managers and reminds them that their reports are on the company Web.

Next day, everything seems to be fine -- until fish's boss gets an urgent call from her own boss to come to an emergency meeting with the sales team managers.

"She came out of the meeting a bit battered and bruised, and asked me to print up the reports for the managers and deliver them immediately," says fish.

"Apparently, the managers didn't realize that they would have to print out their own reports and liked the idea of someone doing it for them. They created their own benefit analysis that showed how much it would cost them to print their reports with a lot of overly exaggerated costs. I was shocked.

"But it wasn't a total loss. Some managers actually asked me to stop printing their reports after they realized how the system worked and how easy it was to use. They have since stopped printing the reports for managers and my system is still in place today."

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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