This is why we document

This programmer pilot fish uses a big-name software package to write quick and simple reports for some users. "However, the report server software was so expensive that it was cheaper for us to buy development copies for our users to use in order to run the reports," fish says.

"Then one of my co-workers found some freeware report server software that would work for us. It was fast, easy to use and ran on Microsoft IIS. He installed it and we had been using it for a couple of years when he moved on to another job."

Not long after that, it's time to upgrade the server that the report server software uses. No one is quite sure how to reinstall the free software, so the company pays its ex-employee to come back and put it on the new server -- which also hosts the point-of-sale software.

That worries fish, who asks whether it's a good idea to put the report software on that server. But fish's boss, the IT director, argues that it shouldn't be a problem. And besides, it's the only server available. And besides that, the boss is going to watch the installation and take notes.

The upgrade is done, and afterward everything works fine. But when fish goes looking for the installation notes, they're nowhere to be found. "Apparently, he got too busy," says fish.

Two years pass, and one Friday afternoon the server gets another upgrade. No one mentions it to the programmers -- but then, why would they care about the point-of-sale server?

On the next working day, users start calling fish. They can't run their reports.

Fish e-mails the IT director, asking if something happened to the report software. IT director springs the news about the upgrade, and says that no one could remember what that software did so they didn't bother to install it on the new server.

"Additionally, he thought it was a bad idea that the software was placed on that server anyway, and could I just put it somewhere else," fish says.

"I replied with a reminder that he was the only one who watched the last installation and that it was his idea to place the software on that server.

"He's now refusing to discuss it with me."

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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