It's just one feature. How long could it take?

Programmer pilot fish gets a deskside visit from one of his company's big bosses -- and he has a very specific question.

"It was a small software company, where everyone knew everyone else, so this wasn't really a big deal," fish says. "At least it wasn't until he asked, 'Can our Utility Billing software handle billing for boat slips?'"

I'm not sure, fish replies. Utility Billing can handle metered services like water and gas, or fixed charges like trash pickup. Is billing for a boat slip anything like either of those?

"No," big boss replies, "not really."

Then no, it can't, says fish.

"Can you fix it up so it can?" boss asks. "The install date is two weeks from today."

Turns out the big boss has closed a deal to sell the company's Utility Billing package to a city that owns a marina. The city wants the feature now, so the boss sold it to the city now.

Fish knows a change this big should have a development cycle that's many months long, but the schedule is already set. He works furiously for the next two weeks, and manages to add what's really a fundamentally new capability to the billing package in time for installation.

There's been little testing and absolutely no quality control oversight, but the new feature does work -- just not very well.

Which means fish spends the rest of the year scrambling to fix the many outright bugs and embarrassing shortcomings that resulted from the rush development job.

"After about nine or ten months of constant attention, the software had progressed to the point where I could finally be proud of it," sighs fish.

"Naturally, the city declined to renew their contract at the end of the year. And no, none of our other customers owned any marinas, so no one else ever needed to bill for anything even remotely resembling boat slips. Ever."

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