Let's call it 80 percent-ish?

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Flashback to the 1990s, when this IT pilot fish is helping develop an automated people mover for a very big European airport -- a system with lots of moving parts.

"My subsystem was designed to keep the elevated concrete guideway clear of ice and snow," says fish. "My software had to communicate with a multitude of devices -- PLCs, microcontrollers for the weather sensors, and other embedded/standalone systems.

"The interfaces all relied on different protocols transmitted and received on multiple serial ports. Rather than code modules for each protocol, I designed a generic solution that would work for all of them."

Fish discusses his proposed solution with one of his company's most experienced senior architects, who really likes it -- so much, in fact, that he wants to use it for his own projects.

He even offers to build the communications application for the embedded operating system fish is using. All he asks is that fish lets him bill his time to fish's project -- which sounds like a win/win to fish.

So over the six months of fish's project timeline, he keeps tabs on the senior architect's progress. And every few weeks fish gets a report: "40 percent done," "60 percent done," "80 percent done." Fish hasn't seen the code, but it's sounding good.

"As my deadline approached and I still didn't have the communications application, I was becoming desperate to test the program threads that processed the I/O with all the interfaces," fish says. "I again asked for a status. His response: '40 percent done.'

"Wait a minute! What happened to '80 percent done'?!?"

Fish scans the senior architect's development directories for the communications application -- and finds nothing. Fish confronts him, and he finally admits that, after four months of billing fish's project, he hasn't started work on it.

It takes 200 hours of late-night and weekend overtime for fish to build the app himself, but he knows his project is dead in the water without it -- and he clearly can't count on the senior architect for anything.

But in the end, he gets it done -- along with a lesson in giving helpful co-workers too long a leash.

"A few months down the road, at one of our team meetings, that senior architect was describing the work he was doing on the people mover for a U.S. city's downtown area," says fish. "He mentioned that the control system was '60 percent done.'

"I piped up, '60 percent of what? How many hours did you estimate for the project, so we know what 60 percent means?' He started stuttering and backpedaling, so we all knew what his '60 percent' was worth."

Think your true tale of IT life is only 80 percent done? Show it to Sharky anyway. Send me your story at sharky@computerworld.com, and I'll file off the identifying marks and polish it up -- and you'll get a stylish 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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