Good thing nothing like this EVER happens in IT, right?

This IT pilot fish's cubicle is located near a woodshop that's in serious need of an upgrade -- and the process turns out to be very familiar.

"Production had increased, and the extra sawdust was a problem," says fish. "They needed a sawdust-sucking machine.

"Barney, the shop manager, took a very good look at the space and the available sawdust extractors. He picked one that was a good price, in stock, the right size and had easy cleanout and simple ducting. Since it went outside, he also specified the concrete pad to mount it on."

But when the design specifications hit the Purchasing office, some helpful soul crosses off the model that fish has specified. Instead, the specs are sent out to multiple vendors for competitive bidding -- and no one tells Barney.

The concrete work, on the other hand, gets a green light. The pad is poured just like Barney wanted it.

The vendor bids for the sawdust extractor itself finally arrive at Purchasing, and one is selected as the lowest bid. Purchasing cuts the purchase order, and eventually the extractor is delivered.

"And it did not fit the pad," fish reports. "Too large. Big fuss all around. Finally a second contract was let for an additional pad, which to save money was not structurally bonded to the first.

"Now the extractor could be mounted. But the duct came out the wrong way. More additional contracts for a duct with too many bends for good airflow. And the cleanout was awkward."

Then winter arrives. The freezing ground under the two-part pad heaves, tilting the extractor -- and breaking the duct.

That means another contract, this time for a flexible duct. And after it's installed, everyone discovers that sawdust does not slide through flexible ducting very well.

The final bill, after Purchasing's months-long pursuit of the lowest bid, is more than twice what Barney's original proposal would have cost -- and Barney barely has the budget for what he actually ordered.

"The cost overrun caused turmoil among his department and division leaders," says fish. "And the darn ducting and sawdust bin were constantly clogging and forcing work shutdowns.

"Barney came out on his feet, though. He had documented every step, showing he had done the reasonable things each time -- and Purchasing had fumbled at every step."

Sharky's stepping out next week for some wassailing, chestnut roasting and bell jingling. But I'm still hoping I'll find something from you under my tree: your true tale of IT life. Send it to me at sharky@computerworld.com. You can also comment on today's tale at Sharky's Google+ community, and read thousands of great old tales in the Sharkives.

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