Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Mid-Week Updates


Okay, I have responsibilities at work. I understand that. There are things which need to be done and part of what I do in exchange for currency (American currency, but I'll take what I can get) is these things. Fair enough.

The crappy part of 90% of these things is that I don't do them alone. This isn't to say that I mind the company so much. I do mind relying on other people to complete everything on time.

When a project is 100% mine and I know I'll be uninterrupted I can tell people when I'll be complete.

When I have to rely on unknown server hardware seven time zones away from here across an ocean and during their dead of night with no support, there may be delays I have no control over.

When I need to troubleshoot an application in one of these environments, if I'm not allowed to make the users stop using it my options are limited while my expected productivity is not.

I like to set expectations as soon as a new project is dumped on me. I'd like to be able to say "this will be complete in X hours", but I rarely am. Instead I generally say something like,"If the network is working between here and Geneva and the servers on that end are out of their maintenance cycle and the users have all logged off properly or at least stopped working and the code which was compiled in India was actually accurately QA tested and nothing else happens between the time you walk away from this desk and the time I'm finished, this will take me about 15 minutes."

If I stopped there, a non-technical person will assume 15 minutes is an actual estimate. No stopping there, my friends.

"The last time we did this same thing I couldn't log in because they deleted or moved our maintenance accounts and no one was around to read my emails about it. Then when I finally got logged in half a dozen people were using the application and insisted that my work on a single function couldn't be impacted if no one using it actually called that function and could I please be careful not to jostle the data because there was some big deal going down over there, even though the function they were using and the function that was in need of a fix use the exact same system files. Their technician asked me, literally, to both replace the file and to leave it in place. Here, I printed the email. Further, once I'd figured out a way to at least make it look like I'd tried to do that, I found out that they closed the firewall port which lets me access the fixed file on our network from theirs. I had to literally hack the file into their network. By the time I was actually finished, the guy responsible for testing the fix had gone home and I didn't hear anything about it for over a month.

"So if everything goes as smoothly as last time, and I have no indication that it won't, I should be able to squeeze that 15 minutes of work into the next six weeks. If nothing else happens between now and then."

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