The Killer App Finale

Last week I posted The Killer App, the story of a real software project with a cliff-hanger, pick-a-path ending.  It’s time to close the loop.

The Killer App” was a project that was not just late, but hopeless; a claims processing system that could not process a single claim end-to-end.  When I suggested that we should get both technical teams in a room, the PM insisted that we communicate on paper only.  After all, without a paper trail, the vendor would do whatever they would do, and claim they “heard it in the room.”

The project was a train wreck.  The software didn’t work.  It wouldn’t run.  If, by some miracle, we got the system to process a single claim, there was no way the vendor really understood all the combinations.

For the first time in the history of the company, it was about to experience a multi-million dollar failure.

It’s a true story, it’s a sad story … and it is time I told you what happened next.

Matt’s Next Move

I transferred off the project.

Yes, you heard right.  I heard about another project, one that had a fighting chance.  I was asked to perform a code review for it, and when I ‘failed’ it, they took out the contractor who wrote it and put me in charge.

Now the company has two messes on its hand.

Project One (The Killer App)

The results of project one are tragic, but predictable.  The testers continued to fail to get meaningful results, while the ‘new’ deadline, May 1st, was announced from on high.  Application development kept writing its reports and bridge software, pulling from tables that were defined but had no data.

As for me, I felt a great sense of desire to help the project, but I didn’t know how.  The best I could do was to ‘wiggle on the hook’, or, to put it another way, ‘kick against the ox-goads.’

So, occasionally, I would go downstairs to the project war-room to joke with the folks, mostly to hint at what was coming, and advise them to admit and deal with the oncoming train.

My favorite question was “and what if we don’t?”

The conversation would go like this:

Matt: “So how’s the project coming?”

Programmer: “We go-live on May 1st!”

Matt: “But … what if you don’t?”

Programmer: “We must go-live on May 1st.”

Matt: “But … what if you don’t?”

Programmer: “We WILL go-live on May 1st!”

The failure to deal with reality was staggering.

The Next Three Months

May 1st came and went.  The code never went to production.

The new date was June 1st.  It really, really, really was going to be June 1st.

June 2nd came, and the code wasn’t in production.

The final push was going to be July 1st.  Serious this time.

You Know What Happens Next

Around July 18th, the project was cancelled; our little company sued the vendor, and the rumors and conversations about suing the vendor lasted long enough for us to forget about all the local players and what they might have done.

The programmer who stayed on the project?  She had supervised several contractors developing reports, and was promoted to senior programmer for her supervisory work.

Me, I had to worry about project two.

Let’s talk about it in a week or two.

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