back to article Spent your week box-ticking? It can't be as bad as the folk at this firm

Friday has rolled around, regular as clockwork, and we celebrate the end of the week in the time-honoured way: On-Call, our regular column for techies to vent about frustrations from days gone by. This week we meet “Chuck”, who – unlike most of our featured readers – wasn’t tasked with fixing this particular problem… because …

Coat

Friday. Tick!

Software blunder. Tick!

Clueless manglement making things worse. Tick!

Beancounters ruining things. Tick!

Underpaid staff working too hard on pointless shit. Tick!

Well known company that shall not be named. Tick!

Ticks all my boxes, and it didn't take me all week.

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Friday. Tick!

Software blunder. Tick!

Clueless manglement making things worse. Tick!

Beancounters ruining things. Tick!

Underpaid staff working too hard on pointless shit. Tick!

Well known company that shall not be named. Tick!

Ticks all my boxes, and it didn't take me all week.

Totally Screwed Bank?

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Cheaper option

"employing a minimum wage staffer to click boxes all day..."

As a workaround, couldn't this have been done rather more quickly and efficiently by batches of simple SQL UPDATE queries?

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DJO
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Re: Cheaper option

couldn't this have been done rather more quickly and efficiently by batches of simple SQL UPDATE queries

That's just crazy talk - a simple solution for a simple problem, plainly you don't work in commercial I.T.

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Re: Cheaper option

That depends on being able to express the required permissions in simple rules and/or lookups, and the system being setup to allow arbitrary queries to run on it.

If it turns out that temp staff aren't allowed to work with fruit unless they're in Reading or have permission from a manager (see paper documentation in box #45C), then SQL may just make a lot of mistake really quickly.

If the software was designed to have a shiny front end and permit NO ONE to have direct access to the tables (secure, innit), then maybe no one could run that SQL (or those that could, well, quoted a ridiculous charge and 4 months to implement).

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Facepalm

Re: Cheaper option

Couldn't this have been done rather more quickly and efficiently by batches of simple SQL UPDATE queries?

That's just crazy talk - a simple solution for a simple problem, plainly you don't work in commercial I.T.

Or government! I've pointed out all sorts of simple ways to save time/money around here, but manglement isn't remotely interested. But they can spend millions paying con-sultants for a computer system that will slow down what we do here. Our tax dollars at work for us.

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Re: Cheaper option

See the BOFH on how document management systems REALLY work.

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Re: Cheaper option

Maybe, maybe not. Bear in mind that the supplier isn't likely to provide details on how the database works, given they've already quoted a large amount for doing it the proper way.

If the customer changes the system in an unsupported way, there's the potential both to create support issues, and also to affect future development. Depending on how unsympathetic the support structure is, it's not unreasonable to demand a restore from backup, rather than a data fix.

At the very least it's probably more than a simple update, because you DO want to write an audit, don't you?

That applies to anyone using the system, not just customers. We had an instance of a different product/support group running a query against our product without our knowledge. This worked for a while until the customer data was changed slightly, and an invalid assumption the other group had made in their query resulted in things grinding to a halt..

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Anonymous Coward

I’m guessing this company was either Carphone Warehouse or Ocado

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I was thinking Sports Direct.

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>I was thinking Sports Direct.

Minimum wage? We can't afford that !

Can they do it in zero hours?

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They use an Oracle Database for stock

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Devil

"he believes his ex-employer eventually paid for the database to be fixed"

I love it when manglement end up paying twice in the end for such decisions, gives me a reason to get up in the morning.

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Go

An honest consultant

I knew a woman who was an honest consultant (can be difficult to imagine, I know, but true in this case). Her clients had 4 companies and wanted some sort of computer program to sort out the mail between the individual companies. She suggested they forget using a computer and just get separate P.O. boxes for each company and let the Postal Service sort the mail for them. Problem solved.

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Re: An honest consultant

Hey, I've met an honest estate agent, so I can believe in anything!

PO Boxes are a surprisingly good fix, but so are post codes. I've seen companies use multiple postcodes in the same building to have the mail sorted by department, and the Royal Mail are perfectly happy with this (for the appropriate setup fee).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: An honest consultant

PO Boxes are a surprisingly good fix, but so are post codes. I've seen companies use multiple postcodes in the same building to have the mail sorted by department, and the Royal Mail are perfectly happy with this (for the appropriate setup fee).

Doesn't work so well in Gibraltar.

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I had the opposite experience

Big company had an outsourced payroll system which required a server on the corporate network to have a very special (poorly locked down) configuration, and for the outsourced payroll company to use a shared login to access it monthly. Terrible topography, unforgivably bad, but that's what happens when you let HR manager their own IT and bring in their own contractors.

Anyway, this thing was badly out of date, a massive security risk, and the company (a very, very big computer company) main IT security branch were on the warpath having a tidy up after a lot of lines of core product code were stolen. The hardware was on expensive extended warranty, the server took loads of rack space and needed attention. Turned out this "critical" system was just to allow a few thousand people electronic access to their payslips. Many would anyway print a copy on the company's printers.

For less than the price of the warranty, security violation special monitoring, rack space and power let alone license fee and development time, I worked out that we could print and post all the payslips directly to everybody's homes each month. This was turned down for appearances sake for a tech company!! They would rather pour money into a shit old system breaching all security guidelines, create extra policy work for everyone, all sorts out of embarrassment.

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Cisco ISE

It sounds like Cisco ISE’s TrustSec tools.

The good news is that in the latest version, the mouse wheel works most of the time. It used to be click 5 boxes, the move to the tiny little scroll bar and then click 5 more. Now you can click 5 and scroll using the wheel. So safely clicking 676 boxes when you have 26 groups is almost doable without too many mistakes now.

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Seems like this is the same almost everywhere

Almost every place I've worked had some bottleneck like this.

I've also realized that even when you come up with a solution it is either rejected or at best, not rewarded, so I just do my job these days and not much more.

Which is why I laugh and laugh when I hear other people say companies are wanting innovation and motivated people and you if are a person who is not making a lot of money it's because you aren't motivated.

And then I laugh some more.

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Reminds of my first paid coding gig

I was working as an office admin for a company that dealt with hire cars. Every week, my dept was sent a list of 500-1k vehicles that were due an MOT. Muggins (with occasional assistance), had to copy the details into the gov website, hit next a few times, and copy the results (pass/fail/no change) back to the spreadsheet. 3 man hours every day. After the first week I was practically begging them to let me automate it. I did. The powers that be were ecstatic as you might imagine. They layed off a few people, (not me) and the MD showed up to work in a new Aston Martin. Thought twice before volunteering stuff after that.

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Re: Reminds of my first paid coding gig

No edit link on phone version.

I should add that there were other depts that had identical tasks (from different clients). I estimate I saved a man week per week access all the depts.

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someone needs to learn to proof read his articles before posting.

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C-L

Sometimes high $$$ is justified

Decades ago, on an IBM 360 Model 20 (or something like that), I wrote assembly code to figure out all the valid combinations of some industrial contraption being machined. Their original "system" broke down (bad code, dumb logic) and the original programmer gave up, could not figure out his own bad code.

I was approached to "fix it". It took me all of an hour to get the assembly code just right, and it was so small I could multipunch it on 3 punch cards (remember those 80 column babies??)

When I asked the manufacturer what if it cannot be fixed, he said he'd shut down. And if it can be fixed? He said he'd make a mint, he had a rich, juicy contract for the product. I asked for 3% of the mint. He thought he'd arrived in heaven!

In this case my hourly rate was huge, many-many times what the most expensive lawyer I heard of, really! But a business saved, 3 salepersons had jobs, 18 manufacturing and other workers in the business had a job, owner had a business that continued thriving and growing for at least a decade that I am aware of. Yeah, they got into many other things after they came back from the dead, well, the had money to do it...

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