Originally posted by rss_thedailywtf at Papering Over the Problem
There are certain baselines that telecom companies care about. If, for example, your company is responsible for a set of network devices at the local airport, detecting and correcting failures quickly was very important.
Miguel was the IT support for the team ulitmately accountable for those devices. His first major project for them sounded fairly simple: when an alert condition occurs, generate a printed report. He was given a generous budget and told to do whatever it took for delivery.
It wasn't the biggest problem he'd ever had stacked in front of him. The supervision system that actually did the monitory and raised alerts was designed to be easy to tap into. Once he understood the system, generating a series of printed reports was little more than a step-and-repeat process. It was easy, and he had a lot of time and budget left over. So Miguel did what most people do in those situations: he slacked off for a bit and splurged on hardware. They wanted a dedicated printer for these reports, so he bought them the newest, niftiest laser printer he could find. Its main selling points were speed and a long MTBF.
The work was done, even with his splurging, he was still on time and under budget, so Miguel grabbed the boss and setup a demo. Miguel rubbed off a fake alert, and a moment later the printer spit out a nice report announcing the error. Miguel smiled at his boss and started to explain how reliable the printer was, but his boss cut that thread short like a guillotine.
"This is completely useless," the boss said as he started to ream Miguel. "This isn't what I wanted at all!"
Miguel felt like a sucker; had he misunderstood the requirements so badly? "Detect alerts and print a report," wasn't the most complex thing, ever. "I'm not sure what the problem is?" Miguel asked.
The boss took a deep breath and tried to draw down. "The printer doesn't make any noise."
"And that's bad?"
"Of course it's bad! How are the technicians going to know to log into the superviser program and check the alerts if they can't hear the printer?" The boss sighed. "Well, this was your first project. We all make mistakes. I'll help you cover it, this time. There's an old dot-matrix printer in the supply closet. You're off-square now, but use that instead and everything will be square."