[rescue] product quality (was: ham gear)

Skeezics Boondoggle skeezics at q7.com
Sun Dec 4 10:56:58 CST 2005

On Sun, 4 Dec 2005, "Jonathan C. Patschke" wrote:

> Seriously, I've considered putting together a short book called "Good
> Enough For Goverment Work: IT Boondoggles in the Public Sector".  I have
> enough stories[1] to fill a chapter or two.  I'm sure other folks do, as
> well.

If you do, I'll give you a subdomain of boondoggle.com to promote it. :-)

Here's an amusing one: the billing system for the Portland Water Bureau
has been "scandalously bad" for some time now.  I'm not sure just what's
so horribly wrong with it, since I get my damned bill with dogged
regularity, and hey, we have tasty Bull Run water and I've never had a
complaint about the water service or quality 'round here, but whatever.

About three years ago the big stink in the papers was that everything was 
borken and They Had To Fix It!  And it was going to cost:  $40 MILLION.  
And it would take:  3 YEARS to implement it.

After I put ice on the bruise from banging my head on the table as I fell 
out of my chair laughing, I tried to figure out HOW you could possibly 
spend $40M on a BILLING SYSTEM, and I wanted to meet the conslutants that 
had the balls to propose such a thing - and ask for a job pushing the 
wheelbarrow they must've needed to carry them around.

Lessee... a system for tracking basic usage accounts and billing... that
used to be done by a small handful of CLERKS with PENCILS and NOTE CARDS
and a few FILE CABINETS - and with the unemployment rate what it is, we
could probably implement a totally manual system - with, say a total of 50
people (management and staff) for around $100K in supplies, office space,
and ~ $2M/year in salaries, have it set up in a month, create 35
entry-level jobs ($10/hr) and that $40M budget would fund the department
for almost *20 YEARS*.

But, no, a paper solution would be Too Low Tech, and Too Error Prone.  

Nope, to really screw up, we'll need a computer!

How to Spend $40M on a Billing System:

First two years:
	Go on a binge of booze, cocaine and hookers
	in Tijuana with Charlie Sheen				$20M

Next six months:
	Rehab							$.5M

Last six months:
	Order, configure, and install five times more
	hardware than is actually needed, then double it	$ 6M

	Build the gold-plated data centers to house
	this magnificent application (@ $1M each)		$ 2M

	Hire a competent DBA, sysadmin, two decent programmers
	to build the system, pay them lavishly			$.5M

	Training, documentation, rollout, etc.			$ 1M 

And of course:

	Pocketing $10M in taxpayer money to reimplement the simplest
	and oldest business application known to man		$ Priceless

Ah, well.  I seriously considered buying a suit and going to City Hall to
pitch them a $10M billing system, done in 1 year, and I could have skipped
the binge in TJ, built it out of Lego bricks and it still would have been
"better", and I could be a hero for _saving_ the taxpayers (uh, hey
wait... that's me!) $30M!  Damn I'm good.

Off to run for Congress!

-- Chris

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