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It’s Broken? That’s Awesome

November 3, 2014

Okay, try it now. Do you still get Page Not Found?

No. This time I get a login page.

Go ahead and try the login name and password I gave you.

Invalid name or password.

Okay, let me do some more checking.

I was pumped! I could barely contain my excitement. It was broken! Well, honestly, I wasn’t excited it was broken. I was excited that we could see that it was broken.

Do you ever get excited when something is broken? You should. That is if you are concerned about the journey as well as the destination. One of my favorite movies is “Captain Ron.” Kurt Russell plays an inept sailor hired by the Harvey family to help them get an antique boat from an island in the Caribbean to Miami. At one point, during a horrible storm he announces that they are nearing Puerto Rico.

How do you know this, Captain Ron?

Because when we left this morning, we had just enough fuel to reach San Juan. And we are OUT of fuel!

I sometimes feel like my projects follow a similar course.

As a project manager I track lots of issues. Tracking them isn’t as important as fixing them. And since there were rarely any issues that I could fix myself (The Day I Figured Out I Have No Skills), I was constantly asking other groups for help. And resolving this particular issue had been was worse than most. Our client needed to log into a tool that tracked our users. It’s the same tool that I have to use to request time off, or read mandatory company memos. Our client needed access so that they could track our agents better as they figured out how many calls to send us.

This isn’t a tough problem to solve. We have other 3rd Party vendors and customers who need access to our user system. The challenge was that the client didn’t like our setup. See, the user system is owned by a different group in my company. Whenever anyone in the USA group needs access to the tool, our request gets routed across a secure internet connection. All we had to do was give the customer access to this same link, right?

Wrong. The client insisted that none of their traffic go across the internet. We maintain long range high speed data links with our customer called MPLS circuits. The client wanted to use these secure connections to get to our user application. Like any project, I broke it into pieces

1) Build MPLS link between our site and client
2) Build MPLS link between our site and the location of User tool
3) Setup routes so that client request route over this new link
4) Setup the user application to accept connections from the client
5) Create user accounts for the client

Steps 1 and 2 were complete before we started. Step 3 was something that I could get our network team to do. Step 4 was the step we had been struggling with. The fact that our client could see a login screen, even if she didn’t have the proper credentials to log in, meant that step 4 was complete.

The fact that she could tell me it was broken meant we were only a step away from being done. I tempered my enthusiasm when talking to our client. After all, we were still not where we wanted to be. The solution was still broken. But, it was slightly less broken that it had been. And that was cause for a small celebration.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and one grandchild.

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