Monday, February 11, 2013

Picking battles

For those of you coming in late, I have a major project on my plate right now which involves getting an entire application moved from one environment to another, something which I did not have a choice about because it is a reactive move in response to a completely independently maintained yet critical-to-my-system application jumping environments. Nor do I have much control over my application actually moving, as I am extremely restricted in what I am allowed to do to the inner workings of my application and have zero power whatsoever on the points of contact between my application and the rest of the network. All I can do is request the environment change and then pester people about it constantly, first getting the very idea to take hold with any traction and then getting the people with the authority and wherewithal to spend the time and effort necessary to make it happen. Said time and effort should be minimal, and if it were my time and effort required it would already be done (about fifty times over) but it isn’t, so it’s not.

And then late last week my application endured a double-whammy of problems which, again and as always, had nothing to do with me or the performance of my duties in maintaining things. First the whole app had a few hours of downtime when the server failed to come back up Thursday morning after overnight maintenance and I had to go through the squeaky wheel motions to get somebody to kick it into gear again, and then a system security patch had unintended side effects which meant all day Friday the app was available but one crucial bit of functionality was being blocked by the network protocols. These side effects actually affected numerous systems, not just my little corner of the world, so it really could not have had less to do with me, but at the same time I was plenty busy answering questions from my users who wanted to know what was going on (hard to explain) and when it would be fixed (no control and no idea).

The extra argh-flavored cherry on top of all this was of course that the people who will ultimately have to execute the transfer of my application are the same people who have to deal with these environmental errors when they occur, so when short-term problems are being dealt with, my major long-term need is just being ignored. This project was something I was tasked with in early November with the hopeful expectation that it would be completed by the end of the year. Obviously now here we are about six weeks into the new year and the incremental progress I’ve been able to cajole out of the power-wielding parties has been slight. And at this point (loosely defined as “the point at which I am literally counting loads of laundry and sessions of ironing I will have to do to get from here to there”) I am sensing the imminence of FMLA time off for the birth of our third. I am honestly not sure which thought is more frustrating: that the timing of my absence might cause the process to stall, or that I might return from weeks of leave and discover that nothing has changed.

But not all is woe (it never is). Part of me really wanted to get this project satisfactorily completed on the original timeline because that would dovetail nicely with my annual review at work and represent something I could point at to justify my continued employment and compensation. Didn’t get what I wanted there, exactly, but the annual reviews must go on. And mine went about as well as could be expected. If anything, I think my boss may have scored me a little higher in deference to the fact that he knows how frustrating it is to have this weight around my neck (and better me than him, I suspect his thinking goes). I really don’t think it’s viable to try to milk this thing for another whole year, but at least there’s a silver lining to it in the here and now.

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