Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Six months of hard work

.. down the drain

Today is just another one of those days. One of those days that make me more and more determined to go it alone.

When you work for a company and are just an obedient employee and your boss says: "jump" well then you prepare to do so. Even though sometimes you do so while you know it is better to take a step sideways and then forward and back sideways again to get to the next position. Your boss decides the way to go. He is in charge and he is responsible. You can advise. And hope for the best.

Usually this is good. It means you do not have to take the bigger decisions and you can focus on your work. The little people's decisions are yours. These are your domain and yours alone. You are (or should be) free to do your work in the way you think is best. There are constraints like requirements, performance and quality. But within these limits you are free to paint the colors as long as you stay within the lines.

But ..

Sometimes however decisions are taken over your head that have huge impact on your work that you feel are not the correct decisions. Decisions taken at the wrong moment and with not sufficient insight in the situation. Decisions that destroy all the hard work you have put in over a long period. Decisions that completely drain your good spirit and motivation to carry on working hard for your boss.

You just want to shout out loud that you think they are utter, utter idiots, but no, they give you your paycheck at the end of the month. And there are mortgage reasons to not miss these.

You just sit there numb, completely numb, not comfortably numb. You speak out your doubts in a friendly way (at least you try to control your tone of voice) and keep breathing and try to stay calm.

So what happened?

AS I have mentioned before I work for an insurance company. And in The Netherlands the big thing in insurance world is the basic health insurance that was introduced this year. So, this year it is big business as everyone in The Netherlands over 18 years old has to have a basic health insurance. They have until 1st March to decide with which insurance company to do business.

I have been building a new wizard for the website to enable people to obtain such an insurance online. This as a part of a new version of our website which will be built in ASP.NET with C# and a lot of OO. As safety net some other developers build a version for our existing website. There were some doubts if we could get all elements of the website up and running in a sufficiently satisfying fashion in time before the health insurance boom would occur. These doubts were reasonable doubts as we have struggled a lot with the performance of the third party CMS we had chosen.

The safety net was then promoted to production version and it went live with considerable success in November 2005. The new website was postponed and so was the new wizard for the basic health insurance. Meaning that I all of a sudden had months in stead of days to finish it. I did not have to cut corners and could do a great job. The decision not go for the new website was not induced by the status of my wizard but rather by the problems we had with the third party CMS.

And two weeks ago someone had a bright idea. When all people over 18 years old in The Netherlands have basic health insurance on 1st March 2006 not many people will be going to our website to get basic health insurance. Only people who turn 18 and people who come to live here will do so. Only very few of them will go to our website and get basic health insurance. People can only change to another insurance next January.

What an insight! This must be a genius at work.

All of a sudden the need for the wizard was gone. Why bother building something that hardly anyone will use?

Thus with just a few days of work left the project was cancelled. Even though the new wizard fits better in the new website and the fact that we need a wizard at the end of the year for people who want to change. The current (old technology, ASP) will be inserted into an <iframe> and used.

If someone had used his or her brain a little bit earlier at least the time I spent on the wizard since the decision to go for the safety net option would not have been wasted.

At least it is another great way to destroy any motivation.

Now what?

Now, I sit here with at least two months of time wasted on a project that will never go live. I also have the feeling that I have been working hard the last six months for .. nothing.

I have been reassigned to yet another wizard, for car insurance. Together with a colleague who has no real experience with the new website, ASP.NET and OO. My experience is only slightly bigger than his.

We will see what the future holds in this next project, but I fear the most.