"Crap, this address is wrong," Brenda sighed, cursing herself for screwing up another address label. Jason S. happened to be within earshot of the aggravated Accounts Receivable clerk, and having worked on the customer management application and label printing mechanism, he asked Brenda what she meant.

"These always get sent back to me when I go to send them to Australia and forget they're 'special,'" she explained. "Special" meant to Brenda what "international" means to the rest of us. Looking at the returned envelope, Jason noticed that no country was specified on the shipping label.

"See, I had run out of country labels on a day that I was sending a bunch of invoices out and didn't have time to make new ones. I print them up on label paper, and cut them out so that I have little stacks of labels for the different countries. Then I print out the address label and put the country labels over the mailing labels that need it."

"And this hasn't ever caused problems?" Jason asked.

"Not really," replied Brenda. "I mean, we've been doing this for years. It's really not a big deal except when big invoices are returned, then wind up overdue, then we have to go in the accounting system and open an invoice extension request, and then it's just-"

"I'm sorry, can you give me a sec?" Jason interruped. During the 20 second walk back to his desk, he thought to himself, this is like a 20 second walk. Why wouldn't Brenda just walk over and report the issue so I could fix it?

Jason went back to his desk and checked the customer file. Sure enough, their country was set to Australia. He opened the Crystal Reports file used to print labels, and as expected, the country name wasn't a part of the template. He added the country name to the report, tested it out, and it worked. Jason grabbed the latest version from source control, made the change, and checked it in. All tolled, it took about five minutes.

Twenty seconds later, he was back at Brenda's desk, happily reporting that the issue had been fixed. Brenda was still skeptical, though, and hung on to her freshly printed and cut pile of country labels.

Still, there's a good lesson here that's often missed; pay attention to what users are doing with the provided system and by unblocking minor bottlenecks you can become the hero.

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