• Anonymously Yours (unregistered)

    Where's the WTF? This is a brilliant example of management throwing time, money, and technology at a non-issue in order to look busy and thus justify their existence. It seems to have been amazingly successful since it's only generated even more activity for them to point to and say, "This is why you need us."

  • NSCoder (cs)

    What's PTO? Piss Them Off?

    They need a Process Improvement Process Improvement Process.

  • Cyrus (cs) in reply to Anonymously Yours

    Asking "Where's the WTF" then pointing it out, I sense a new trend.

  • John Doe (unregistered)
    Who knows -- for APS3, maybe the development team will figure out how to extend the once-simple, paper-based process to a month-long chain of batch jobs and electronic "form request" forms.
    Paperless PTO was originally published in the August 15, 2007 issue of Redmond Developer News. RDN is a free magazine for influential readers that provides insight into Microsoft's plans, and news on the latest happenings and products in the Windows development marketplace.

    So, this is basically what happened to Windows Vista?

    B.T.W. I suspect management is behind it, to "discourage" their employees to take vacation.

  • wtf (unregistered)

    this is a very common application, the real WTF is why they didnt just buy one. Unless they needed it custom to hook into other stuff

  • Cyrijl (cs) in reply to wtf

    I had to create our vacation application system. Reading this makes me feel alot better. Mine isn't nearly as cumbersome as this.

  • gabba (unregistered)

    You're not taking the long view. APS2 is much more extensible than those previous systems.

  • snoofle (cs) in reply to John Doe

    Two jobs ago, I had to build something to share data with a partner company. I had no prior knowledge of the chosen product. In 6-40 hour weeks, I learned, configured, administered, coded, debugged, documented and deployed it. It worked. It is still in use.

    One job ago, they asked me to do the exact same project. I estimated 6 man weeks. The management assigned me support teams from the following departments: project management, dba, sa, network, security, external data approval, legal, hardware selection, capacity planning, middleware management, product management, application development, timekeeping and vendor management, for a total of more than 35 people at any given time. There were 3 mandatory weekly meetings where everyone involved had to attend. The first was to discuss the plan for the second meeting. The second was to discuss the project plan. The third was to review the project plan and assign work for the week. After a year of this, I was laid off (gratefully I might add). It's now 6 months later and I've been told that the project has barely moved forward since I left (ya think?)

    Those who can, do. Those who can't do, manage. Those who can't manage, but try to do it anyway should be <please suggest completions for this sentence!>

  • Salami (cs) in reply to wtf

    Some "hotshot" developer probably said he could write the application in two weeks. Once started, the manager that approved the job would not have cancelled it for anything, because that would be admitting a mistake, and would look bad on his performance record. This happens over and over again.

    I used to work at a company that has a million line claims system that ran on aging hardware. Another company came in and claimed they could rewrite it in 2 months to run on Windows. They used VB, and the whole application was to be driven by Excel spreadsheets. Over a year later, the project was cancelled, and the company I worked for only lasted another year or so.

  • Anon (unregistered) in reply to NSCoder
    NSCoder:
    What's PTO? Piss Them Off?

    They need a Process Improvement Process Improvement Process.

    PTO = Paid Time Off

    It's a fancy way to avoid having to give employees sick time, or any other type of leave time (like bereavement). Instead you give them a single pool of "paid time off" from which all forms of paid time off come out of. (With the exception of maternity leave, since you can get sued for not allowing that.)

  • valerion (cs)

    I love overcomplications like this.

    All they needed to do was a quick VB (or c# if you want to look professional!), import the data to SQL and it's done.

    I bet there's all sorts of internal XML going on in there, too.

  • Nodren (unregistered)

    i dont think the idea behind going paperless was a bad one, or using windows authentication(assuming your whole office was on windows) the real problem was reports and forms had to be generated at night?!?! optimize your db first, cache some queries, but wow taking that long to create a form is just sad.

  • vt_mruhlin (cs) in reply to Nodren
    Nodren:
    i dont think the idea behind going paperless was a bad one, or using windows authentication(assuming your whole office was on windows) the real problem was reports and forms had to be generated at night?!?! optimize your db first, cache some queries, but wow taking that long to create a form is just sad.

    I have to wonder what data was actually on that form. Don't you just need employee id, dates requested, and a text field for reason they're requesting? What is there to generate?

  • Austin (unregistered)

    Reminds me of a great story from a previous job. We had a similar clunky MS Access application for requesting PTO. When a user requested PTO the system would email the manager on record who then had to go in and approve. The return email address for this system email was a catch all in IT. What the big boss of the company did not know was that when he hit reply to these it came to us not the requester. Imagine our surprise when we started getting his replies to the HR directors requests for afternoons off. Turns out they were having an affair, both married of course.

  • Morg (unregistered)

    The real WTF is that there are vacation forms. When I'm going to take a vacation, I tell my boss "Hey, I'd like to take off next Thursday and Friday." and he says, "Nice, have fun."

  • Lynx (unregistered)

    Captcha: waffles. Hmm, I could use some.

    This story does remind me of some things at my workplace. In some cases, it's a case of the users not ready for new technologies -- user inertia, in a way. The complicating factor in this case is the developers apparently don't understand that once you open the gates to technological replacement of paper processes, it's hard and bad form to backpaddle...

    Anyway, just for laughs. Part of my work consists of providing IT support for IT operations, really just putting in certain checks and balances in place to make sure the information people need are captured in an accessible location and verified to be correct.

    So anyway, 4 years ago I inherited an Exchange-based customized form that acted to capture information relevant to system implementations. In time, new features are added (but rarely removed) and code was clobbered on, so nowadays it's a 100+KB mail item that gets sent out every time someone updates it. Yeah, my system just basically mail-bomb the user who uses it.

    The crazy thing is that while initially there are some serious resistance to the idea, now I couldn't get the same jokers off this platform with dynamite. The users are so used to this tool that they are reluctant to contemplate moving to a new tool, even though the the "system" is really showing limitations.

    Once a user has time to let IT systems work into their everyday workflow/ process, it becomes very very hard to extradite or even just improve the process. Most of the time I face issues convincing people to improve. This case is really WTF IMO in the sense that the 2nd Generation system didn't attempt to improve, but in fact regress, making the gains in the 1st generation largely redundant.

    Anyhow, I am reaching the tail end of a hideously over-ran project to deliver 2nd generation leave applications automation for my HR side. The requirements were really cute in that there was so much obvious room for process improvements, but instead the users opted for simple and straight-forward, and kept part of the manual intervention/ adjustments in the overall process flow. I was lucky in that sense, because my vendor for the project was 'orrible, but that's another story.

  • VGR (cs) in reply to Morg
    Morg:
    The real WTF is that there are vacation forms. When I'm going to take a vacation, I tell my boss "Hey, I'd like to take off next Thursday and Friday." and he says, "Nice, have fun."
    Nah, the Real WTF™ is having sick leave request forms. "I'm planning on experiencing dehydration, cramps and diarrhea next week. Sign off on this please?"
  • bstorer (cs) in reply to Cyrijl
    Cyrijl:
    I had to create our vacation application system. Reading this makes me feel alot better. Mine isn't nearly as cumbersome as this.
    I wrote one of these a few companies ago. A co-worker and I and had it running in about a week. Another week and it interfaced with Exchange and flagged scheduling overlaps. And yet only the IT department ever used it because it was decided that it couldn't be allowed to interface with the payroll system. So IT management used it within the department and then printed out the forms to hand to HR. So stupid, and yet so common at this company. Man I loved that place. We discovered that there was no reason to work on an assignment within the first week of it being assigned, because there was a 75% chance they'd cancel it at the next meeting.
  • KM (unregistered) in reply to snoofle
    Those who can, do. Those who can't do, manage. Those who can't manage, but try to do it anyway should be <please suggest completions for this sentence!>
    Those who can, do. Those who can't do, manage. Those who can't manage, but try to do it anyway should be promoted.

    -- KM

  • Anonymously Yours (unregistered) in reply to Cyrus
    Cyrus:
    Asking "Where's the WTF" then pointing it out, I sense a new trend.
    Hm, you have a point. Have you got a 27B/6 for that observation? Sorry, I'm a bit of a stickler for paperwork.

    (I've been dying to make that reference and kicked myself for leaving it out of my first post.) Anyhow, I just happen to have a bitter sense of humor about projects that serve only to validate managers having something to manage. I don't view this as a WTF. I see it as a calculated effort to justify having more management layers than necessary.

  • JG (unregistered) in reply to bstorer
    bstorer:
    Cyrijl:
    I had to create our vacation application system. Reading this makes me feel alot better. Mine isn't nearly as cumbersome as this.
    I wrote one of these a few companies ago. A co-worker and I and had it running in about a week. Another week and it interfaced with Exchange and flagged scheduling overlaps. And yet only the IT department ever used it because it was decided that it couldn't be allowed to interface with the payroll system. So IT management used it within the department and then printed out the forms to hand to HR. So stupid, and yet so common at this company. Man I loved that place. We discovered that there was no reason to work on an assignment within the first week of it being assigned, because there was a 75% chance they'd cancel it at the next meeting.

    Wow, you measure time in companies.

    Somewhat similar to measure knowledge in LOCs (Libraries of Congress).

  • Anonymous (unregistered)

    We use a web-based, outsourced HR app for PTO. We got an emergency broadcast email from them one day about some unexpected down time. I looked into it a bit to see what was going on on their site. I found that their downtime was because they forgot to renew the domain name registration.

  • Jesse Harris (unregistered)

    I work for a company that makes time and attendance software and I can tell you right now that building this custom app was a waste of time and energy. They could have very easily programmed a form in Outlook for their absence requests. Most time and attendance software (including ours) allows you to track accruals and let employees login to view balances and make requests. I'm amazed that nobody would bother looking at an off-the-shelf solution for this issue and that making an absence request system that's fast and functional would take more than a week, tops.

  • Skizz (cs)

    APS3 will no doubt require the PDF to be printed, placed on a wood effect laminated table, photographed (using chemical film), sent to the photo developers, scanned and then signed in triplicate, buried, lost, found...

    Skizz

  • chuck (unregistered)

    Sounds like PeopleSoft except for the PDF generation part, and it sounds like a perfectly well-designed app except again for that PDF part. All they have to do is switch it to online approval, and it should be fine. The whole PDF thing was probably a requirements item stuck in by clueless management, and they dutifully implemented it. As WTFs go, this one is pretty lightweight.

    captcha: pirates. arr.

  • Paul (unregistered)

    Hold on. So there were "tens of thousands" of employees? Let's say 25,000. The average vacation time is probably less than 3 weeks each (if it's an American company). With no other information available let's say the average employee puts in three requests per year (for instance, I always take my vacation in one block, while others take smaller blocks), so that's 75,000 requests per year, or 1,500 per week.

    Aim to handle 4x the average. So there may be 6000 requests for time off in any work week, or 1200 per day, or 150 per hour, or 2.5 per minute. Build in some more redundancy to handle 10 transactions per minute.

    They couldn't build a scalable system to handle that?

  • real_aardvark (cs) in reply to Lynx
    Lynx:
    Once a user has time to let IT systems work into their everyday workflow/ process, it becomes very very hard to extradite or even just improve the process.
    I suspect you mean extract, not extradite. (That would sort of be a more feral style of "outsource.")

    On the other hand, what the system in the OP requires is probably "extraordinary rendition."

  • Mythokia (unregistered) in reply to Skizz

    Somehow that reminds me of some of the governmental agencies websites here in Singapore. It's one of those online-only form exclusives where the person in their office tells you that it can only be done online, but eventually you HAVE to print it out anyway and bring it back to their office.

  • Joe (unregistered) in reply to Paul
    Paul:
    Hold on. So there were "tens of thousands" of employees? Let's say 25,000. The average vacation time is probably less than 3 weeks each (if it's an American company). With no other information available let's say the average employee puts in three requests per year (for instance, I always take my vacation in one block, while others take smaller blocks), so that's 75,000 requests per year, or 1,500 per week.

    Aim to handle 4x the average. So there may be 6000 requests for time off in any work week, or 1200 per day, or 150 per hour, or 2.5 per minute. Build in some more redundancy to handle 10 transactions per minute.

    They couldn't build a scalable system to handle that?

    That's what I was thinking too. But in so many poorly implemented small to medium scale DB apps, it's not usually the number of concurrent requests that is an issue. It's oftentimes the volume of data.

    Even if they didn't have to handle large numbers of concurrent transactions, the database might have been so large and poorly designed that it ran like $hit. Maybe they didn't have table normalization, proper indexes, SQL performance tuning on their JOINs, etc. If that's the case then a simple transaction could be running for 30 minutes before it commits. And since all that data is duplicated or quadrupled in the transaction log, etc. then that's a lot of load.

    And maybe they don't know anything about locks. I bet you that in order to run the reports and retrieve the data, the incorrectly used locks were locking entire tables or pages in memory instead of just individual records.

    There's another assumption: that they couldn't build a large enough system. For all we know, they had to run this thing on someone's old Dell desktop. You don't always get to run your stuff on the hardware it SHOULD be running on.

    But yeah, I agree, that's a small number of requests. Even Access (gasp) can handle that just fine.

  • Lynx (unregistered) in reply to real_aardvark
    real_aardvark:
    I suspect you mean extract, not extradite. (That would sort of be a more feral style of "outsource.")
    Probably, aye. Then again, a system that has taken on a life of its own is a rogue system, so extradite might be appropriate...
    real_aardvark:
    On the other hand, what the system in the OP requires is probably "extraordinary rendition."
    Actually, I'll say it needs to be flushed down the toilet. It's really a great leap backwards...

    Captcha: Pirates. Arr me mateys!

  • SenorLapiz (cs)

    Employees are hereby instructed to fill out the TPO report for PTO requests. Bill it to the TTP project.

  • bstorer (cs) in reply to JG
    JG:
    bstorer:
    Cyrijl:
    I had to create our vacation application system. Reading this makes me feel alot better. Mine isn't nearly as cumbersome as this.
    I wrote one of these a few companies ago. A co-worker and I and had it running in about a week. Another week and it interfaced with Exchange and flagged scheduling overlaps. And yet only the IT department ever used it because it was decided that it couldn't be allowed to interface with the payroll system. So IT management used it within the department and then printed out the forms to hand to HR. So stupid, and yet so common at this company. Man I loved that place. We discovered that there was no reason to work on an assignment within the first week of it being assigned, because there was a 75% chance they'd cancel it at the next meeting.

    Wow, you measure time in companies.

    Somewhat similar to measure knowledge in LOCs (Libraries of Congress).

    It's simpler that way. I suppose I could measure it in unsustainable tech booms, in which case it was about 1.5 ago. Or I could measure it in Windows releases, where it's about three to five releases ago, depending on how you count.

  • emurphy (cs)
    "form request" forms

    Google (Paranoia "form request form") for prior art.

  • Sick Penguin (unregistered)
    Alex:
    Paperless PTO was originally published in the August 15, 2007 issue of Redmond Developer News. RDN is a free magazine for influential readers that provides insight into Microsoft's plans, and news on the latest happenings and products in the Windows development marketplace.

    This is the Real WTF. I know Windows provides most of the WTFs in the world, and you've got to keep your vendors happy, but come on; this plug is as shameless as it gets.

    CAPTCHA: ninjas (using plug-Microsoft-jutsu no doubt)

  • clively (cs) in reply to bstorer
    bstorer:
    JG:
    bstorer:
    Cyrijl:
    I had to create our vacation application system. Reading this makes me feel alot better. Mine isn't nearly as cumbersome as this.
    I wrote one of these a few companies ago. A co-worker and I and had it running in about a week. Another week and it interfaced with Exchange and flagged scheduling overlaps. And yet only the IT department ever used it because it was decided that it couldn't be allowed to interface with the payroll system. So IT management used it within the department and then printed out the forms to hand to HR. So stupid, and yet so common at this company. Man I loved that place. We discovered that there was no reason to work on an assignment within the first week of it being assigned, because there was a 75% chance they'd cancel it at the next meeting.

    Wow, you measure time in companies.

    Somewhat similar to measure knowledge in LOCs (Libraries of Congress).

    It's simpler that way. I suppose I could measure it in unsustainable tech booms, in which case it was about 1.5 ago. Or I could measure it in Windows releases, where it's about three to five releases ago, depending on how you count.

    It IS much simpler this way. The average length of time for FTE (in our field) is only between 18 and 30 months. For contract, it's under 12 months. Most projects will be completed in that time whether through successful launch or cancellation.

    Sure, some people will stay around a company for longer but they end up doing maintenance or management. Which technically is the same thing: dealing with other people's crap.

  • TBone (unregistered) in reply to Anonymously Yours
    Anonymously Yours:
    Hm, you have a point. Have you got a 27B/6 for that observation? Sorry, I'm a bit of a stickler for paperwork.

    why yes, in fact I do have a 27B/6. Have to be ready in case the whole system should be on fire, and I need to turn on the kitchen tap.

  • CGomez (unregistered)

    Huh, my company just went paperless on several items. I think the real reason for it is so the staff that has to deal with these items doesn't have to deal with them anymore. You know, push HR work onto the employee.

    With such a reduction in workload, I was sad to think that we'd be letting some HR people go... heh... silly me, what was I thinking?

  • my name is missing (unregistered)

    Anyone notice the article was a reprint from a magazine that talked about how Microsoft does things. Hmmm....

  • PeriSoft (cs) in reply to snoofle
    snoofle:
    Those who can, do. Those who can't do, manage. Those who can't manage, but try to do it anyway should be <please suggest completions for this sentence!>

    "...hired by the RIAA to set DRM strategy."

  • grrrr (unregistered) in reply to Jesse Harris
    Jesse Harris:
    I work for a company that makes time and attendance software and I can tell you right now that building this custom app was a waste of time and energy. They could have very easily programmed a form in Outlook for their absence requests. Most time and attendance software (including ours) allows you to track accruals and let employees login to view balances and make requests. I'm amazed that nobody would bother looking at an off-the-shelf solution for this issue and that making an absence request system that's fast and functional would take more than a week, tops.

    If its Kronos or Lawson then it is junk, try debugging.

  • Harrow (unregistered)

    Look at these numbers! Hourly employees are still taking almost half the PTO they've earned! Obviously, APS3 is not enough! Begin immediate development of APS4!

    -Harrow.

  • Look at me! I'm on the internets! (unregistered) in reply to VGR
    VGR:
    Morg:
    The real WTF is that there are vacation forms. When I'm going to take a vacation, I tell my boss "Hey, I'd like to take off next Thursday and Friday." and he says, "Nice, have fun."
    Nah, the Real WTF™ is having sick leave request forms. "I'm planning on experiencing dehydration, cramps and diarrhea next week. Sign off on this please?"

    Usually, these are filed after the fact.

    I didn't come into work last friday because [strike]I was hungover[/strike] I was sick with the flu. Management reported it to payroll as an unscheduled absence, but I would like it to come from the sick pool instead.

  • sibtrag (cs) in reply to Morg
    Morg:
    The real WTF is that there are vacation forms. When I'm going to take a vacation, I tell my boss "Hey, I'd like to take off next Thursday and Friday." and he says, "Nice, have fun."

    I agree. That is the process at my employer as well. And this is no small company---we have over 300k employees.

  • Peter (unregistered)

    If I had to guess why the nightly batch system burst into flames and crashed, I'd say it was most likely the PDF generator, and based on current flaming crashes, it would be amyuni based. Runs like a champ on a developer's box, but has some threading and memory leak issues that take out servers.

  • Ian (unregistered)

    This isn't so much an issue with technology or "make work" situations, as it is a lack of usability assessment. Obviously nobody thought about workflow while developing this application and instead just tried to factor in features they wanted.

    Going paperless isn't the problem, its letting developers make design decisions.

  • James Steiner (unregistered)

    In my company in general, requests are all word of mouth (or email or at the bosses discretion, whatever), then you fill in an intranet browser-based time-sheet later to declare what category of PTO you want to use.

    In my department, our way to request PTO (or a work-from-home day) is to send an "meeting request" to the boss for time off (or, if sick, to send the meeting request that morning). That means just logging into outlook (or, from home, the company's web exchange/outlook portal), doing a "new appointment" and the boss as an "optional" attendee, and mark it as an "all day event".

    Then, to approve the request, all he has to do is accept the the meeting(which I think he can do from his Blackberry, even). He has an automatic rule that directs these into a subfolder of his inbox, so he has a record of all our requested/approved time off.

    Pretty painless.

  • AnnC (unregistered) in reply to Lynx
    Lynx:
    Once a user has time to let IT systems work into their everyday workflow/ process, it becomes very very hard to extradite or even just improve the process. Most of the time I face issues convincing people to improve. This case is really WTF IMO in the sense that the 2nd Generation system didn't attempt to improve, but in fact regress, making the gains in the 1st generation largely redundant.

    You can generalize the statement to the more common: Once people get used to doing something, they'll resist change even if the change is better.

  • Anonymous Pedant (unregistered) in reply to sibtrag
    sibtrag:
    Morg:
    The real WTF is that there are vacation forms. When I'm going to take a vacation, I tell my boss "Hey, I'd like to take off next Thursday and Friday." and he says, "Nice, have fun."

    I agree. That is the process at my employer as well. And this is no small company---we have over 300k employees.

    I'm at a huge national bank, and the process here is "ask your boss and email his P.A."

  • Joe (unregistered) in reply to grrrr
    grrrr:
    Jesse Harris:
    I work for a company that makes time and attendance software and I can tell you right now that building this custom app was a waste of time and energy. They could have very easily programmed a form in Outlook for their absence requests. Most time and attendance software (including ours) allows you to track accruals and let employees login to view balances and make requests. I'm amazed that nobody would bother looking at an off-the-shelf solution for this issue and that making an absence request system that's fast and functional would take more than a week, tops.

    If its Kronos or Lawson then it is junk, try debugging.

    Maybe it's eTime? If that's the case, then good job with the functionality, but the interface is OVERKILL for someone that just wants to click "Approve" for their time sheet every other week.

    Captcha: dreadlocks - what they taught us about in Databases 101. Or were those "deadlocks". Either way, who needs transactions? Stupid bank account transfer examples...

  • Joe (unregistered) in reply to Ian
    Ian:
    This isn't so much an issue with technology or "make work" situations, as it is a lack of usability assessment. Obviously nobody thought about workflow while developing this application and instead just tried to factor in features they wanted.

    Going paperless isn't the problem, its letting developers make design decisions.

    I've been interested in HCI (Human Computer Interfaces) and general interface design since undergrad school. I can't stress enough how valuable this skill is to have. If all you're doing is coding together classes based on specs then forget it. But if you EVER have to create something that an end user is going to interact with, then having even a basic understanding of design principles puts you and your users at a big advantage.

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