Anyone see a problem with this plan?

IT manager pilot fish is also a clinical psychologist, and he's worked out a way to piece together an electronic clinical records system for this large mental health center. Then his boss discovers the project.

Flashback to the mid-1990s, when this psychologist pilot fish finds himself IT manager at a large mental health center because management has decided he "wasn't afraid of the computers."

"Coming from a clinical background and ramping up my IT knowledge base, I soon recognized the potential for tying our databases to forms in our Unix-based WordPerfect system to generate an electronic clinical record," says fish. "I hired a WordPerfect guru and he and I set to work to build our ECR.

"My staff and I managed to complete building the ECR and had started testing it with a small group of clinical staff to resolve any issues before we announced and took it large scale."

Enter fish's boss, who has even less IT background, but a lot more ambition. Without informing fish or anyone else in IT, he does a presentation on the ECR system to the big bosses, proposing to roll it out to all 400-plus clinical staff in the following month -- "This will spread like mushrooms," he tells them -- and gets a green light.

Then he tells fish and his staff -- who react with stunned silence.

"Do you see any problems?" boss asks.

"Only one," the PC Manager says. "Workstations."

Boss: "Workstations?"

PC Manager: "Only 80 of the 430 clinical staff have workstations right now. Without workstations, they can't use the new ECR."

Boss: "How many and how much?"

PC Manager: "Around $1,000 each, so $350,000."

Boss gasps, knowing the big bosses won't approve that budget. "OK, what do we do?" he asks fish.

Fish: "Tell the execs that, after careful analysis, we have determined our existing network infrastructure cannot support the bandwidth demands of an additional 350 clinical workstations, and therefore they must be rolled out on a more controlled basis as we expand the network capability to effectively handle the additional demands."

Boss: "What does that mean?"

Fish: "It won't work as presented, but this way it will sound more complex. And when they ask you 'How much?' you tell them '$650,000, but we're working to bring the cost down' and they'll tell you to keep working on it and put in a budget request."

Boss: "I'll put you on the execs' schedule next week so you can tell them with me."

Grumbles fish, "He called in sick the day of the meeting, and I got to tell the execs that my boss got very excited about the possibilities and didn't really understand the complexities of what was actually involved. The execs agreed.

"Fast forward two years, and our ECR system was rolled out to all of our locations in 27 states -- successfully."

Sharky just wants to roll out your story to one location: right here. So send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll get a stylish Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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