Shark Tank: How to invest

Management at this mainframe-oriented IT shop says it wants more client/server focus, says pilot fish. But he's assigned to spend a day stripping floppy disks out of boxes of outdated client/server programming tools...

Management at this mainframe-oriented IT shop says it wants more client/server focus, says pilot fish. But he's assigned to spend a day stripping floppy disks out of boxes of outdated client/server programming tools. "The software was never used because training was considered too expensive," he says. And when even more expensive mainframe-simulation software arrives a few weeks later, it's shelved because it would require upgrading the programmers' PCs. Grumbles fish, "At least the department can say it's investing in client/server."

Next time, just ask

After this pilot fish at a big internet portal writes an abuse-detection program, he discovers that the portal's financial data servers are getting mass requests from one user. "And the accesses are coming from a machine within my own company," fish says. Turns out another division wanted the financial news for part of its own service. But instead of arranging for a proper connection, the division's developers just set up a script to continuously check fish's servers."I gave them a more efficient feed, and our traffic dropped by 60%," fish says. "Had I known this a few weeks ago, I wouldn't have had to add new servers to handle the increased load we'd been seeing!"

Timing Is everything

Big textile company installs a requirements-planning system, but system response time is so slow it takes two hours to enter every order, reports an intern pilot fish. A hardware upgrade improves response by only 10 minutes, so a much more expensive upgrade is ordered -- but the day it arrives, fish discovers a bad setting is causing the problem. "We don't need the upgrade," fish tells project lead. Keep quiet, boss tells him. "The heroic hardware team got extra vacation and a bonus for speeding up the order entry process," fish sighs. "I was moved to a tedious data-entry position."

Just dandy

For two or three years, this company's purchasing agent has bought printer supplies from the same unsatisfactory outfit, says pilot fish: "The prices are high, a third of the refurbished toner cartridges are no good, and she never sends them in for credit." Fish finds a better, cheaper supplier that management declares to be the preferred provider -- so why are invoices still coming in from the old outfit? Agent admits it's because she likes the candy the first supplier sends with each order. "For this invoice alone," fish says, "that bag of candy cost us an additional $204."

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