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The Drama of being a Developer II - To Portal or not to Portal

by cacharbe (Curate)
on Jan 08, 2002 at 21:24 UTC ( [id://137186]=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

The continuing story of a developer and his quest to solve the problems of business without having a major break from reality.
For part one, read here. What follows is a lesson learned about projects in the corporate world, be they programming, or otherwise.

Chapter One

- In which our hero quests for knowledge

Or story begins nearly two years ago when the powers that be approached our hero to investigate implementing a business to employee (B2E) portal across the corporation for both internal and remote usage.

After 18 months of SERIOUS research, two proof of concepts (PoCs) and sales meetings enough to make your eyes water from the stench of BS, he finally makes his reccomendations based on criteria such as integration with different systems (including backend systems that are used), single sign on possibilities for the future, current IT expertise, security model and the level of customer support in both the pre-sales and PoC stages of the courtship.

Let's just say that our adventurer was becoming quite the little book worm (and if anyone is interested, I'd be willing to provide good consulting services regarding a B2E implementation do's and don'ts, etc.).

After the PoC with Plumtree, the people in control purchased a small number of user liscenses to grandfather the company into a pricing structure that was about to change. And then things went idle while our hero was doing some "Gadget" development, hammering out the details of putting said portal in a DMZ to allow access for home users, and handling the daily rigors of his other responsibilites (cf. part I)....8 months later, our hero went to San Francisco for a week long seminar and user conference, and all looked well. The powers that be negotiated a few thousand more liscenses, and were just about to put the money on the barrel head, when suddenly...

Chapter Two

- In which the bottom falls out of the Market and our hero holds his breath

All hell broke loose. The bubble bursts, the market drops, the terrorists attack America, Ford (The company's largest customer) closes plants, and the company goes into "You can't spend anything unless someone is dying, and even then, check with HR, they might have been on the Cut list anyway" mode. Not a positive environment for a coder like our hero, but now that all of the jobs have dried up, what is our intrepid adventurer supposed to do?

He is told to just wait and ride out the uncertainty, and not to worry, the CIO wants a portal, so there's going to be a portal. Months pass, and one morning he is asked if he has heard of another portal product on the market, one that he had dismissed out of hand almost immediately, due to lack of functionality, security, and platform/software dependencies out of the scope of expertise of the group that would be maintaining the product. He said that yes, he had, and the requestor should have read the white paper he wrote regarding the selection process he used.

Our beloved code poet is asked to sit through yet another sales pitch from the company, as "they said they have more information, and more to offer". They didn't and they hadn't, but what they did have was a lower price tag. He could see the eager eyes in the room. This was exactly what they wanted, it looked like it worked, it definitely connected to a system that EVERYONE must be using (author's note:I have yet to use this system in my THREE years at the company) and it was Sooooo much cheaper than the solution that had been so well researched. It must be better.

Chapter Three

- In which our hero contemplates the value of human life

So they bought it. Nevermind that they had asked our hero to help ensure that they make a strong, well informed choice. Nevermind that there wasn't any product or platform expertise in the managing group's talent pool, and never mind that not even the company that offered the product allowed their users to connect to it remotely for lack of a decent security model (The powers that be said that it didn't need to be put it in a DMZ, since no one would use it remotely anyway.....WTF). This ws definitely the product for them.

Last week Thursday, our hero was approached by some HR muckity muck, and asked if he could have a couple of servers ready by yesterday for installation of the portal frontend web piece of the product. Our hero, determinded to be helpful, and show what a team player he was, asked politely, "Sure, what do you need on it?" The was a couple moments of silence, and a confused and dazed look, so he tried again. "You know, what OS level, webserver...?". There was another moment of silence, and then there was a heated, indignant response. A response that came close to freeing up a few organs for the donation waiting lists (cf. humor).

"Well, I don't know that, but can you have them ready?"


Why is it that my life is a constant Dilbert comic? At least give me a talking dog (cat, rat...etc.) and over-expressive eye brows.


Lesson Learned: All research done for your employer is directly applicable to your side consulting business, who's clients will actually listen to you and consider the results.

Update: For part three, read here

  • Comment on The Drama of being a Developer II - To Portal or not to Portal

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Re: The Drama of being a Developer II - To Portal or not to Portal
by vladb (Vicar) on Jan 09, 2002 at 02:01 UTC
    Are you talking about a company you are currently working for? Interesting story though ;-).

    Based on my limited experience working for a big corporation, there's hardly any substitute for anything that a company might need (such as a portal solution for e.g.) in-house using it's own development resources. Before my 'tenure' with the company, it used to have a 3-rd party to support it's portal technology. However, the more it was used (the portal), the more useless it appeared to be. Normally, a 3rd party technology provider wouldn't design something that would fit everyone's need. Considering our company, there was a lot of stuff that we required (both flexiblity and functionality) that wasn't present in portal piece that we bought. From time to time, various technical issues would arise that required extensive technical support and attention. This was just a few of a number of factors that lead us to realize we had to implement our own 'solution' from ground-up. We had to eventually sit down and design our own system around our present and future needs.

    As of now, all that we have now has been built in-house. And I can't find an employee who'd regret it a tiny bit. Of course, I guess we couldn't have accomplished this if we were a smaller company with corresponding budget (= small). But if the company you are talking about is a fairly large enterprise, than I'm inclined to thinking that hardly any 3rd party solution (even that of company) would suffice your needs (especially, the ones you've mentioned.. such as greater security etc.)

    Thanks for listening to my rant ;-).

    "There is no system but GNU, and Linux is one of its kernels." -- Confession of Faith
      Oh, yeah, I still work here. I just got out of a meeting where we decided that if HR wants part of the pie, it has to eat the whole thing as far as the administration of this PIA is concerned.

      It was decided that we would be going to a 3rd party product from day one. As an automotive corporation, we don't really have the resources (Why get head count for IT when we can get more engineers, who actually make us money? I.T. is just a siphon that steals money from where it actually does some good!) to even vaguely attempt that. Most of my research was geared toward finding the proper tool that fulfilled the 80/20 rule. I honestly think I found that in Plumtree. Unfortuantely, money was more an issue than functionality in the end, and I'll have to attempt most of the design my self, as far as creating the "pagelets" and taxonomy are concerned, in the PeopleSoft product.

      The amount of connectivity that is needed, versus that which is offered in the chosen product is a joke compared to what I would have had out of the box with Plumtree, so now they are going to pay me a Software Engineer's wage to develop what amounts to HTML. BAH! I hope they realize that I'm going to do it all in C++ and Perl and insure my position here in my reign of terror FOREVER!!!!

      <Cue type="evil laughter"/>


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