Photo credit: 'Rob React' at Flickr When Nick Martin arrived at work at 8:30am, it seemed like he was in for a good day. Warm bagel and coffee in hand, he strolled into the IT office ready to fire up his email and maybe do a little recreational surfing before jumping into a day's worth of work. However, this was not meant to be as he was greeted by a support issue already in progress. And by "greeted", I mean "a dreary mess of a woman in a pinstripe suit was storming his way". It was Darlene, a manager from the university's financial department and conveniently, he was the only warm body in the office.

"Do you NOTICE any DIFFERENCE between these two printouts, Nick?"

Holding back his temptation to mention that one printout was fresh off the printer and the other looked like it had been on the business end of a day's worth of coffee grounds, he sheepishly started "W-Well..." before being cut off.

"YOUR daily conference room reservation report is SERIOUSLY flawed and is impacting our ability to know where we can hold meetings. "

Nick tried to interject, but it was no use.

"The facilities planning commission is convening tomorrow morning to discuss budgeting for the coming Quarter, and they need to know how much we utilize our building's resources. If you don't resolve this immediately, I will enlist the help of the comptroller and YOUR JOB WILL BE HIS!"

Later, after picking off dried grounds from the one printout and a few phone calls to Darlene's subordinates, Nick discovered the perceived glitch. Unknown to the developers of the reservation system, tracking total usage of the conference rooms involved printing the daily reservation sheet at 8:00 every morning and placing the printouts in a folder.

As fate would have it, yesterday morning’s printout had been temporarily "misplaced", and a new copy was generated this morning. However, when yesterday’s printout was rediscovered, it had fewer reservations than the new copy. Darlene was concerned because she found that this anomalous "glitch" recurred almost daily, subverting a procedure that had been the data collecting practice for over five years.

Now confident, Nick approached Darlene with the cause of the discrepancy - while the rules forbade it, the room reservation system permitted new reservations to be made by users after 8:00 in the morning for that day and the problem was not the result of a system gone haywire with presumably phantom room reservations. Nick presented alternatives for determining the total number of room checkouts much more accurately, and with only a couple of clicks and a few seconds, rather than reams of paper and several man-hours.

"Well, all of your ideas sound good, but unfortunately any change in our process would compromise...job security of our clerical staff. Thank you for your time."

And with that, the meeting, and the crisis, was forever gone. It wasn't until later when he spoke about his confrontation with Darlene to his supervisor that Nick learned that this was not the first time she had graced their office breathing fire. About every other month, Darlene appeared, threw a fit and left. Nick was simply the poor soul who got to her first. Apparently, nobody had actually taken the time to explain any kind of solution as each time the reply from the IT office was that the new entries during working hours are to be discarded as "glitches" …without reservation.