by Mark Bowytz

When Hassan joined Meteor's IT department in 2006, he was pleasantly surprised to find everyone abuzz with excitement.

Months earlier, the previous CIO retired, and a new Head of IT had just been appointed, bringing with him the mandate that old Pentium III PCs that sat on each desk had to go. With 128MB, they struggled to keep up with Windows NT 4.0 and Office 97. He had persuaded the board to allocate millions to replace every workstation and server, and upgrade the infrastructure to match. The company would move on up to the heady delights of Windows XP SP2, Office 2007 and Exchange 2003.

Because the project to do this was going to be such an uphill struggle, and the fact that at the new Head of IT had come from an organization where kitschy meant progressive, it was named Project Mountain. "Mountaineers" were appointed, and they met in the "Summit Room" wearing specially commissioned T-shirts on a section of the 5th floor set aside for the project’s offices named “The Matterhorn”.

Hassan was double fortunate to have started when he did, as he was nominated to work on the project.

As part of a licensing deal worked during the project, employees were offered the chance to obtain a copy of Microsoft Office for use at home. This news was broken to all employees in the company and when it landed, everyone cheered at the chance to get a free copy of the office software. The email stated that the only catch was that employees needed to print and fill out a "completely anonymous" feedback survey to be submitted along with the form.

Everyone, Hassan included, didn’t mind filling out a survey to score a free copy of Office - but something about the whole thing bugged him.

Hassan figured that there were over two thousand employees in the company who had received the offer. When considering that a lot of employees would be happy to send two forms in to get a free copy, Hassan imagined the terrible task that would face some poor clerical-type who would then have to cope with processing thousands of sheets of paper. He knew there had to be a better way.

Though only a new Mountaineer, Hassan had no problem getting ahold of an old Windows NT server, and then turning it into a web server. While he had some experience in VBScript, he knew little about ASP programming. Undaunted, during his lunch hour, he went to the local library and borrowed their one and only book on ASP. By chapter two, he had found all the information that he needed.

By the next day, he had whipped up a simple Access database and a form on a web page which fired the answers into the database using VBScript. He added some rudimentary form validation and got the help desk to test it. After wiping perspiration from his brow, Hassan stood back and looked at his mighty proof-of-concept, and felt it worked rather well. It was ready for prime time.

Hassan tactfully emailed the Project Mountain office, and explained his proposal and included a link to his little web page on his outdated server.

The following day, a reply arrived from one of the head “Sherpas” from the Project Mountain team. They were very impressed with his skills, and were very interested in putting his application to good use.

Three weeks passed and Hassan hadn’t heard one word about the app he had made. He thought about following up, but he was up to his elbows gathering requirements for Project Mountain, and was too busy to add any additional meetings into his schedule. As fate would have it, when Hassan landed in the Project Mountain offices, he ended up being assigned to a cubicle sitting opposite a temp named Miranda. One of Miranda's jobs was dealing with the free Microsoft Office offer, so naturally Hassan was intent on listening in as she proceeded to call numerous people.

"Hi, it's Miranda from the Project Mountain office here. It's about this form you sent in. I can't quite read the writing. How do you spell your name?"

"Hi, it's Miranda from the Project Mountain office here. Yes, about the form you sent us - you've forgotten to tick the box at the bottom to accept the terms and conditions."

"Hi, it's Miranda from the Project Mountain office here. We've received your form, all I need to know is your cost center, your department and your manager's name."

Initially, Hassan didn't want to rock the boat, but he felt that he had to follow-up with one of the Sherpas to find out why they weren't using the form that he made.

"Sorry for the misscommunication," the Sherpa's response email read, "your little web application is absolutely wonderful, and it's being put to great use already. In fact, just earlier today, Miranda said that she loved using the web app because of how much more efficient it was than trying to enter names, addresses, and survey results into her spreadsheet. Thank you again for your extra efforts."