Miscommunication or epic fail?


One of many frustrations we IT professionals have to face is miscommunication or misinformation. The outcome has a ripple effect; small insignificant misiplaced information will tend to produce a big crack in the project. It gets worse if the crack starts from the begining of the project life cycle. And yours truly have the honour to experience such eventful moments once too often. There’s this scenario with a recent project I was dealing with may not sound like a huge project that cost a lot of money but nevertheless, time was wasted.

It goes like this. According to the manager after a meeting with the sales team, they wanted a button (manager’s favourite term for anything that is clickable which sends you off to somewhere) that is attached to marketing emails which allow potential clients to download it onto the desktop like an application icon. Double clicking it will then trigger a web browser and navigate itself to a specific CMS website. The manager stated specifically, the button must have the company’s logo in it. In an IT nutshell, it’s a URL shortcut with a customised icon.

Sounds pretty simple enough huh, except a few critical areas he’s not aware of. As email technology advances, a lot of unfavourable things catch up as well. Virus, trojans, spam, you name it are used to attack users via emails. Attaching a URL shortcut is one of them. Antivirus/Spyware/Malware/Spam filters are very edgy and alert on these attachments and very likely they will be filtered as spam or blocked. Next bright idea (and also unfavourable) is attaching an executable file. That will definitely sound the alarm louder. Another problem is different OSes the clients are using. In the manager’s ideal world, M$ Windows is assumed the OS clients engaged with (loved it when a debate ensures with a ‘What’s the percentage of insert-operating-system-here that our clients are using?). Okay, let’s ‘assume’ every client is a Windows freak, what’s a quick workaround solution? Zipped it up, he said and pray the anti-virus will not find it.

Personally, I do not agree to such attachments (regardless a zipped or non-zipped executables/URL shortcut) but then again, I’m just a small voice in the organisation that only listens to themselves. A better solution was suggested: Tell the clients to bookmark the URL site, for goodness sake. It’s not rocket science to teach but it’s possible. It’s better than opening an email, download the attachment, unzip the executable file/URL shortcut onto the desktop and doubleclick the file. Simple keyboard shortcuts vs dozen steps instructions. Geez.

Having discover that I was totally against the idea of such attachments, the idea was apparently put off and quietly delegated to another person without my knowledge. Note: This incident happened within the period of two weeks. The graphic designer was assigned to this (I don’t know why) and the bitter cycle of trying out customised icons with an executable file via emails happens again. I caught the wind of it when the dude was trying to test it out by sending the attachment to my email via a zipped file!

During one lunch hour, a sales team personnel joined us and from the casual chitchat, we popped the question of the little project the manager brought up. That 2 minutes conversation cleared up a lot of things and it was a totally ‘OMFGWTF’ moment. What the sales team wanted is not an application/URL shortcut/executable file with a customised icon to be downloaded from emails onto the desktop. What the sales team really wanted is a GIF or JPEG of a web banner with a company logo in it so they can send these images to partner clients to use, say embedding the banner as a weblink in their website.

I’m not pinning blame to anyone (though subtlely I do lean against the management), but the point of this scenario is we could have save the time and effort if the needs of the person who requested it, is properly verified and confirmed. Man, epic fail.

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