The Unexpected

I'm in Colorado all week working on a network and VoIP installation for my organization's new headquarters. They're moving in to a nice office suite, but we're pretty much doing the technology from the ground up. As with any project, getting all the pieces to fall into place at the right time can be a challenge. Here are some of the problems we've faced.

Problem 1

The 4-post server rack we ordered was delivered on time and waiting for us Monday morning. But when we opened the box, we found that all four posts were bent. Very bent. Unusably bent. The vendor promised a replacement... in 4-5 days. We're only here for 4 days.

How We Addressed It

We delegated the problem to several people who attacked it from different angles. While one of us worked with the vendor to see if  there was any way to expedite delivery of the replacement, we had two people in remote offices working on the problem as well. One started searching for local vendors using the Internet. The other had business connections in the Denver area and started calling them. Ultimately, we found a local vendor who had a rack that would work in stock. We drove across town to pick it up... problem solved.

While I was driving to get the rack (an hour and a half I could have been working on servers or terminating cable) I thought through the next few steps of the install to see if there was anything I could do to make them go smoother. I realized we needed to rent a ladder and a drill to pull some cable, so I used the extra time to find a rental company and reserve the gear we needed.

Lesson Learned

  • If you've got a time-sensitive problem, try multiple approaches at once and go with the first -- or best -- that succeeds. And don't be afraid to call and ask for help. How often do you think (or hear someone say) "If only they'd asked me, I could have helped with that."
  • Use the time while you're waiting on a solution to the problem at hand to think ahead and solve the problems you're going to face tomorrow. This can help make up for lost time.

Problem 2

The UPS didn't arrive when scheduled on Monday. After repeated calls to the vendor, we learned it was in town, but the shipping company wouldn't have a truck to bring it to us until Wednesday. That's a problem, because everything else depends on the UPS.

How We Addressed It

We kept talking to the vendor, and then to the shipping company until we got them to let us come pick it up at the warehouse. We drove across town (again) to the warehouse, took the pallet containing the UPS apart, loaded it into the rental -- thank goodness it had been upgraded to an SUV -- and bought it back.

Lessons Learned

  • The lesson from this one is persistence. Keep talking to the people who can help you solve the problem. If two contacts are pointing fingers at each other, go back and forth until you get to a solution. Ultimately, it's __your problem and __you're going to have to solve it. When other people or organizations are involved, good -- and sometimes persistent -- communication is a must.

The Crazy

We've had a couple who-could-have-expected-that occurrences.

  • Right after we arrived Monday, the office manager got locked in a room -- where the handle didn't have a lock. The locksmith had mad a mistake installing the handle and you couldn't open the door once closed. We had to climb through the ceiling to get in the room and disassemble the door handle. Then the locksmith came and reinstalled it ... correctly!
  • When we arrived with the UPS -- several hundred pounds of UPS -- we were greeted by the elevator repair man. Thankfully, we only had to wait an hour.

Lessons Learned

  • This lesson is easy and hard at the same time: sometimes you've just got to laugh it off and move on.  Stuff happens.

In Conclusion

One of my goals for this blog is to record things I'm learning. When I sat down this afternoon to write a post, I was disappointed. "I haven't learned any cool geeky stuff this week, I've just been dealing with CRAP." But I have had important lessons reinforced through these experience. I'd be remiss if I didn't document that.

Have you had similar experiences?  What have you learned from them?

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Posted in Tech Notes
on April 28, 2009