Obstructionist Policies

(The following is a rant about my job.)

It is getting harder and harder for me to do my job. The current batch of bureaucrats in charge keep instituting obstructionist policies. I really don’t understand the reasoning behind it. If the policies helped make a better product, or saved time or money, I could at least understand and not complain about them even if I did not agree with them.

But these new policies… are just stupid. For example:

When creating software it is not uncommon for a developer to create many versions during development and testing. Every time the software product reaches a milestone event, like sending it to an alpha or beta testing site, or sharing it with co-workers for their review/input, the version number gets increased by one. The rule of thumb is that if the software product leaves the development environment for any reason, it gets a new version number. This way there is no confusion about what changes or fixes are included in a particular version that a test site or individual has.

The newest policies (or are they directives? I get them confused) deal with the testing life cycle and the length of time that the software must be successfully running at a test site before it can be released nationwide. Historically if the software, the part that makes the computer do something, changes then the testing cycle starts over. However, if only the documentation changes, then historically the software life cycle continued. Each testing life cycle was based on when the software itself was changed, not when any other part of the software product changed.

Enter new policy number one. There is no longer a distinction between a software change or a documentation change. Now if the software has been running at all the test sites for months without any problems, and a typo has to be corrected in the documentation causing a version number change, the testing clock is reset. This had the effect of causing massive delays in releasing software to all the hospitals. We complained and eventually something was done.

Enter new policy number two. There is no longer a requirement to increment the development version number if only descriptive elements are changed. Hmmm… Now if an important documentation update occurs, say, a change to the installation instructions, then there will be no new development version number and there will be no way to easily tell who may or may not have the correct installation procedures.

So, because some bureaucrat who does not understand what it is we do, and seemingly does not care, has decided that every version number change requires the testing life cycle clock to be reset, we are now in a position having incorrect documentation being shared across the nation.

How is this better? It is not. It is more confusing, and time consuming. It places developers in the situation of using other mechanisms (memory, pen and paper) to keep track of who has what. And if the developer should slip up, whammo, the Software Quality Assurance managers will hang them up; figuratively in terms of public executions, and literally in terms of delaying the product’s release. They took away an important tool and now blame us for no longer being able to use it.

This is just one example of the many obstructionist policies we are now having to follow. It seems as if there is a purposeful effort to tie development’s hands. If this keeps up, it will take a year just to issue a patch that five years ago could have been released in two weeks. Could it be that my conspiracy theory coworkers are correct and that “they” are trying to shut down our relatively inexpensive internal software development teams in order to “buy” more expensive, and less useful, software from corporations that just happen to have lobbyists with offices on K Street in Washington, D.C.?


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