Twenty-seven-year-old James Bland sat at his desk, arms outstretched, hands at rest on either side of his keyboard. It was his first day back at work after a week’s vacation. He’d spent it at Disney World, revisiting a wellspring of childhood nostalgia. Lying in bed the previous evening, he’d concluded he’d been too restrained in choosing it as his destination.

Next time he’d venture back to St. Croix, where he’d visited a cousin not too long ago. He could spend the days scuba diving. In the evenings he might test skills of a different sort at the Carina Bay casino. He’d gotten proficient at blackjack while in college, and could usually come out a little ahead on the modest wagers he allowed himself. He imagined hooking up with someone who could bankroll more aggressive betting on his part, splitting the proceeds. An attractive young woman. Perhaps the daughter of a Persian Gulf sheik. On the run from her parents in the form of a pair of pistol-packing security men.

The “ding” of an incoming e-mail roused him from his reverie. He started digging out from under the pile of messages that had accumulated. He flinched on seeing one of them, his body tensing as he was reminded of his struggle to deploy an intranet site for collaborative work in the weeks before his vacation. Otherwise things seemed as they’d been. He was supposed to update the “value-added” presentation slides he’d worked on intermittently since starting the job, and that as far as he knew had never been used. Expired documents had to be “dispositioned.” Files required archiving. He realized getting away for a week had left him hungry for something different. No sooner had the thought crossed his mind than his phone rang. Caller ID spelled out “Penelope Pincher,” the executive assistant to the head of the department. Did he want to see me, Bland wondered. He answered the phone.

“Bland here.”

“Rested up from your vacation?”

“Actually, it involved more exertion than work does. But yes, refreshed.”

“Good, he’d like to see you right away.”

Game on, Bland thought. “On my way.”

He ascended to the next floor up, using the elevator’s mirrored wall to straighten his tie and smooth his hair, and stepped into the head of the department’s reception area.

“Nice tan,” Penny said from behind her desk, with a sidelong glance. “You can go right in.” Upon doing so Bland found the head of the department standing by a window, gazing thoughtfully toward the park across the street.

“James,” he said, not smiling, exactly, but in an upbeat manner. “Come in. Sit down. Hear you’ve been on vacation. Rested up, I hope?”

“Yes sir, very much so.”

“Good. Because I think I have an assignment for you. I believe you have some relevant background. It involves AMC.”

“Access Management Central? Not them again.”

“Afraid so.”

Perhaps, thought Bland, he’s looking for insight on how to improve the access management process.

“The last time I tangled with them, it wasn’t pretty,” he said.

“Refresh my memory.”

“Hargraves in Communications told me we needed to get our own Concertina site. We weren’t going to be able to use theirs in the future.”

“That’s for sharing documents.”

“Yes, working on them collaboratively. I asked him how we get one and he said he didn’t know. No one I asked had even heard of Concertina. I did a search of the intranet though and, surprisingly, a Concertina home page came up at the top of the results.”

“A long shot pays off!”

“It was a start. I didn’t see anything about how to request a new site, but clicking on ‘Help’ brought a drop-down menu where that was a choice. It brought up an Acceptable Use Agreement, which suggested looking at an ‘AMC Concertina Form Training Guide’ for step-by-step instructions.”

“A training guide.” The head of the department, leaning against the window, made quote marks with his fingers. “To help you put in the request, not to actually use the site.”

“Correct. And you definitely want to use it. It was about 30 pages. Fortunately only about eight concerned my kind of request.”

“That must have been a relief.”

“So I’ve got the guide. Next the web page said agreeing to the terms will take you to the company’s ‘standard collaboration site request site.’”

“AMC.”

“Yes. The page said it manages ‘resource access lifecycle processes.’”

“It’s part of GTO, isn’t it?”

“Yes, specifically, GIS. It got moved from AOC when PGI was replaced with BPB.”

“So you’re there. At the collaboration site request site.”

“Yes. There’s a drop-down menu there, of platforms, about 150 of them, and you choose the one you’re interested in. That gives you an online form to fill out. It indicated that the request would require the approval of a Band 2 executive.”

“Band 2? That’s Cummings, for us.”

“I had no idea, but as it turned out, yes.”

“Good luck getting on his calendar.”

“I imagined an e-mail would get routed to him and he’d reply with an OK.”

“It was probably more complicated than that.”

“After filling out the form, I got an e-mail confirming my request had been entered successfully. There was a link saying to contact the appropriate support team for further information. For this kind of site, it was Global Concertina Access.”

“Nice to have that information readily at hand.”

“After a couple of weeks I e-mailed GCA asking what had become of my request. I got an anonymous reply. It said they didn’t know; my request hadn’t been approved by AMC. And once it was approved by AMC, it added, there’d be no commitment as to when the new site would be ready. It said they generally take less than 10 days to build, but they’re done as time allows and they’re the lowest priority.”

“There’s transparency, anyway.”

“I exchanged a few e-mails with them. I learned there was a snag. The person number the system picked up for Cummings was wrong; it wasn’t even in the right format. I assume the system uses that information to route the request.”

“So we’re about a month in now.”

“Yes. More e-mails back and forth. The upshot was that I was advised to e-mail my Band 2 executive for approval and forward the e-mail in which he approved it.”

“Which created a little brouhaha.”

“As you recall. People didn’t know what the request was about and were concerned with security.”

“You explained.”

“Yes. I noticed from some later e-mails that Cummings, to his credit, had responded right away, at least to the point of asking one of his people to look into the matter.”

“Progress at last. What next?”

“A month to the day after the brouhaha, the guy whom Cummings asked to look into things sent an e-mail saying I needed to resubmit the request. There was no longer a place for Cummings to approve it. I had some back-and-forth with GCA and AMC about how to do that. Eventually I got another automated e-mail. It said ‘mail generated successfully’ and showed a web page with a place for Cummings to either ‘approve’ or ‘reject’. I determined from GCA that this meant an e-mail had been sent to Cummings that afternoon asking him to approve or reject the site. Two weeks later I got an e-mail notifying me that the site had been created.”

“You deserve credit for your persistence. And the experience has proven valuable. Because we need another collaboration site. Needed it yesterday, of course. I’m putting you on it. You’ve got what it takes to get the job done. Penny has the details.”

“Would you like me to work with AMC to try to streamline the request process?”

“There’s a company-wide task force looking into matters like that. Jenny Jones is our representative on it.”

“Well, ah … OK. Another Concertina site it is.”

David Ludlum is a professional writer and editor living in Princeton.

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