Monday, 3 October 2011

Have we been here before?

So - we were supposed to go live at our overseas site today. Up until Wednesday of last week, they were still determined that it would go ahead, come what may. This was despite no more than 10% of the data having been loaded, and we are still waiting for quite a bit of data to be extracted from their legacy system.

I only finally got the confirmation of the delay midday on Thursday - it's been put back to December at the moment, but I'm not sure if that will stand either. I know that the site manager is relieved as he was really concerned that they are just not ready, and I believe that most of the staff there are equally pleased. Our project team are not entirely happy - but they all accept that it would be too much of a risk to try and go ahead.

Now we have a bit more time to try to resolve some of the issues that are still outstanding - but I'm a bit concerned that we may end up with a few more as well. There have been a couple of config changes made and once again, it has caused us some problems. (Did someone mention testing?)

This time it's the purchasing, which is a real pain as that has actually been pretty good for some time now. It appears to be to do with the release strategy - the change means that staff can release purchase orders to any value, instead of the staged release which took us about 3 months to get right. I left the manager in charge of the purchasing department working his way thru a number of items to try and get a handle on exactly where it has gone wrong.

The consultants fixed the printing problem on the purchase order - well almost. There's a bit of an issue with the vendor addressing and a number of the POs have completely the wrong details. I got a message earlier today to tell me that there is a specialist going to take a look - it appears that he has already had access to the system, but he's been using someone else's account. I've now created an account for him, and asked him to use that - I've had no response, so I don't know if he hasn't received the message, or just can't be bothered to do so.

There was also an issue on the finance side (not quite sure what it was) and they had arranged for a consultant to look at the problem - we were told that it would take them about 4 / 5 days. However, the FD was looking at it, and with the help of a Google search, he has fixed the issue. The SI are not pleased at this.

Talking of the SI, I've had one of their people chasing me to outsource the systems to them. This is something that I'm not particularly keen on for a number of reasons. They insisted that it would all be managed in a facility in this country, but when I checked, the data center they use is actually somewhere else in the world - I think it might be either eastern Europe or Malaysia, I've not been able to clarify.

Their sales guy insisted that it would be cheaper to use them - well there would be savings in hardware / software / utilities, but I doubt very much that it would work out any cheaper. Some time ago, I looked into the costs, and based upon what we would need, the price from the only hosting center prepeared to give me an estimate would indicate that we would be looking at $300,0000 a year now, rising to $600,000 in about 3 years time. I can tell you, that would be more than our current IT budget.

However, it's not just the cost that worries me - this system is going to be the key system for the whole business. A decade ago, it wouldn't have mattered if it went off line for a few hours or even a day or two - that's not the case now. Quite simply, a loss of service of more than a few minutes would be problematic, more than a hour could be disastrous.

Based on their performance, can we trust our key system to them? Of course, it's not just the potential loss of service. I don't feel that they have demonstrated that they work in a particularly secure mananer, and I'll be honest, the thought that they might lose data scares the heck out of me. However, it won't be my decision anyway - this is something that the board will decide. Apparently, they are arranging for a junket at a country club for the shareholders and the board, to advise of them how it would work - I have not been invited.

However, I have been asked to put together a presentation of my concerns, highlighting the costs. I've also included some statistics on what we have achieved and how much we have saved by doing it all inhouse. In addition, I've put forward some plans for future development that would allow us to ramp up the resources to deal with required increases as the other sites come on line. We'll see what happens.

Back overseas again next week. I'm really racking up the frequent flyer miles - next time, I'm taking my wife with me!