Pre-game jitters have gotten to even our most unflappable systems guys. On Monday, the day before the first day of mock go-live testing, our systems manager had one of those near-career death experiences as he cleaned up files. Getting into the rhythm, he lost track of which directory he was in and inadvertently executed a delete function that started removing the database, which hadn't been backed up yet. He went through the expected series of frantic actions: a sudden realization that the world is about to end, a rapid staccato of two-fingered cancel commands, then a desolate string of expletives.
I didn't hear about the calamity until first thing the following morning. I rushed over to the consultants, whose database skills had been at work until the wee hours of the morning. They were busily testing to make sure all was well. Counting to 10 several times, I walked back to our data center. After listening to a rushed explanation from the culprit, I said something managerial like, "Remember to measure twice and cut once next time." But at some point, I realized this near-deletion was a blessing.
The Curtain Raises
After our system manager proclaimed the database was, once again, ready for our dress rehearsal, we began our mock trial run. Our project leadership team, knowing that we had done all the rewrites and scenario planning we could, watched and waited like brood hens as the accounting clerks tentatively entered transactions. Accounts payable associates re-entered the same batches of accounting stuff into the new system that they had entered into the old system the day before and printed sample checks. Accounts receivable monitored customers' credit status and printed statements. The accounting manager added a couple more hours to her 10-hour workday, using a straight edge on the old system's green bar reports to match up the general ledger of the new system.
Are We Ready?
The office was pin-drop quiet. You could hear the rustle of pant legs as the consultants scurried from desk to desk, answering questions in hushed voices.
When it was over, all the project leaders huddled in the conference room to analyze the results. The question was, "Are we ready to go live?" We had uncovered a few issues that needed resolution. Our bank did reject our checks, but a high-speed form alteration fixed that. A few obstinate transactions missed the conversion file, but the bean counters took care of those. As expected, the accounting clerks were uncomfortable. It took them nearly three times longer to get through their workload than it would have on the old system, and they frequently had to refer to cheat sheets and help screens.
But after examining all the evidence, we decided we were ready for the real thing. In two days, we'll do it all again; only this time, the old system will be gone. That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that we have three more phases to go.
But first we have to go live. Then we have to celebrate. I think I'll go home and have a dress rehearsal for that.
Next: We pull the switch.
Les Johnson is CIO at North Coast Electric Co., a wholesale electrical distributor in Bellevue, Wash. To comment on this story, email ERPJourney@ciodecisions.com.
This was first published in June 2006