Working for Free

I’m working on a project to implement a new system.  In order to transfer the data we currently have into the new system, we have do a good deal of touching of the data.  Manipulating it from it’s current data sets to fit into a new data set.   It’s involved and tedious work.

But it’s also something I’m deeply invested in making work.  This new system is desperately needed in the company, and if we lean hard into it’s various processes, I really think it will improve things a lot.

But it will be a painful birth.  Because the old system has only the barest shared junctions of data.

Unfortunately this transition of data happened when we had the under-staffing crisis in my dept and so I have not given it any real attention.  So this weekend I’m working on it from home.

I am an hourly employee, so unless I’m clocked in at work, I don’t get paid.  But I don’t care.  One, because the pressure to get my normal tasks done and get this done is terrible.  I would rather it wasn’t a traffic jam of tasks on my desk.

And two.  I’m really invested in making this new system work.  I don’t want someone else to do this because I really want this to be done right.  ie – the way I would do it.  And because the only other person designated to this project of transition is of the quick and make it work mindset.  Although, to be fair, he is also DEEPLY invested in making this new system work.

We are both VERY excited about the new system.  But he, probably justifiably, feels that we are paying a company to manage this data transition and giving them finely curated data in a spreadsheet to upload, means we are paying them for something we both suspect we could do ourselves.  The value they could offer us is to curate the data.

We originally thought we would just run a crystal report with the raw data and this company would do the parsing.  But this company has made it clear that that is not how it’s going to work. Which begs the question – why are we paying them?  I mean, uploading a spreadsheet into a system is not rocket science.  Either of us could probably do it, and definitely my teammate could do it, regardless.

But, we paid them already so.  Here we are.

And I’m kind of OK with it.  I know this data.  These are our customers.  I know who and what and why.  If I handed it over to a stranger, they would not know those things and would likely make bad choices as a result.  They don’t know who we consider valuable.  They don’t know that this executive assistant is basically only slightly less important than the CEO of P&G from our point of view, or that this executive passenger is very particular about how the invoices are sent, or that this lovely old woman calls in to have us take her husband to various sportsball games and that it is very important that only careful and kind drivers are involved.   Someone who will call her the morning of game day and discuss whether it might not be too cold and rainy for a frail old man to sit in Buckeye Stadium for a game.

That information is lost when you hand your data over to a stranger who cannot know, even if there are notes, which often there are not because often these special clients have their own reservationist who knows and that reservationist has a back up who also knows.

All of which sounds like we have a seamless system, but as you might deduce from the above paragraph, we DO NOT.  All too often that knowledge held by one reservationist is lost when they aren’t available.  And so a person who calls on the weekend doesn’t get their reservationist, they may get a relative newbie.  And then it all goes south.   Our current system is not good at managing those kinds of things, BUT the new system is.

So I have hopes that if we start with a good solid foundation, we can build up to a system that won’t fail a client with a frail husband who needs an extra eye kept on him.  We are all about providing service for the specific needs of our clients.  And that is often a GIANT pain if the ass.  And while we hope for being able to do this, all too often we fail, because we started that core value when we were small and now we are starting to crossover to the level of business that makes that nearly impossible to achieve in our current systems.

But I have hopes for this new software.  No doubt it will disappoint some of my dreams.  But since we are starting from such a dismal situation it can only improve things.  And I am very invested in the idea of improving the current maelstrom.

But, it also requires people to rethink how we do things.  Specifically, I’m going to attempt to make our managers rethink our rate structure.  Because the current rates won’t transfer into the new system.  And we need to think of rates by zip code instead of neighborhoods or towns.  Because the new system assigns rate by zip.  And we assign by neighborhood/town.  But because zip codes cover many neighbor hoods and those neighborhoods have different rates it’s not transferable.  So part of this weekends work will be put that situation into an easy presentation that will make the 2 managers face the task of reassigning fares and have still be usable for me when they do.  At first I thought – Easy Peasy.  Yeah.  Turns out, Nope.  It’s also tedious work.

But it’s important.  So I will slog though it so they can spend an afternoon arguing with each other over what to do.  Don’t worry.  They are best friends who enjoy arguing over these issues and blaming each other for anything that went askew.

But don’t let me downplay how much I need to get done to in order for the various managers to fight over the right fare.  We have fares for different companies.  So once I’m done with one, I get to start over with the next one.  Which are handled by different managers, so I will have to represent this issue to them and have them reassign the rates.

ie – I need people to face the reality that the way we have done business for the last 20 yeas will not longer work with the new system.  I expect, of the 4 people involved, only one of them will accept it and adapt without me pushing them into it.  One of them will loudly resist and will remain obstinate throughout.  However, I’m helped by the fact that his partner in fare making is the owner of the company, who is by definition, invested in the new system.  But that is not this weekend’s task.  This weekend I only have to make their task manageable once they accept it’s reality.

And that the easy part.  That original paragraph about customer accounts is still the hard part.

All of it is at least 20 hours of work.  Probably at more like 30 to 40.   Still, I delusionally hope I will finish this weekend.

It will be worth is.  Once this system is up and working as it should.  I cannot wait until that day.  Hopefully by this summer I will basking in the clover of this weekends work.






12 thoughts on “Working for Free

  1. I love that the company is so careful about some of the customers. I’m intrigued by the challenge of getting that kind of information/ care into something as black and white as a database.

    And I get that sometimes you have to work long hours now in order to insure that a process goes smoothly and doesn’t give you headaches. Wish you were getting overtime, though. If I learned one thing, it’s that even nice-seeming companies have no compunctions about laying you off when expedient. No matter how hard you work.

    Though your company does seem much nicer and civic-minded than those I worked for in Hollywood.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They are nice but you are right. People lose their jobs from nice companies too. I’m doing this for myself mostly. Because it matters to me. Makes me feel satsified. And they would pay me without complaint if I went into work this weekend. But I’d rather do it from my bed. So basically I’m sucking out the money from myself. It’s a not a very financially sound decision.


  2. I’m glad to see you’re so optimistic about the new system. And it will make life a lot easier for everyone in the company once it is up and running.

    I know all too well how difficult it is to transfer to a new system like that. My wife has been involved in the state’s transition to the new electronic medical records system and it has been a struggle. She’s been working with 7 state health care facilities food service operations to get their existing systems for therapeutic diet orders, allergies listings, etc (some of this is life threatening information that absolutely needs to be accurate) standardized between all 7 facilities and then put into a form that the new e-records system can deal with. It’s been a massive struggle. None of the facilities had a standardized system to begin with. The had different names for the same diets, different ways of coding allergy information, different ways of putting religious diet restrictions into the system, etc. And none of them could understand why they couldn’t just keep doing it the way they always did. She’s spent hundreds of hours on this and some people have fought it tooth and nail all the way.

    She’s been warning them all along that once the system goes “live” they aren’t going to be able to make any changes except by going through a change order system that can take weeks, so they needed to be darn sure they had everything done properly. And, of course, a lot of them didn’t, and now that the system has come on-line they’re clamoring that things need to be changed and want her to do it, and she can’t any more. Now that the system is online they can only make changes by going through a specific process where they have to submit change orders to the IT people running the system. She no longer has any control over it, but they still expect her to deal with it. Sigh…

    Well she’s retiring in another four weeks so it isn’t going to be her problem any more. I feel rather sorry for whoever takes over her job. She’s been making copious notes about the entire process and how everything was done for whoever ends up in her job, but, well, they should already have her replacement selected and she should be training that person right now because this is a very technical, complicated position that someone can’t just step into. The way the state’s hiring process works is a joke. They haven’t even posted her position yet and the new person should already be in training. Sigh… I feel sorry for whoever ends up with her job. They’re going to throw her or him into the deep end without any kind of training or backup at all as soon as they come onboard.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh My. What is probable is that she will make all these careful notes and the new person will put them in a drawer. I have found that very people use reference material. They delude themselves that they can remember or they interrupt someone to ask for info that is available in reference material. When I ran a call center, my trainer would set up a newbie’s desk with all the cheat sheets and then constantly refer to them as she trained. Still people would ask her a question where the answer was LITERALLY on the wall in front of them.


      1. My wife got a lot of help when she started in this job, but it’s changed so drastically that what she really does isn’t really even reflected in her job description any longer. It’s going to be a real struggle for whoever takes her place. Plus we have a new governor who was just elected so everything down in Madison is being shaken up and things are running even more slowly than usual.

        Her job title is “state dietician” but that’s not what she does. She works with the Dept of Health, Dept of Education, Dept. of Corrections and Dept of Administration, deals with all of the red tape involved with the school lunch program at the state operated schools, puts together $100 million contracts for multiple state agencies for food products and transportation, is the lead person on the state’s temperature tracking system at multiple state pharmacies, drug storage areas and food prep sites, is the lead person on two software systems used at the food service departments of 7 different state health facilities, teaches ServSafe classes for state employees and is a proctor for exams, was the coordinator for bringing the state’s food service departments into the new records system… I have absolutely no idea how the heck the woman manages to do all of that. I am in awe of that woman and what she is capable of doing.

        Dear lord, she is going to be bored when she retires in February!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Maybe not. February is when the serious planning for the garden begins. Heck, you can even plant your seeds in February. She will probably be basking in the glory of that for a while.

        I hope she finds retirement is good. 🙂


  3. I can relate to this. We transitioned to a new all encompassing employee system when I was working. The transition was painful. We needed the old data to be transferred into a form that the new system could accept. We hired an IT contractor to do that. He whined and complained so I fired him on his third day. I found that with some minor help from the company’s IT group, I could do it myself and so I did it. I was the department head and salaried but the depth of information I learned from doing that was priceless. No one, not IT folks or company sales reps could snow me. Good luck to you. I hope it only takes one weekend. Technically it’s against the law for the company not to pay you no matter where you work. i just hope they treat you right.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. My brain cells were all befuddled by what you are doing. Clueless about data transfer. I struggled over getting the “stuff” transferred from my old phone to my new phone back in November and in the end it was relatively easy… such a tiny thing compared to the scope of your project. I totally understand you doing this… both for the satisfaction and the hope it will all go smoother with less anxiety and serve your clients better. Hope you are finishing up and that you will be “basking in the clover” after all your work and effort.

    Liked by 1 person

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