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.