Spent your week box-ticking? It can't be as bad as the folk at this firm

Biz decides it's cheaper to bring in minimum wage jockey than fix database

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On-Call Friday has rolled around, regular as clockwork, and we celebrate the end of the week in the time-honoured way: On-Call, our regular column for techies to vent about frustrations from days gone by.

This week we meet “Chuck”, who – unlike most of our featured readers – wasn’t tasked with fixing this particular problem… because the firm decided to save money by, er, not fixing it.

Chuck used to work at a UK company that started small but that, by now, almost all of you will be familiar with (as always, we're keeping schtum about the details).

“When they first started, they worked from a small warehouse, and stock was near enough located in numbered spaces on the floor, with a list held on a dBase IV database,” Chuck said of the firm.

That did fine for a while, but as the business, its warehouse and its stock expanded, the powers-that-be decided the old database wasn’t fit for the job.

“One day, someone plugged in the wrong numbers in the locations [and] £50,000 worth of stock was missing for nearly a year,” Chuck said to illustrate the problem.

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In a tale as old as time, Chuck said that “the people in the expensive suits had meetings with the software developers who were making the database – and completely ignored the people that were going to use it”.

According to Chuck, these chaps decided that each person working in the warehouse had to be authorised on the system in order to pick stock from a location.

But they didn’t specify that locations could be authorised by zone or rows – it was by individual location. And so the trouble began.

“The warehouse admin realised that they needed to click on a box for each and every location that each and every member of staff was allowed to access. That was a whole load of boxes,” Chuck recalled.

They asked the devs to change the software so they could add authorisation by zone, but “were quoted a ridiculous price and told it would take four months”.

And so the company opted for the cheaper option: employing a minimum wage staffer to click boxes all day until all the existing staff members were authorised.

“This took almost six months to do,” Chuck said. “And every time a new member of warehouse staff arrived, it took a couple of weeks until they were enabled in all locations.”

Chuck left the firm before the new system came online, but told us that he believes his ex-employer eventually paid for the database to be fixed.

We at El Reg hope your week hasn’t involved to much box-ticking – but if you’re feeling angry and frustrated, remember you can tell us your problems.

On-Call is all ears for any tech support battles you’ve had, whether that’s convincing senior management that their bright idea might cause major problems down the line, or dealing with a particularly dense colleague. ®

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