Identity crisis

This small company's bookkeeper has inherited her job -- and her PC, and most of her contacts -- from a predecessor who was well known along the company's supply chain, according to a pilot fish on the scene.

"The predecessor, Wilma, did the books for years," fish says. "Her name and email address was in use by banks, vendors and customer accounting departments.

"When Wilma retired, Betty took up her responsibilities. Rather than contact all the banks, vendors and customer accounting departments, Betty just kept Wilma's PC and used it along with her own."

A few years pass, the company does a technology refresh, and fish tries to convince Betty to consolidate everything onto a single PC. But Betty insists on keeping a second computer with Wilma's identity. "That's the way I'm used to doing things, and I don't want to rock the boat," she says.

Another year goes by, the bookkeeping department moves to a new office, and fish gets Betty settled into her new spot with her two computers.

But about a week later, fish gets a frantic call from Betty: "The check printer isn't working! I can't do paychecks and payroll has to go out! And I can't pay invoices because Accounts Payable won't print either!

"I don't understand! I processed Accounts Payable checks yesterday and everything worked fine, but now the check-printing icon doesn't pop up the way it should."

Fish knows everything is properly installed -- he did it himself. So he calls tech support for the payment-processing vendor and sets up a remote session. But the support tech says, "Strange, it doesn't look like the processing software is installed at all."

Betty is adamant: "I ran Accounts Payable yesterday and it worked fine. Something has gone wrong," she tells fish. "I have to finish payroll today or people are going to be after me!"

Fish is baffled, but he figures the only thing to do is go through the process of installing the processing software again -- which he does.

"Then Betty said, 'Oh, I just remembered -- I do checks and Accounts Payable processing on the other machine, the Wilma machine. Could that be why it wasn't working?'" says fish.

"Yep, that just might be it, I replied, without even an eyeroll. I told her at least now it will work on both machines -- and suggested maybe we should talk again about getting everything on one desktop."

Sharky doesn't care which machine you use so long as you send me your true tale of IT life at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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