Priorities

This big business-process outsourcing outfit is supposed to be managing its clients' ERP systems remotely. But that's not working for one client, says a pilot fish on the scene.

"We were accessing our client's databases through their network, using Citrix to go out to their data center and log on," says fish. "But we began to get kicked out of their system in the middle of processing accounts payable. The connection would drop in the middle of data entry.

"Due to the way the software works, we had to deal with lost batch headers and other problems. This plagued us for months."

Each time fish and his people are disconnected from the client's network, they have to either wait ten minutes for the username to time out on the server or call the client's help desk to ask for a reset. On some days, that means fish's company is missing its deadlines and performance benchmarks because they simply can't stay connected.

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And the client's help desk isn't happy either, because the volume of reset calls from fish's team is off the charts, and no one in other company can see what the problem is.

They finally decide something must be done. That involves fish and his people sitting on the phone for hours with a dozen IT engineers while they sniff the network connections.

As the dropouts are logged, a time pattern starts to emerge -- the disconnects are most frequent around 4 p.m. The engineers speculate that maybe it's a case of conflicts between servers with different levels of software upgrades. In the end, the client moves fish's connection to different servers to resolve the problem.

But eventually, fish's IT people conclude that wasn't the problem at all. "It was a single employee, somewhere in the organization who was using his own wireless laptop to access the Internet," fish says.

"When the employee took a break from work, he or she would pop open the laptop and connect.

"I never learned whether the problem was related to bandwidth restrictions, or the employee was actually taking over the connection."

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