How to replace a critical system -- the hard way

This critical system is set for replacement in about six months, which makes working on that team a very unattractive proposition, according to a pilot fish in the know.

"One employee I knew was an older guy working with older technology, so they weren't going to drag him forward," fish says. "As other people left the team for greener pastures, they were not replaced, so his workload kept increasing as he ended up the only knowledgeable person remaining.

"He was on call 24-by-365, and there was never a time he was 'off call.' But management didn't care -- the system was going to be replaced in six months."

But priorities and politics being what they are, that replacement keeps getting pushed out -- and the beleaguered employee keeps getting more exhausted.

And after a particularly bad weekend of too much work and too little sleep, he's finally had enough. He tells his boss he's quitting and turning in his company PC.

Boss manages to swallow his own panic -- the only person who really knows this critical system is walking out the door -- and gets the employee to calm down, then heads off to HR to see what help he can get.

When the boss returns, it's with promises of more money, training, more people on the team to lighten the load, and a vow that the employee will only be called in a real emergency.

"The employee accepted, and was sent home to bed," says fish. "But at some point before that, when he still had a killing workload, he had changed his outgoing voice mail message. Being a Star Trek fan, he changed it to a very Klingon 'It is a good day to die.'

"Next day, when he returned to the office, his badge didn't work. He quickly called his boss, who was just as confused -- the boss never passed the resignation along to HR."

Turns out another worker had called the employee's number, heard the message and reported it to HR -- which decided he was a threat and terminated him immediately.

Employee's boss goes to bat for him, but HR won't budge -- and no one higher up in the food chain is willing to take responsibility for backing the employee.

The result: Pandemonium. There's very little subject-matter expertise in-house on the system, and the needed tech skills are in short supply too.

"They ended up bringing in six consultants who had the skills and availability to do his work," fish says. "They were kept busy learning the system and keeping it running while the replacement system was prioritized.

"Even so, it took them more than six months to replace the system."

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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