The Value of Independent Oversight

The other day I was working in my shop. I mistakenly placed an expensive tool in a precarious spot and as circumstance would have it, the tool fell and was damaged. I was of course upset but it was my fault and I own the mistake. I was focused on the task at hand and not paying attention to details. Well, when I checked for a new part to repair the tool and found it was more than half the cost of the original tool, I was even more regretful. It was a hefty price to pay and an expensive lesson learned.

I identified the supplier for the part, a well known company, and begrudgingly placed the order. The quicker I ordered the part the sooner I’d get over the sting of my hurried mistake. Ordering the part was easy and my credit card was charged immediately. I waited for an email to relay the shipping details, one day, three days, one week passed before I finally decided to call the supplier for an update.

Upon calling the supplier the phone was answered within a matter of minutes and the support person pleasant. I was advised that the part had yet to ship because the company warehouse was 6 days behind schedule due to a failed IT upgrade. I was assured however that the order would ship within the next week. I was not happy as the payment was processed the day of the order.

I had never dealt with the company prior. It’s likely if I listed their name you would know the brand and perhaps like me, having dealt with them or not had a positive image of the operation. The reviews I read prior to ordering were largely favorable. My opinion however has changed and I know that’s harsh. The reason is that had I been advised before placing the order I would have had an opportunity to consider a different source, or been an informed, understanding customer that waited for the part through the delay. Instead there was no communications prior, and I had to call for the company for the reason of the long delay.

Does this major tool supplier realize the cost of their failed IT upgrade? A six day delay in processing orders is a big deal. What is the cost in terms of revenue, rebates and apologies to big buyers and future sales, but far beyond that the damage to the brand’s reputation? What other companies that depend on the supplier were unable to meet their customer deadlines?

Often organizations large and small don’t consider all the details of a complex or even routine upgrade. Personnel sometimes don’t speak up due to politics or their input is dismissed. Many times companies don’t measure the business impact of failure and hence there is no back out plan to restore service or communicate status with management and other stakeholders. 

At a minimum when undertaking an upgrade consideration needs to be given to items such as, can the current infrastructure support the new requirements; can the in-house personnel support the project; is there sufficient knowledge and planning by the stakeholders to ensure success; and most importantly what are the potential impacts to the company if the project fails? Critical to every project is a back out plan. Should the project fail, how are negative impacts to the company and its customers minimized? Finally if necessary at what point does the company communicate with their customers and what is the specific messaging?

Of course I don’t have the detailed reasons for the disruption. I do however know one thing as do many of the company’s customers and that is they failed. While failure is not uncommon in the complex information technology world, it is largely due a lack of planning and oversight, and when things go wrong negative impacts are magnified. Perhaps if there had been a back out plan to revert to the prior state no one except the company and maybe it’s vendor would have known. Even planning customer messaging would have minimized impacts to the company’s brand and its customers.

Network Management Solutions has been assisting companies since 1996 to design, implement, monitor and mange IT infrastructure. We have helped companies recover from failed projects, security breaches and outages. Contact NMS for a free, confidential, consultation to understand how we may contribute to your business’s success and its good name.


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