Is your software system a nightmare or a fairy tale?
We want to share a story about software that we hear far too often. Unfortunately, it's more of a horror story than a fairy tale.
Once upon a time, there was a new business that needed some help getting started. One of the new employees just happens to know someone who knows someone that develops software, so the business asks that person to create a customised software system. Not only does the developer make an incredible product that suits the company perfectly, the project comes in well-under budget. It does everything the company wanted and when there are any issues, the developer fixes them straight away.
Then one day something goes wrong with the software. The developer can't be found and nobody else in the company knows how to fix the problem. Work comes to a grinding halt, leaving employees stressed and clients disgruntled. See, we told you it was a horror story!
Unfortunately, this happened to a client of ours recently. The company's software had malfunctioned meaning it was unable to access any of the data it needed to be fully operational. The developer had gone AWOL and no one in the company knew what to do. We were able to get them up and running eventually but it was costly, both financially and to the company's reputation.
Despite its best intentions, the company had been left with a piece of software that could only be looked after by one person. The clock had struck midnight and the once shiny piece of tech had turned into a pumpkin. It's a problem that many businesses have experienced and, unfortunately, most them find out only when the proverbial hits the fan.
That's when the companies call us and ask for help. Sometimes it's a simple fix. Other times, it could take hours, days or even weeks to sort out. The worst-case scenario is that the software, which was built using modern technology at the time, is no longer compatible with other systems that support it. This will require a complete overhaul, often causing major disruption to the business and costing a considerable amount of money to fix.
The moral of this story is to make sure knowledge about your systems is never entrusted to just one person. When one person is responsible, there is no need for them to make system upgrades, learn new skills, or share their knowledge with others. It's crucial that two or three people in any organisation know how its software works. This includes someone at board or management level. Have someone record and save the instructions as a guide, which can be communicated to others when staff leave or are absent.