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New systems meltdown – the story of Mr Brown

Audit and risk
Mr Brown awakes and rests on his elbow, scratching his bristled face. He can smell the stale coffee and cigarettes on his breath. One too many late nights having to catch up. The white cotton bed-sheets feel soft on his skin. He has to resist the urge to lie back down and close his eyes. He turns to see his wife nestled in a pillow. A wisp of auburn hair falls across her face. He brushes it aside, gently kissing her forehead, pivots and seesaws out of bed. Through a crack in the beige double-lined curtains he looks out into the pitch-black. This is the time when the moon has gone to bed and nothing is stirring. It is 3am and Mr Brown has a lot of catching up to do.
Mr Brown is the manager of a local bank. Head Office has recently installed a new banking system and the branch is struggling to get to grips with it. There was a one day workshop, where heavy hitter IT specialists explained the system, but the terminology was so over everyone’s head that yawns formed the order of the day.

The branch employs ten staff and morale is at an all-time low. Everyone has to stay late to fix all the errors that kept repeating. Mr Brown’s biggest fear is that one day there will be a financial error so big that the branch will shut down. So every night, after everyone has gone home, he stays to double check and re-check every entry. The situation has been going on for weeks and the strain on his health and his family is taking its toil. Something has to change soon. Mr Brown has sent email after email to Head Office to ask for support but everyone is under the whip. “Sorry Mr Brown there is no more budget for training support.” The system development has gone way over budget and now the policy is “Every man and woman for him/herself – sink or swim.”

Does this sound familiar. This is a common problem with IT and systems development. Businesses often get the idea to standardise or modernise their systems. They develop a system that may be the “Holy grail” but if the users cannot operate the system then it is untouchable, an accident waiting to happen. Automation should reduce workload but for many the workload is increased. The number of checks and balances required to make sure processing is done right can be overwhelming.

We have identified two main causes for this new systems meltdown:
1. The system does not work properly.
2. The employees do not understand how to use the system.

Though it would be nice to blame the system, invariably the problem is one of understanding.
Lack of understanding can stem from employees not being willing to change and learn a new system or from inadequate training. Often the change is done at too steep a gradient (too much too soon) or the basics and fundamental steps are skipped and there is not enough time for the end-users to demo and take ownership of the system. The net result is confusion and resistance.

With low confidence in the input, management are required to review the output in greater and greater detail and no longer have the time to manage.

We have some simple tools that will assist you in assessing the functionality of your systems and the reliability of the information coming out. This won’t break your budget and will even save you time and money. Above all this will give you time to actually MANAGE!

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