By Jerry Bujaucius
This week, IT Manager Republic will feature the daily diary of Jerry Bujaucius, an IT manager for a Fortune 100 retailer/wholesaler of commercial products. Bujaucius’ divisional office is set to move 1,500 miles away in six months, and he’s overseeing the transition of an IBM AS/400 computer system and 14 PC servers running various business applications that are vital to his organization. His main goal is a smooth transition that minimizes downtime.
Today is our weekly combination operations/support and projects staff meeting. I generally run the meetings in the following format. First, I review any vacation and training time that’s planned for the coming week. Next, I review key IT management topics going on within the organization, as well as any major projects planned for the following week. Here are some big changes going on this week:
- We are planning an upgrade to our sales reporting system to account for some new products and new salespeople.
- There was a major phone system change at our corporate headquarters in Memphis; all of that location’s DID (Direct Inward Dialing) numbers changed.
- We received notice that 15 new customer service representatives will be arriving in three and a half weeks for training; we need to have equipment available.
- Our corporate IT group has denied employees use of Real Audio Player for external use.
I usually spend some time reviewing both key technology developments and industry news of interest to our IT group and our business. This can include anything from hardware and software developments to government decisions. I like to particularly target Internet improvements and virus warnings. More and more of our applications are either being built using Internet technologies or with future Internet use in mind. And even though we’re behind a corporate firewall, nothing causes us more aggravation than problems involving computer viruses.
To finish the meeting, we go around the room to each member of the operations/support staff and review any major problems they have had during the week. This gives each member of the group an opportunity to raise questions on a regular basis. Often, staff members at other locations run across problems that we have already figured out. It’s a great way to share information and lessons learned with each other.
One of our PC servers contains an SQL database that allows employees at one of our production locations to create schedules for machine operations. Two interim workstations, named production and test, are located at the main facility to pass information between our AS/400 computer system and the SQL server. These workstations run on some old IBM PL 300 PCs running Microsoft NT 4.0 Workstation.
We’ve decided that these workstations will have to be upgraded. At some point, they’ll have to be moved to a new location as we close our facility down. One of the big questions we face is where to move the workstations. Should they remain near the end users or near the AS/400 computer system? Because we operate a number of different locations over a WAN, this decision becomes important as the need for immediacy of data expands.
We decide that the best scenario involves shipping the test workstation to another location to see how it performs over the WAN. This application sends transactions out all day long, but the need to immediately process those transactions is not high. So we may be able to get away with taking these workstations off the LAN and putting them on the WAN instead. In any case, we are lucky that we can test the process well in advance of a final decision.
I finally get to spend some more time approving invoices and answering some e-mail messages that have piled up.
Another task I perform is approving invoices for all computer and communication equipment. Because we centralized a lot of purchasing at our division office, this practice has to be “undone” as the division office closes. For example, all company pagers are leased through the division office. So are cell phones and telephone calling cards. As the division office closes, each of these duties has to be transitioned to someone else.
I set up a meeting with one of my key AS/400 technicians to remove downtime through the date of the actual AS/400 move. This is always an area of concern for business, particularly for a 24/7 business. Unfortunately, we’ll have to do a lot of testing to ensure that the system is “moved” properly to the new location. We decide that the goal should be to minimize downtime while ensuring that the system will work okay after it is moved—quite the balancing act.
Although we’re closing a division office, we still need to retain a sales presence in this area. So, we’re going to be setting up a small Northeast office to support the sales group in New England. I visit some potential office space to look at the preeexisting wiring, the hub or switch that’s installed, and the phone system. Often, we can buy the existing network hardware for pennies (well, at least nickels and dimes) on the dollar from the company that is leaving the location. After visiting the site, we also saw a network printer/copier/fax machine that was available. This will save us a bundle.