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.
As I sit at my desk, reviewing the e-mail that has collected since yesterday, our mailroom attendant stops by my office with two large packages for me. They turn out to be the 3590-E11 IBM tape drive that was not scheduled to arrive until later this week. I deposit the packages in the center of the cavernous computer room. We’ll have to figure out a time when it can be installed without affecting our business operations.
Our Technical Services manager pops his head in my office and asks if I have “a few minutes.” In this case, the conversation involves a new application that has been sent via e-mail to the Technical Services manager. He and his staff maintain a complaint tracking system (CTS) for complaints about products sold to customer, investigations of complaints, and the resolution of those investigations. The application originally had been developed in Approach, a database from the Lotus SmartSuite product. However, as SmartSuite faded and Microsoft Office became more popular, we started converting our SmartSuite applications to Office. The revamped CTS application was delivered with no help files or notes as to how to install it. I said I would look at the application myself later today and see what I could do with it.
I go into the computer room and look at the 3590-E11 tape drive for our AS/400. It’s a used model that came from another company via IBM. But when I place a service call to IBM to have its reps install it on our AS/400, I am told that IBM's records indicate that we are not the rightful owners. Rather, a company in Winston-Salem, NC, “owns” the serial number for the tape drive we have.
I explain that we bought the tape drive through IBM and have an IBM relocation document indicating this. The IBM customer service agent on the other end of the phone says she needs some sort of proof-of-purchase, such as a purchase order or an invoice. Since the tape drive was ordered through our corporate office, I have neither. She gives me a fax number to send the proof-of-purchase to when I finally get it. Sorry, no service until then.
If all we had to do with regard to closing down our division office was to move our IBM AS/400 computer system to another location, I believe we could do that in a rather straightforward manner. However, complicating matters just a bit are 14 other items: the PC servers and workstations running other mission-critical applications. Some of these are stand-alone machines, but most of them have an interface to the AS/400.
I’ve arranged a staff meeting in which we review the PC servers and workstations one at a time to determine how each will be moved, when it will be moved, and who will assume responsibility for the hardware, the software, and support for the application.
We analyze each server to determine if the hardware will be usable at the new Memphis location. Because the decision to close our division office has been known for quite some time, we’ve made no effort to acquire new hardware or perform upgrades at this location. So, although the applications run well on our local server and workstation hardware, the hardware and operating systems may not match our corporate standards.
The closing of our division office also means that the support operation will have to move to the new location. In situations where the distance between an old location and a new location is significant—in this case, 1,500 miles—there’s a substantial risk that staff members will elect not to relocate to the new location. So a support migration plan becomes necessary.
We have decided to itemize each major application that we support and determine the “before and after” support needs. We break support into three levels. Level 1 is our regular help desk support. This includes any problem regarding a computer or system: hardware, software, or application. Level 1 support is available from 6:30 A.M. to 6 P.M. with live human beings. After 6 P.M., we provide support via a pager system to after-hours support staff. After-hours support is really only for production problems—we are a 24/7 operation. Luckily, most end users remember that.
Since a help desk operator can’t know the answer to every question that an end user can present, we also provide both the regular help desk operators and the after-hours support staff with a series of people who can provide Level 2 support. These are generally people who have an intimate level of knowledge about a particular application or system.
Level 3 support staff members generally are either in-house application programmers/developers or vendor application support personnel.
We recently learned that the new location has finally identified a new disaster recovery leader. At our present location, we have extensive disaster recovery documents for both our AS/400 computer system as well as our phone system. In 2001, we had five separate unpredictable power outages of varying degrees and time lengths. Because we are colocated with our customer service group (which uses the AS/400-based order entry to place orders), a disaster recovery plan for the phone system is as important as one for the AS/400 computer system.
Our existing plan was documented extensively. However, we didn’t place it in context with the new location. We need to find out where we will reside in the pecking order—first, second, or 19th!
I finally get to meet with my IT programming manager. Luckily, as we wind down operations at our existing location, there are not a lot of plans for new projects and programming.