A Software Implementation Nightmare of Epic Proportions – Part 1

Today, Software ThinkTank launches a five-part series revealing the ultimate horror show – a high-cost technology implementation that goes terribly wrong.

This is the stuff of nightmares. Its victims: missionaries, compassionate donors and impoverished children. It’s a situation that would send any CEO or CFO into the pit of endless insomnia. And when sleep does arrive, it’s punctuated with 2 a.m. heart-pounding, sweat-drenched wake-ups.

Unfortunately, this is the project that goes from bad to worse. Each problem creates new ones, unleashing a living, breathing, multi-headed beast like some hydra from Greek mythology that thwarts every attempt to kill it.

And like that hydra, it takes Herculean effort to bring it down.

This is what happened to “Hope”, a multi-million dollar, international organization. Software ThinkTank spoke with the non-profit on the condition that they would remain anonymous.

Out of Africa

It was all supposed to be so perfect. In a world where children die every minute from typhoid, cholera, starvation and poverty, “Hope” could see they were at the tipping point. Armed with a powerfully integrated software management system, all it would take now was a few keyboard strokes to instantaneously transfer money and ultimately put food and medicine, books and even schools into hands around the globe.

Today is the big day. “Don’t worry about a thing. When we flip the switch, it will be seamless and you’ll be able to see all the donations that have been made.” Those were the last words Richard heard from head office, a million miles away from his mission in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Have a Little Faith

Richard reminds himself to have faith. All his life, he knew he was to have faith, and getting comfortable with new technology required every ounce of faith he could muster.

Richard turns on the computer and waits patiently for the dial-up to complete its sing-song. He peers outside the black-barred windows to watch the children play. The school bell would ring in a few minutes. He hears volunteers in the kitchen busy preparing the lunch menu for the orphanage. And there’s already a line-up of women waiting to get into the clinic. He’ll have to check to see whether Susan is going to be in today. She hasn’t been well. But that will have to wait until he logs into the computer.

“There, I’m in,” he sighs. He skims his eyes over the banking details, and then freezes.

“What on Earth?”

The opening balance says he has a $25,000 deficit. Last night his closing balance was $12,800.

“What’s going on?” He checks his watch: midnight at head office. No one will be there. And the contractor is arriving in minutes expecting payment for the new project. Now Richard can’t pay him a cent. Not a penny, until this gets figured out. It’s going to be a long day.

One’s Deficit is Another’s Windfall

Miles away at another mission in Kenya, Linda opens up her computer program and discovers a windfall!

“There must have been a big donation overnight!” Linda clicks to check the note section, but then recalls head office saying that feature wouldn’t be there anymore. No matter. She leaps from her chair to tell staff the good news. The library would be built after all!

What About The Donor?

Meanwhile in the United States, one of Hope’s biggest donors logs onto his computer and eagerly opens up an email from Alice in Thailand. He wants to know how the mission is using the $25,000 he sent them. Instead he learns the project has been halted.

“The money never came,” the email reads.

The donor shakes his head in disbelief. Where did that money go? It left his account months ago. Who are these people?

Bad News Travels Fastest

News zips through cyberspace that something is seriously wrong. With more than 70 missions experiencing unstable information, what was a dream is swiftly becoming a nightmare.

As head office wrestles to uncover the real figures, the ugly truth emerges. There is no windfall in Kenya. They have a $30,000 deficit. No one knows what happened to the $15,000. It’s somewhere, but where? As for Zimbabwe, that will have to wait. There’s a list of problems a mile wide ahead.

Everything is suddenly fragile. How is anyone going to explain this to the donors? How could even one mission be in debt like that?

Knock! Knock! Horror at Head Office

“We hate debt to begin with, and now you’re coming to your supporters saying ‘I’m $30,000 behind’,” recalls Donald, who was saddled with stick-handling the situation from head office.

“And now the missionary in the field is hearing: ‘What’s your problem? How come you can’t provide us with accurate information?’ Meanwhile, the donor is wondering if they should support someone else. That cycle is ugly. And now we’ve got double, even triple the work. And all we could do was take a deep breath, and hope the figures are close to being accurate.”

Faith had become a fragile thing indeed.

Find out if “Hope” can survive the attack of the hydra next Thursday in part two of our series, A SOFTWARE IMPLEMENTATION NIGHTMARE OF EPIC PROPORTIONS.

The Hydra ©2009-2011 ~hawanja

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