“Web services is making life way easier,” he says. “If somebody gives us a change of address … through a Web service I can have that change of address propagated out to the vendors that they go to buy a Sierra Club cup from. And, if they go to buy the cup, I know that within moments of that happening. So again I’ve been able to synchronize my data. The fact is the data is now integrated but it doesn’t sit on the same server. We’re not there yet but that’s the promise.”
Next on his day’s ‘To Do’ list is yet another troublesome topic that many would find familiar: user training and security issues and, one particular pain-point, upgrades.
“Keeping computers patched and even with Norton Antivirus and automatic updates, it’s a real problem. People don’t realize that computers take some thought. But we’ve actually found it very useful at some of our hub locations to send a trainer out there for a couple of days; just elbow-to-elbow with people. It makes a real difference.
“The other big issue we have is keeping up with the relentless pace of upgrades to the infrastructure,” says Simon. “And the desktop is part of that. But it’s productivity tools, packaged applications, your database vendors, your, your … Peoplesoft (he says with agitation). You have to hire consultants to help you with your Peoplesoft upgrade. Its ridiculous. We actually hired some low-cost ones, fired them and actually brought in Peoplesoft in to help us finish it.
“It’s appalling. Peoplesoft in particular and I think SAP and Oracle are the same way. They’re just so complicated. It’s a little project. Its not like the old days where you just slap some disks in and update and all of sudden … your up and running again.”
In The News
Once in a while a headline topic actually comes into view for Simon, like VoIP. When it becomes more of a reality and he can push services out to his 60 field offices using one data line and they can receive using one data line, then he will turn his attention to getting those offices up to speed from an infrastructure point-of-view.
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