Thank you for helping us out of trouble, here is your pink slip • The Register


Who me ? A story of discounts and process improvements through the magic of Excel, Access, and a bit of electronic tape we imagine. Welcome to Who, Me?

“James” is today’s regomized reader, and continues the theme of running the risk of doing a little too good a job with a turn-of-the-century ancestor involving his first job out of college, at some time. telecommunications giant.

The job involved a process of calculating the rebate received by large customers (those with multiple branches). “For my life, I can’t remember what the main database was called,” he told us, “but it was old-fashioned green writing on a black screen that took forever to download the necessary data.”

“On very large clients,” he added, “it could [take] 2-3 days with nothing for my team of four to do but twiddle their thumbs.”

There was, however, a problem. There were no discounts. Computers had scoured the data but, by the 1980s, customers had received nothing. “I’m not even sure it ever stopped working,” James said, “[I] long suspected that it was never implemented in the first place…”

The biggest problem was that these clients were starting to realize that something was wrong and the legal sabers were starting to click. The people who had let the situation evolve had long since left, and the personalities concerned?

“We’re talking hundreds of millions here,” James said.

What to do? We could blame the last person who walked through the door or we could try to make things right. James, a freshly trained computer whiz, sifted through the mess and got to work, armed with Excel macros and Microsoft Access.

Although its tape solution couldn’t do much about the download time, it could handle the rest of the process. An increase in speed between 10x and 20x was recorded and eventually the good discounts started flying to the good customers.

Catastrophe averted (although we’ll quietly shed some light on using Access for more than Christmas card lists and Microsoft stage demos.)

“My immediate management couldn’t help but thank me,” James recalled, “greeting me like some sort of super whizzkid.”

“It was all really, really embarrassing.”

They were so happy that James was offered a promotion from his temporary minimum wage job. Instead, he would be placed on a higher education course and find himself at management level a year later, earning significantly more money.

James’ future looked bright. Angry customers had been calmed down and discounts were being paid. The hero of the hour, yes?

Not enough.

His bosses’ largesse was spotted by their bosses who, it seems, didn’t quite feel the same way.

“I was promptly fired, offer withdrawn.”

And an important lesson learned, we suspect.

Have you ever saved your customers millions, only to feel the sole of a studded boot on your bottom? Or I took a look at a combo solution and decided it was someone else’s problem. Or were you the flagellator of this solution? Say it all with an email to Who, Me? ®

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