Monday, June 27, 2011

Thirty Years Of Jobbers - Chapter 1.11

Back in the early eighties, our typical computer installation consisted of the computer, a terminal and a printer, all located in one ‘computer room’, and everybody took turns posting their stuff. At the end of the day, all the day's business would be processed.

My routine consisted of supplying my customers with a numbering stamp that automatically incremented every time they used it and two boxes, one marked “In” and the other marked “Out”. Everything that came into the business during the day received a unique number and was tossed into the “In” box. After it was entered into the computer, it was moved to the box marked “Out”.

Everyone who adapted to my system was trained and efficient within two weeks’ time. If the boss allowed them to fight it, things usually went badly. Early on, I received my education on the topic of ‘aversion to change’. In 5 percent of the installations I officiated over, at the end of the first month we had to scrap everything we had done and start all over again.

I also learned another critical lesson: Installing a new computer had a great deal more to do with rebuilding the organization than it did with teaching people how to use the equipment and programs. Quite often, job responsibilities were reassigned and employees had to be retrained to take on new tasks previously performed by others.

I began to appreciate why my Air Force basic training, technical instructor, Airman Kupp, would kick me in the butt when I started dragging my feet on a forced march.  More than one bookkeeper had gone home in the middle of the day with a migraine headache. I’m afraid I lost my patience more than I should have. I’m ashamed to admit, my favorite line was, “Your boss is paying me $250 an hour to sit here and listen to you whine. Now, let’s get to work or we’ll find somebody else who will.”  

One of my worst problems was getting bookkeepers to stop doing what they had done for years using their paper systems. Quite often, I received a great deal of resistance with comments like, “We didn’t have to do that in ‘the old system’,” to which I would often respond, “Then, why don’t you go back to your old system?”

I had a strict rule that nothing was to be left for subsequent days. For example, if an electrical bill came in that was to affect a store when it was paid, instead of being put into a file folder and held to be posted later, it was entered as a payable to the appropriate vendor with an opposing entry to an asset account called “Prepaid Expense”.  That meant setting up many new vendors that were never recognized as vendors before.

Although I tried to change her mind, jobber number three's bookkeeper preferred to save up all the business for each day in seven neatly organized piles, and then enter each pile into the computer one week later. That's not the way the system was designed, but it seemed to work for her. The boss complained he needed the information sooner, but we had to admit, she was an excellent accountant, so the boss and I resigned ourselves to letting her do it the way she wanted.

In the spring of 1982, about the time IBM was entering the microcomputer market in earnest, most serious minded jobbers shunned microcomputers in favor of the midrange (minicomputer) systems, but with an entry-level price of around $80,000, most jobbers just put off buying computers altogether. Finding few jobbers who wanted to buy a microcomputer, I began turning my attention to the midrange computer line.

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