How things don’t change

[Monday: 3 miles on the treadmill; Today’s run: 3 miles]

From 1998 to 2019 I worked for PRPA in Ft Collins. I was the back-end support for a utility billing system which was used to crank out bills for municipal utility customers in Longmont and Ft. Collins. Toward the end of that time the software was getting old and some infrastructure parts were unsupported and things were just due for refresh or replacement.

The City of Ft. Collins finally got started with a years-long project of replacing the software. That progressed and I eventually retired from PRPA. Since then I’ve done a bit of remote consulting to help transition to the next generation of employees. But I am out of the loop now, except maybe for some very crusty old questions should they arise.

This last summer I learned that the Ft. Collins project hit some snags. The City had hired a company to install and customize the new software (even before I left), but the process did not go smoothly. Now the City and the Company are in legal process to try to sort out who wasted all of the money. See this article in The Colordoan.

Which of course means that they are still running the old software and will be for a few more years.

Besides keeping things tidy and humming, I also had the task long ago of writing some auxiliary bits. I did almost all of that in a scripting language called Perl. Early on I wrote a multi-file 10,000 line Perl program to translate the output of the billing program into HP-PCL printer formatting to put the data on the printed page the way they wanted it. And I wrote scripts to generate late notices and handle file transfers and other in’s and out’s over the years.

So here we are 20 years later and my Perl scripts are still formatting the bills, and probably will be for 3-4 more years. I don’t know if I will ever be called on to look at them again. It won’t break my heart if not, but I think I could do it.

2 replies on “How things don’t change”

Ha! Love it! If a jury trial then good luck getting regular folk to understand the ins and outs. Lawyers will come out ahead, regardless. You could make yourself known (vs. wait for them to call) should they need it – like those people hired for Y2K.

In 1995 I moved to MPLS and was hired as contractor by Northern States Power (now Xcel) to help with data issues after they had new customer service billing system installed (Andersen Consulting?). They got into all kinds of trouble, even with regulators as I recall meters weren’t being read the required minimum times/year – and and a host of other things. It was a hot mess…

My current employer is changing their HR system to cloud based at the end of the year. The old system was around for two decades and works fine. They guy who “bought” the news system has since moved on to other employment – left before implementation. The accounting reporting is extremely bad and the cutover is end of this month. (I am in corporate HR accounting with some finance.) We have no reports to look at, no training, nothing. Gossip form inside sources say the focus is on making sure people get paid correctly. The rest will have to wait. Stress in the payroll department is high. It think someone higher up in my department is going to look very bad and finger pointing between finance and HR may not be publicized but later on a head might roll. The below link has bullet points that are all crap, AFAIK.

Sounds like time to get serious about a new job, Jonathan. Otherwise, you’re in line for a big raise for having the guts to stick around when all the other people abandon ship.

There’s a whole cottage industry of people who travel from failed conversion to failed conversion and make big money salvaging whatever function they can from the broken dreams of the marketing powerpoints.

It would be interesting to compare the bullet points for the new system with those of the similar presentation the people still selling your *current* system are still touting.

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