When not testing properly nearly killed a great brand

I’m not going to name any names, that would be inappropriate. This is a true story about a brand that I know, I use and I value which is in a tailspin that it might never recover from (I do hope it does). But it never needed to be in that situation. The only reason it is is that the internal experts in the US-based IT team did not consider the upgrade of their Tier 1 ERP and financial system in the European division, very important. “It is just a simple upgrade, just do it, it will be fine.”

The reality was rather different. 5 months down the line, unable to collect any cash to the tune of $40m or more and with the company in a terminal dive towards the harsh concrete of shareholder value, the company is up for sale. The parent company got bored pumping in cash to keep it in the air, and now it is up for sale.

The reality was that the changes, particularly in the financial modules (as clearly warned by the vendor), were substantial. The result was that when the European division went live, the sales ledger went to pot and the distributor records were an unintelligible jumble. No one could tell who owed what money, from when or for what. Equally, the distributors struggled to get more stock due to the mess. They of course voted with their feet and promoted other brands. I met another enthusiastic user of their products a couple of weeks ago and he observed, “That’s probably why I have never had to pay a penny for these”.

Shift Left didn’t help these guys. The software had been thoroughly tested by the vendor, as much as it can with hundreds of thousands of installed customers. The users did not think Shift Right – Right to where they are at the sharp end of using the application to run their business. I don’t know who should take responsibility – IT for saying “Don’t worry”, or the business for accepting that and not taking their own lives into their own hands? Probably both.

But the point is if when you upgrade or patch a key application, consider what the effect of major parts of it not working properly on day one might be. If those thoughts make you sweat, do something about it, don’t just trust everyone else because the end result can really be loss of jobs and the possible loss of a whole iconic brand.

George Wilson SVP/Operations Director Original Software Ltd.

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