SAP — an appropriate name?

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Ubu here, with a little gossip from inside the bowels of the city: The SAP folks are sniffing around our offices. From the questionnaires we’re getting, I suspect they’re hinting that we should just toss aside the millions we spent on a new system just a few years ago, and the thousands of man-hours required to update to Y2k standards. We should spend thousands more hours and several million more dollars customizing their system to do what ours already does, instead of investing that time and money in further improvements to the system we’ve got. Hey, it’s a great idea, if you want to see an entire department melt down, and several thousand really angry citizens. The Traffic Court’s problems (although not SAP-related) would seem like a minor issue in comparison.

Bear in mind that this morning, I was just listening to someone complain that they spent over half of yesterday on ONE line item for our IT group, because SAP was so difficult to use. Frustrated by dealing with such an arcane system, he remarked, “I’ve got to move on.” The clear implication was that someone else’s request was going to the top of the stack, and IT was just out of luck.

So what’s the problem? Every little transaction (just changing screens) required some mysterious six- to ten-digit code that he had to locate and confirm was correct. Menus are not simple, and are located in odd places. The software doesn’t behave in the expected manner, and the icons are really different (i.e. the software does not follow the Microsoft system that 90% of the office workers in the U.S. are used to–remember SAP is German in origin). The old system? Two to four alphanumeric digits, or a simple menu with a Windows-standard interface. And the codes, when necessary, were often mnemonic. Where they weren’t directly mnemonic, they were often derived from the code for one’s department and branch, so they were easy to remember. When I fill out a procurement request now…

Well, let’s say I need to order pens. Wait, was 2030010042 for furniture, or office supplies again? Oh, neither, that’s the code for my office. Office supplies is…(grab a multi-page printout and start looking through several hundred items…) 511070. Now what’s the name of the line that corresponds to the budget program?

Isn’t this the 21st century? Where are my drop-down menus?

Those numbers used to be 1836 and 2405 in our old system. Much shorter and easier to remember, no? (Actual numbers have been slightly altered to conceal my office of course, but the number of digits is the same.) I’m just lucky that all I have to know are the numbers, so I can fill out paperwork properly. Our procurement people have to deal with the actual software. And they wonder why I built a stash of office supplies ahead of time?

I just hope IT has enough paper to last, until someone can figure out SAP.


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About ubu roi 35 Articles
Ubu Roi is a local civil servant who sometimes writes about what he sees.