I have been implementing SAP for the last 5 years. For those of you not familiar with this, it’s a program designed to help a company run its business in a “wholistic” way - meaning not glass pyramids, but you have your finance data and your warehouse data and your quality data and your labelling info all in the same huge database.
If you’ve done the implementation properly it works great, but sadly the communication lines tend to be “consultant speaks with big-mid boss; real users don’t get a say until the whole thing has been installed upside-down”.
Anyway, my first contact with SAP was as a “real user” in a company where us little people were involved in the whole shebang from the start. Since I was very, very low in the totem pole, I had no fear of opening my mouth when something wasn’t right - what could they do, send me to the weekend shift? I’d been in it for two years, thanks! So, after turning the original design right-side-up, I moved to the consultants team (if you can’t beat 'em, hire 'em).
The second in command of the help desk was a moron. I believe I may be insulting morons here, for which I apologize. Every three months he’d send a letter telling his customers (only because they’re “internal” doesn’t mean you don’t work for them) that they were being bewwy bewwy bad boys, and they should call in with their problems, instead of emailing the helpdesk. Yes, yes, you must phone. The email address was monitored but not quite and you had to phone, yes yes.
He happened to send the exact same message for the sixth time on a day I was particularly up to here of self-centered assholes and cultural problems both. We were in the middle of testing the system with our Latin American users; another team (in which all the consultants were externals with no “factory work” experience) was testing it for the English-Spoken Asians. Data that shouldn’t had been touched had been, so I was kind of jumpy.
And then we get this letter, and I wish I had a video of our Argentinian Quality Manager reading it out loud. I wrote to the call center guy, telling him “these letters aren’t working; have you thought of wondering why? Have you thought of paying more attention to the emails, instead of telling people to phone? They email because it’s easier and more convenient than the phone, not just out of spite! Have you thought of adapting your product to your customers?”
He got mighty pissed and called my asshole-of-a-boss, his buddy, who yelled at me, and to my boss’s boss, who didn’t yell at me because she actually used her brain, and I ended up having a chat with the helpdesk’s boss.
me: Do you speak any language other than English?
me: Oh, you never took any language classes at all?
he: Well, three years of Spanish in High School, but I sure don’t speak Spanish.
me: O-K. So. Depending on when they call, users may get an American, or someone from China, or someone from India. Now, I’ve got serious problems understanding the Indian’s accents, do you too? We’ve had meetings where it was one of the Americans who had to ask the Indian guy to please slow down and pronounce. OK. Now, most of our foreign users have had three years of English in High School. Or two. Or none, like the Brazilians, whose foreign language in school is Spanish. So, you have people with English as a second or third or fourth language calling on the phone and speaking with someone from India whose first language is Urdu, not English either, and this guy who’s calling is maybe at work at 9pm and he should have left at 6 but he’s the one on the phone because he has the best English skills in the factory and he’s got the warehouse manager and the production manager and the factory manager breathing down his neck and his wife is going to kill him and he’s supposed to explain a problem that isn’t even in his department, and he’s got to do simultaneous translation. And you’re telling these guys they’re not allowed to email, and you want them to listen? Yeah right! They’re trying to get their job done, not yours.
They set someone to monitor the email that same day; next week, they opened up a webpage you could use to create and track your tickets and include attachments. That pissed-off letter I sent to Mr Moron may have had something to do with my working for another company now… but heck, I count the end result as one of my lifetime achievements.