At Batzer, I
do did a million tiny things. Only a few of them require much on the ball. Not everyone, it seems, can design a useful Crystal report (which boggles my mind, but there you are), but anyone can do the rest of what I do. Server maintenance, diagnose a printer or computer with a tummy ache, create or troubleshoot a spreadsheet, swap the wires on the telephone system, set up a new user or a new computer…none of that is complicated. I’ve always known that, which is part of why I don’t feel particularly knowledgeable. I reinforced my opinion this past two weeks by writing up as many of the things I do as I could think of in clear, concise, step by step instructions, sometimes with illustrations. I wrote an instruction manual for what I do.
It filled a notebook. My wrists have been hurting from the typing. My brain has been all fuzzy from thinking about exactly what steps I take for each task — try to think about what you have to do to change a roll of toilet paper, and you get the idea. Not complicated, but if you are describing it so someone who has never thought about how new toilet paper appears, and who has never looked at the mechanics of the roll, the package, or the dispenser, it’s a bear.
In between processes and procedures, I designed a Crystal report to do what I do with the estimates. Timberline estimating creates a database for each estimate, which database is not formatted in the same way as Timberline accounting. The upshot of that is that, to transfer an estimate to the accounting and management software, the estimating program creates a transfer file that can be interpreted by the accounting software and will fit the accounting formatting. Fine. In between those ends of the process is the Batzer CFO, who wants the entries that produce the data to match his opinions. The CFO has no authority over the estimating department, so he doesn’t have any influence until the data is set to transfer to accounting.
What this means is that the estimator creates an estimate, the estimate becomes a job, and the data needs to be transferred…but the CFO won’t permit that until the estimate is reformatted to meet his expectations. The estimators won’t, the accounting department can’t, so it fell to me (who worked for the CFO a few years ago, and then for estimating) to sort it all out. There are about 80 criteria that the CFO has demanded over the past few years, that I clean up before he reviews the estimate file. Nobody else in the company is willing to do the work, so nobody else knows what to look for or, in some cases, how to correct the issues. There was no way that I could train someone for the job, because, even knowing that I am leaving, no one would take the job. My duty didn’t require me to do anything, but my ego needed to not have a maelstrom in my wake, so I made a robot Me. Thursday I play-tested it on one of the estimators; she printed out the report, which flagged the issues and printed instructions on what needed to be done, what questions or backup documents need to be asked or produced. It worked like a dream.
I just saved Batzer about $25,000 a year, and it cost them about $300 of my time. Not bad.
I thought about it, while I was building the robot, and decided that if a person can relate this line of data in the estimate with that line of data in accounting, there must be discrete steps to making that connection. I liked that enough that I wrote a report that grabs the estimate database and relates it to the accounting data, which, I think, proved I was right. I told our consultant for the software about the need, and he told me that “you can’t really do that.” Then I told him I’d done it.
Maybe I do know some stuff.
I finished the procedures, the reports, the training for half a dozen tasks, streamlined two processes (without asking) and started the entire office staff using a new and unsanctioned version of the accounting software (again, without asking). I worked like a demon for the last two weeks, finishing just at my final hour.
And now I’m unemployed. I’m not sorry. I won’t miss the pointless chaos, the wasted time, the belittling or the outright abuse. I’ll miss a few coworkers.
Crossposted from Epinepherine & Sophistry