Friday, September 28, 2007


The strangest thing just happened.

I’ve been beating myself up all day for not jumping on a particular client issue more swiftly. I apologize to readers who may be numbers-averse, or whose eyes glaze over when you hear the word “accounting”, but I need to get a little technical to provide some background.

The Director of Finance uses an application I created for her predecessor to create monthly reports that compare actual expenditures to budgeted figures. My software doesn’t handle accounting at all; that’s done by a well known business software package that simply records transactions, one after another. My application reads their general ledger, applies complicated business rules to the gathered figures, and creates reports that reflect the real-world use of their money.

A few days ago, I found out they upgraded their accounting software to a new version. No one thought to tell me they’d moved their database until my application crashed for no apparent reason.

Once we got database access sorted out, my client was able to run her reports. Except now, all the actual expenses and income showed up as zero. I knew it had to do with the new accounting software, but I had trouble setting my focus on what might be wrong. When I finally got to it, it was simple and obvious.

The accounting software has always identified transactions in the period they occur, for example 200801 for the first month in this fiscal year. Every month from July to June, the last two digits change, 01 through 12.

The new version of the accounting database inexplicably changed that designation to 2008001, allowing three digits for the month. Obvious to my computer friends, but maybe not so much to others is this: when you look for a range of transactions from 200801 – 200802 (July and August of the current fiscal year), the new format returns no matches. No data at all!

It was near the end of the day when I identified the nature of the problem. I sent email to explain, but wanted to make sure my client saw it before she left for the weekend, so I called her while still silently kicking myself for dragging my feet.

Now, here’s the strange part: the disconnect between the way I’d been feeling and the way she thanked me. I was concerned I’d let her down by not contacting her sooner. She, on the other hand, said, “Thank you for coming through for us… like you always do.”

Over the years, friends have pointed out that no-one is harder on me than I am. I see all my flaws in full color 3-D. I try to overlook my weaknesses, but more often than not, they are simply the self-worth assumptions I live with, my baggage.

Some advise that when negative thoughts bubble up from your gut, you should pat yourself on the back and say, “Thanks for sharing.” I can do that. What I have trouble with is recognizing the negative thoughts in the first place.


Anonymous said...

I think anyone would forgive you for not jumping on top of this immediately, given your current situation. And yes, you're probably being way too hard on yourself.

But my question is, why would any programmer feel they need to leave three digits for the month?!?

--Barbara Peisch

Ceil said...

That's pretty hilarious, dontcha think?! A real geek joke.

I thought, that's a pretty simple to fix, but... why did they do that? Are they planning to change the periodic frequency? Even weekly transactions don't need more than two digits! But weekly transactions might require more complicated logic changes in my software.

If it's not monthly or weekly, are they planning to cram some other data into the field? Oy vey!

My best guess is they gave the database upgrade to a rookie....