Poor purchasing oversight

Stupid user trick No. 1: Wherein "overnight" means overnight

Incident: “Oliver, do you know anyone with a pallet jack?” This isn’t a question you want to hear from a friend over your Saturday late-morning Dewar’s and Froot Loops because there’s no way this call can lead anywhere good. So the instinctual answer is where you should leave it: “No.” But morbid curiosity always prevails, and the inevitable happens: “Why?”

The central ingredient of this recipe for disaster is an offsite datacenter, still largely under construction. A chunk of the cabling has been completed, so it’s time to build out the datacenter’s skeleton: racks, UPSes, cable management, basic monitoring. In other words, a $300,000 payday for APC. The problem is that IT staff can’t make the purchases. They can only make requests. Requests are approved and implemented by the purchasing exec, a bean counter who happens to be as technically inclined as Jennifer Love Hewitt and not nearly as curvy. The items are purchased by part number, and because the purchasing exec left the order until much too late, he requests that it be overnighted -- incidentally adding a few grand to an already strained initial budget.

So, the purchasing exec signs the overnight APC order. And what does APC do? Well, it sends a truck that arrives at the construction site overnight -- which happens to be Saturday. No execs, no IT staff, not even any construction workers. Just a security guy, who at least knew to call someone who got back to my friend. This friend is two states away and now winds up calling anyone he knows in New Jersey to find a pallet jack to rescue his $300 grand worth of IT equipment that’s sitting outside on a loading dock. In the rain.

Fallout: Yet more budget-busting corporate credit card charges as local movers had to be called to the site on a rush order to move all the stuff inside. The equipment got dry, but the budget postmortem was no fun.

Moral: If you’re spending significant dollars on any kind of specialized equipment, make sure the order gets tracked by someone who understands what’s being bought -- whether or not that person can actually place the order. If he doesn’t, spend a buck and buy him a clue.

[ Stupid user index | Trick No. 2: Yet another cleaning lady story ]

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