If you are reading this blog, you more than likely have a history with the challenges a consultant faces surrounding the political and social environment of the client worksite. At one such client, I was thrust into a volatile situation that had grown from a failed bonus system that had inaccurately calculated payments to its union employees. By the time the miscalculation had been discovered, it was too late; some workers had received too little, while others too much. The union works were greatly upset by having their pay deducted to make up for the mistake caused by the client's poor implementation of the system. The issue was not a defect in the system created; in actuality the system operated precisely as it was designed. The flaw stemmed all the way back to the original business and system requirements of the design.
Allow me to address some additional technical details of the system. In recognition of a contractual obligation with two machinist unions, the client built a system designed to pay bonuses to union employees three times a year. These bonuses, a one-time-a-year guaranteed payment and semi-annual performance payment, were initially done by a time-consuming manual process. Over a three year period an electronic bonus system was built to automate this process. In its first automated form, the system, based on legacy SAP systems, would generate all pertinent details to individual employees' worked and absent hours, but still relied on a manual process to calculate hours eligible for the performance bonus. In early 2008, the system was redesigned in order to systematically perform the process completely. Due to incorrect requirements gathering from a business perspective, the July performance bonus was calculated inaccurately, and resulted in the over or under-payment of over 800 employees.
My task on this project was to communicate with system stakeholders to gather the appropriate calculation and business requirements necessary for a successful February 2009 PFP payout. As mentioned before, the scene was volatile. Various members of the IT staff were pointing fingers at each other, and eventually the offending party was asked to take early retirement. I had to take an impartial approach to meeting with all of the subject matter experts, and yet also had to act as a detective to identify the progenitor of the fault in the logic. I began first by examining the existing documentation and speaking with sources on how the system failed. Through a series of personally facilitated JAD sessions, requirements and gaps were elucidated and recorded.
Throughout these sessions, as well as with individual interviews with the SMEs of the project, it was found that several individuals had varying opinions on how the bonuses were to be calculated. The original requirements for the flawed system had been written by the IT member who had been manually calculating the bonuses for years. This individual was not versed in translating this to an automated system. By speaking directly to the union manager, rather than the IT staff, the most revealing gap found was the direct PFP calculation; rather than adding together creditable time codes for hourly employees, the system was instead subtracting absences from individuals' scheduled hours.
The documentation I procured reflects new and existing business rules, requirements, and the proper calculation of the PFP bonus. These documents were relinquished to the development team, who were tasked with correcting the system based on our findings and provide testing grounds for the upcoming payout. Along with the initial remediation effort, future state assessments had been made, identifying the additional needs of the NDP system.
In closing, while the client landscape was abrasive, the chance to utilize the Business Analyst skills of deduction was rewarding. With the discovery of the proper calculation technique, this revelation finally put to light the cause of the incorrect amounts being paid, and finally cooled (mostly) the heads of those in hot water.