Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Why computer system updates are annoying

Yesterday, I learned that I didn't have enough funds in my checking account (poor grad student as I am) to cover a small purchase, something that I knew shouldn't have happened, since I was supposed to be paid the previous week. However, I went online, checked my balance and account activity, and low-and-behold, I was overdrawn. Arse.

So this morning I called university payroll. I spoke to a very nice woman there who politely informed me that I wasn't hired. Hm! "Well..." I told her, "I'm pretty sure that I put in hours, filled in a time-sheet, and handed it in to the appropriate person in my department." However, that attempt was only met with the same polite information that my bi-weekly payments authorization was not in the system, and suggest that I call my department's HR person.

So I call my department's HR person, who is a lovely individual. She informs me that, no, I couldn't be hired yet, as I had not completed the "student employment application" on the new and improved student interface. Shit. The university's upgrading their system, and they can't "remember":
  • that I am eligible to work in the United States
  • that I'm not a felon
  • what my prior non-university employment was
  • whether I have family employed at the university, and
  • that I understand that I cannot profit privately from public research funds.
Well, I had to sign off on all of these things before. For five years. Why is it different now? What part of a W-4 tax form makes it obscure whether I'm eligible to work in the US? What part of the university's own employment form's section on prior felonies makes it unclear that I'm not a felon? Why isn't their database strong enough for it to figure out on its own whether I have family working at the University? (I'm pretty sure that they don't count anything beyond a first cousin.)

All because of four little questions that someone decided weren't important enough to 'port over from the previous databases did I not get my direct deposit, forcing me into negativity (financial and emotional). Why am I not surprised?

What really gets my goat, though, is that I had been working continuously for over one year! Yeah! I know. Apparently, the university's main HR database doesn't know that I'm working presently for it and getting paid. (Talk about the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing!) Sheesh!

Of course, I could be kvetching (hey! Firefox's spell-check includes the word 'kvetching'!) about nothing. These sorts of things may well be greater nightmares in other universities, in government, or in the private sector. Of course, not having worked through another system's overhaul, I'm in no place to say, and I'm merely disgruntled about the stupid shift over.

On the plus side, the interface is much cleaner, the graphics are nicer, and there are more pieces of information that can be accessed. (Previously, you might have to drill down through several different menus to find the one you were looking for.)

Therefore, this is the moral: When there's a system overhaul, immediately figure out how it affects you and seek to rectify the situation as soon as possible.

UPDATE 2008/06/25: I talked with the manager of my bank's local branch (where I set up my account). I showed him the university's pay calendar, explained the situation, and showed him the e-mail I received from my department's HR person stating that I can pick up my paycheck from payroll tomorrow. He kindly waived my overdraft fee. YAY!

UPDATE 2008/06/26: I went down to payroll myself to pick up a check they issued off-cycle. Although I had to take a 10-minute bus ride down there, wait 10 minutes for another bus after picking up my check, and ride the bus 10 minutes back to campus before cycling to my bank to make a deposit, it was very nice to spend almost an hour in order to get money in my account.

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