Empowerment leads to Y2K compliancy

While some employees find it difficult to convince upper management the year 2000 (Y2K) crisis is looming, Deborah Jandrlich did not find it difficult to convince her president.

“We have a unique governing principle at Creo called ‘Unit Presidency,'” said Jandrlich, a SAP project manager for Burnaby, B.C.-based Creo Products Inc. “The idea is that everybody is the president of their own job and they are expected to show the ROI [return on investment] for any business decisions they make.”

This philosophy applies as much to the person on the shop floor who wants to buy a pair of callipers that might cost $1,000 as it does to somebody like Jandrlich who has to “justify spending a couple of million dollars” on a software implementation program.

Once she was convinced the company “could come to a grinding halt” at the dawn of the year 2000, it wasn’t difficult to obtain funds so she could solve the Y2K problem. Upper management “realized we didn’t have the correct IT tools to meet our business needs now, and certainly not into the future,” she said.

Jandrlich’s job was made easier by the fact that Creo, a developer, manufacturer and distributor of digital solutions that automate the pre-press phase of commercial printing, had tripled in size over the last three years — growing to 1,100 employees.

Rapid growth meant the company had to upgrade its operational software since its existing system was taxed to the maximum. Without a more powerful, Y2K compliant system Creo “would really be flying blind” come the year 2000.

Managing materials, planning production, consolidation, human resources administration, sales and distribution, inventory control, parts ordering and billing “is not the kind of thing a major manufacturer can do on paper,” she said.

The overhaul included the installation of a Y2K and Euro-currency compliant SAP information system. Euro-currency compliance was required as the company has an office in Brussels serving its European operations. But the company had a few little things to take care of as well.

IT staff had to make sure employees running databases on personal computers — all the little spreadsheets and little databases — were also Y2K compliant. And there was also a lot of hardware testing going on. In most cases, hardware problems were solved by swapping non-compliant boards for new ones with compliant chips.

The Y2K exercise will keep the company operating and that will keep the company in business, said Jandrlich who added that Creo’s customers, including media conglomerates, need to know their vendors will be operating in the new millennium.

“They put a lot of requirements on their suppliers. So we had to go through [the Y2K] exercise to ensure ourselves that we didn’t have a problem and to ensure our customers.”

It took Creo 18 months to implement SAP and Jandrlich couldn’t imagine having to rush such a project. “You’re not going to install a major software product that you can turn on in a week and load data into it,” she said.

— Paul Lima