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USCF WIS



 
 
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  #1  
Old July 22nd 03, 02:33 AM
TR
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Default USCF WIS

(Mike Nolan) wrote in message ...
(TR) writes:

It looks as though the MSA updating process isn't reliable yet.


Nolan wrote:
More precisely, it isn't automated yet, it still requires someone
(ie Gary Prince) to copy the files on the internal server, FTP them
to the external web server in Parsippany and install them there,
which probably requires shutting down the database server there long
enough to put the files in the proper directory.

[snip]

I'm glad to see the "yet" in the first sentences. Lots of manual
processes are reliable, but making them as reliable as an automated
system is usually expensive. We'd need another employee person up
Gary, and apparently we'd need more staff overall, at least to cover
the peaks in Gary's responsibility.

[snip]


Earlier this month, MSA was updated to add around 350,000 former members,
bring the total number of records available to over 569,000.

As of the last update to the MSA files the member tab shows as the
current published rating the one from the August 2003 supplement and
has both the June 2003 and August 2003 supplements on the Rating Supplement
tab.

MSA also includes under the tournament history tab all tournaments rated
through July 1, 2003 and has historical records back to late 1991,
which is as far back as the USCF has computer-readable crosstable data.


This *is* all good progress. Congratulations to the team.

[snip]
This stuff is hard to get right.. it takes an alignment of IT
resources and business practices and a management that attends to the
details. It's within the grasp of an organization the size of the
USCF, though.


One of the unfortunate consequences of around a decade of stagnation in
USCF systems development is that the infrastructure has become very
fragile. The membership system has broken down 3 times that I'm aware
of in the past 15 months, the rating system had a problem from November-March
that prevented the USCF from being able to print crosstables for many 2002
events, there have been more than a few problems with duplicated or
missing records in the magazine labels for Chess Life, etc.

Moreover, a lack of coordinated systems planning in the past and a series
of what were stopgap measures (even if nobody thought of them as such at
the time) has led to systems that are uncoordinated and difficult to link
together manually, making it even more challenging to develop automated
processes to keep them synchronized.

As George John noted in the MIS Committee Report in the 2003 Delegates Call
(which I received on Friday), plans are being developed, in fact they
are already underway, to completely overhaul the USCF's information systems,
but there is no capital improvements line for systems or software
enhancements in the proposed 2003-04 budget.


A plan is a great thing. (George-- is it appropriate to publish is
somewhere on the web for those of us who are not delegates?) A plan
without a realistic budget allocated to it... well, that's not such a
great thing.

Thanks for the update, Mike.
  #2  
Old July 22nd 03, 04:13 AM
George John
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"TR" wrote in message
om...
(Mike Nolan) wrote in message

...
(TR) writes:

-snip-

As George John noted in the MIS Committee Report in the 2003 Delegates

Call
(which I received on Friday), plans are being developed, in fact they
are already underway, to completely overhaul the USCF's information

systems,
but there is no capital improvements line for systems or software
enhancements in the proposed 2003-04 budget.


A plan is a great thing. (George-- is it appropriate to publish is
somewhere on the web for those of us who are not delegates?)


Since the 2003 Delegates Call has not been posted to the USCF Website, I
will be glad to post the MIS Committee report. See below.

A plan
without a realistic budget allocated to it... well, that's not such a
great thing.


I agree. I have attended the past five Board of Delegates meetings. None
of them included any capital improvments budgetting. I have complained
about this many times before with the hope that things might change for the
better. They have not.

The upgrade has never been part of any formal plan that is reviewed by the
Board of Delegates. It doesn't appear in any of the financial planning.
Therefore, it receives a too low priority, and there is no accountability
when nothing gets done. For example, there is a Delegates motion from 1999
that required the office to implement online submission of tournament
reports no later than August 2000. It's still not done nearly three years
later, and we have no specific plan that suggests when it will be done.

Should the Board of Delegates meeting result in a budget that lacks any
specific and reasonable expenditure for the upgrade, I plan to resign as a
USCF Delegate and will resign from all the Committees that I am a member. I
no longer wish to expend my time and energy on a sham organization.

George
**************************************************
MIS Committee Report to the 2003 Board of Delegates
This Committee has pushed aggressively for many years to have the USCF take
serious action to correct the computer and systems problems that are
crippling the office. We have watched as one Executive Board replaces
another, and Executive Directors come and go, but the computer systems just
keep deteriorating unchecked.

Executive Director Frank Niro has presented his vision of relocating USCF
headquarters, and improving internal processing so that the office will need
only half as many people to operate. He has hired a Chief Information
Officer, the first in USCF history, to handle the technical aspects of
carrying out the internal reforms. This subject is so important that the
Committee has had extensive discussions with the CIO to make sure that real
action will be taken. We believe that a sensible and realistic plan is in
place for finally cleaning up the computer mess that blocks Frank Niro's
plans.

The only problem is that the USCF has failed to allocate the necessary funds
to carry out the work. In order for Frank Niro's strategic vision to work,
the internal efficiency gains must be achieved by the time the USCF moves,
which is now only twelve months away. It is astonishing to the Committee
that the planning budget for the fiscal year that began on June 1 does not
earmark any money for capital improvements or software upgrades.

The Committee calls on the Executive Board and Executive Director to clearly
spell out how they intend to fund this plan.

George C. John

USCF MIS Committee Chair





  #3  
Old July 22nd 03, 09:50 PM
StanB
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Default USCF WIS


"George John" wrote in message
.. .

The only problem is that the USCF has failed to allocate the necessary

funds
to carry out the work. In order for Frank Niro's strategic vision to

work,
the internal efficiency gains must be achieved by the time the USCF moves,
which is now only twelve months away. It is astonishing to the Committee
that the planning budget for the fiscal year that began on June 1 does not
earmark any money for capital improvements or software upgrades.

The Committee calls on the Executive Board and Executive Director to

clearly
spell out how they intend to fund this plan.


We're gonna use vapor funds.

StanB


  #4  
Old July 23rd 03, 03:12 AM
Ernest W. Schlich
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Default USCF WIS


In article ,
(TR) wrote:

I'm glad to see the "yet" in the first sentences. Lots of manual processes
are reliable, but making them as reliable as an automated system is usually
expensive. We'd need another employee person up Gary, and apparently we'd need
more staff overall, at least to cover the peaks in Gary's responsibility.

You are correct that properly writing software so it correctly handles
irregularities is expensive and in my opinion can also be difficult. However,
for stuff such as website updates, to not automate the process is penny wise
and pound foolish. The changeover when Gary Prince took over amply
demonstrated the problem. Consider just updating the ratings website (not
MSA). It only involved FTPing a file to a server and running an indexing
program. Took me only about 10 minutes or so each week. Trouble occurs when
I'm not there for some reason. You need someone trained to do the process,
documentation on how to do it, and periodic refresher training if the backup is
infrequently used. It this was the only manual process, that would be one
thing. When almost everything is manual, errors become more likely, less time
is available for other important stuff such as conversing with members (phone,
e-mail, visits) and unusual problems.

The rating/membership process is another good example of how automation will
help and is worth almost any expense. I run weekly events at my club. The week,
I have a new member. I send in the rating report with a blank ID field. The
ratings data entry person has to review every report for missing IDs, wait to
process the report until the membership person has processed the memberships,
and then has to look up and enter missing IDs so the report will process. If
this was the only problem, we could live with it. Unfortunately, the problem
repeats when the new member plays again next week and the ID has not been
published on the website. Again, I have to submit a report with a blank ID
field and again the process repeats with the additional waste of time. For
someone to have to manually update the website each day or week is an obvious
waste of resources. An automated system would update daily, not waste time, and
provide a desired member service.

In each of these cases, you have to plan for problems. What happens if the
website server is down? What happens if the phones are out? What happens if the
connection is broken half way through the data transmission process? What
happens if the indexing on the server fails or some other problem there causes
the update to completely or partially fail? If the software is not written to
deal with exceptions and do error checking, the manual process syndrome rears
its ugly head. Someone then has to know how to and remember to check every time
an automated system is supposed to do something.

Regards, Ernie

Regards, Ernie
Ernest W. Schlich
 




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