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Wanted, to hire: Interim 3000 IT manager

FRSA The Florida Roofing, Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors Association runs a Self Insurers Fund, one that's in urgent need today of an HP 3000 pro to manage the company's Series 937 and maintain its Cognos/Quiz apps. Michael Ricker, the CFO at the Orlando-based FRSA, called this morning and hoped to put a notice into our jobs section. The story is worth more than a listing, because it illustrates both hope for employment as well as a caution on preparing for another kind of disaster: the loss of a key employee.

At FRSA that's Ed Harms, who was diagnosed with and died of cancer so quickly that a scant six weeks had elapsed before he passed away. Like so many HP 3000 customers, FRSA employed one person who knew the details of its systems written in-house. Harms has been working on 900 Series 3000s there since the early 1990s. Back in 2008 we got an update from Harms on the ongoing migration at FRSA.

"Since the [HP 2001] announcement we have gone through three vendors to rewrite our software," he said. "We are doing it in-house and should be done next year."

But the State of Florida keeps changing insurance regulations, Ricker said, which has kept delaying the migration's completion. Ricker said his opening looks like six months of full-time work, some onsite ā€” just enough to maintain, patch and repair 3000 apps until FRSA gets onto its Windows migration system, also being written in-house. You can reach Ricker at [email protected] to inquire about this interim opening. In the meantime, he's making his own skills do the work that his expert performed in a fraction of the time. His biggest need is ongoing contact with the FRSA staff.

"I need somebody inside the walls of this building," Ricker said, "because we have meetings and you'll need to talk to people." Talking to people, as it turns out, is a 3000 skill set that retains significant value.

Few people would hope for a death to get hired, but opportunity makes itself appear in many ways. The 3000's experts and veterans are women and men of a certain age, one that raises health issues to a more serious level of concern. Migration suppliers and homesteading consultants agree that a sustainability plan is good insurance to maintain service levels for any site still running a 3000. Rather than focus on the cliche of a key staffer "stepping in front of a bus," most of these advisors talk about "winning the lottery, and then walking away."

At FRSA's Fund, the 3000 was already supposed to be mothballed by now, but Florida state law has delayed this project. It's a modest operation, according to Ricker, just one PC expert doing the migration work while Harms managed the production systems. Now Ricker is working overtime to try to accomplish what his expert knew, but didn't get documented soon enough.

There's work available here for a 3000 pro who wants to live awhile in Orlando, a nicer place to spend time than the northern states still frozen today. A Cognos veteran who's been laid off might be a good match, and Ricker is hoping that nobody's going to have to move into Florida to take on the work. Beechglen is doing third party support at the Fund, so there's 3000 support already in the picture.

IT operations have been pared back everywhere during the same downturn that had furloughed plenty of computer pros. HP has cut operational costs every quarter to maintain its string of profitable periods, especially in units where the sales are slumping. This is a common business response to a recession. The choice keeps an organization solvent and running, but it carries the potential for risk. Lean staffs make the remaining players more crucial, which should spur a drive to have existing work documented.

That kind of effort can get sidetracked in the name of more urgent tasks, like satisfying state auditors or building a replacement application. There are many delayed HP 3000 migrations, the kind that create interim homesteaders like the FRSA. It's common enough to call the next three to five years the Interim Era, as companies try to complete migrations while HP's 3000 resources have disappeared.

If you're qualified and interested, Ricker would like to talk to you at 407-671-3772, extension 267. If you've got a similar IT staffing model, some documentation and a plan to replace an in-house pro look like essential components of your sustainability plan.

The tricky part of this equation at FRSA's Fund is the need for in-person contact. "They'll need to be here for a month or better just to get a grasp of what we do," Ricker said. "Basically, we're an insurance company. I need somebody in this building to work with the staff in order to get the necessary business understanding."

Business understanding in among the most common skill sets for a 3000 pro populace that's been dinged for inexperience with newer technology. However, the knowledge of .NET or PHP can pale in comparison to knowing how a business process works. They called the 3000 vets programmer-analysts when I started to report 3000 news back in the 1980s ā€” because analyzing a business is at least as important as coding. Your older skill set is still in demand.