The Fully Automated Manual System was originally published on September 22, 2006

It was to be the perfect system: requested by an IT-friendly internal client, managed by a competent project manager, described by insightful business analysts, designed by an experienced architect, built by intelligent programmers, and perfected by thorough testers. Its goal was hefty but noble: replace the current manual billing system with a fully automated process that tracks jobs, hours, accounting, and payroll. It was to save employees across the organization a lot of time and save the company a lot of money by bringing payroll processing in-house. But alas, it was confronted by an obstacle it just could not overcome: the Chief Technology Officer.

At D. Travis North's company, the CTO prides himself on being a "developer friendly" type of guy. He even manages to keep up with his prided developer certifications. At least, so he believes. A quick trip to his office would show his latest pride and joy: a Microsoft-Certified Visual Basic 4.0 Expert certificate from a little more than a decade ago.

No one's really sure how the (mostly implemented) technical details of the new payroll system managed to reach the CTO, but to an expert like himself, they were completely unacceptable. He immediately suspended the project due to "serious security problems."

The main concern the CTO had was the fact that programmers would have to access the vendor's direct deposit system in order to implement direct deposit. It was explained to the CTO that, technically, the programmers wouldn't access the production system, only the vendor's test system. It was also explained that the communication channel was through a VPN tunnel that programmers could not access directly. And it was also explained that the direct deposit interface was limited to transactions against pre-determined bank accounts. But none of that mattered -- it was still too big of a security risk. Fortunately, the CTO was ready with a better, more secure solution.

The CTO called for the system to be changed so that each department and branch manager would print up a "direct deposit" report. The manager would then fax the report (because it's more secure than email) to the corporate offices. The reports would then be entered, line by line, into the direct deposit vendor's web application by any one of the six data entry clerks hired for this process.

The system is still in use to this day. Every once in a while, a clerk will make a typo and someone will notice a digit or two transposed on their direct deposit receipt. D. has just come to accept that as a sign that the fully automated manual system is alive and well.

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