May 2005

How to know how far you can go

NewsWire Editorial

I gaped down the narrow country road when I heard the calls rise up along its shoulders. “Last rider,” said the volunteers and road safety crew. Then, “Here comes the last rider.” I had stretched, eaten my lunch, refilled my water bag, all for the last 14 miles of the day’s bicycle ride. But I had not seen my wife Abby waiting at lunch when I rolled up to the pit stop on our 50-mile first day of the Hill Country Ride for AIDS.

She was a first-year rider this year, the kind who don’t have much to guide their effort. Abby was mixing some sag legs — those where cyclists hitch a lift on a support truck to the next stop — with her all-out efforts to climb and keep pedaling, staying in the saddle.

The course we rode that weekend looked like yours in your IT travels: some ups, some downs, mixed with long legs where your goal is to keep yourself balanced and moving. We carried maps so we’d know where we should go. You also might have a clear idea of the length of your course with the HP 3000: the measure of how long anybody can rely on a system the vendor is leaving behind.

What you want to know, like Abby on her first day of the HCRA, is how far you can go. To 2011, when Allegro says it will re-evaluate its 3000 support? To 2016, the date Robelle says it will support Suprtool and Qedit through? All the way to 2027, the date-bit roadblock for MPE/iX? Or simply the end of next year, when HP will leave your field?

Like Abby, you might have formed a plan a little while ago. We met up at Pit Stop Two that day, smiled for the cameras and rested up. Then I rode off solo, after Abby planned to sag agreed the next leg would be a stout challenge for a first-year rider. We would have to cross the Pedernales River over a bridge with an 11 percent grade of a climb off the river. Short, but steep in a way to stop many of our riders. This leg was a stretch to challenge the best. Hours before we crossed that river, Lance Armstrong powered through, flying up that grade faster than any of us amateurs.

Abby planned to save herself for other, less difficult miles. I expected her to be waiting when I rode into the pit. You might have expected to be away from your HP 3000 by now, saving yourself for the miles of learning on a new platform.

But you can surprise yourself, just as my first-year protégé surprised me on that narrow country road that day. Over the ride weekend I came to think of her as a protégé, a word whose root is the French for one who is protected. I wanted to ensure her safety, take the more cautious course. But instead of sagging the hard miles of climbing, she cleaned her plate of her courage and cranked up that grade. One stroke at a time — like you taking inventory of one program at a time to assess your transition — Abby pedaled through her course.

She pointed to help often in the hours afterward. Behind the last rider cruises the sag truck, always there to encourage and support, but urging the last rider onward. Belief works that way. She tells the story now, with tears in her eyes, of a woman who put her hands on Abby’s torso while those cranks turned ever so slowly up that grade. “Just keep pedaling,” she coaxed into her ear.

Later on Abby thanked the “sag angel” for pushing her up the hill. Shirley chortled. “Do I look like I’m strong enough to push you up that hill? You did it.”

And so with unexpected effort Abby stunned me by riding into that lunch stop on her own power, finishing miles we both figured she would sag. I told her I couldn’t have been more surprised if I’d seen Santa Claus ride into lunch. Proud, too, for seeing her reach for an effort which first appeared beyond belief.

You may not have believed you could still be running an IT operation with your 3000 this month, with a little more than 18 months to go before HP departs your community. Or you might not have believed you could assemble the talent and time to make a migration a reality, something with a genuine go-live date and man-hours committed.

But you want to finish your course, whether it’s toward an future independent of HP or on to the next business platform. A migration or transition is an adventure as daunting and satisfying as riding through Lance-grade terrain for two days. Often such a ride demands that we reach down into our reserves and do what we never have done before. As our Q&A subject Paul Holland notes this month, most of us have never done a migration before. Or, I can add, kept a business system running and stable well past the manufacturer’s attention span.

So how to know how far you can go? From my saddle, it looks like a mix of the extra mile and wise effort serves as your guide. Like Abby, you honor your desire by pedaling those extra miles — the additional months or years of keeping a 3000 in service outside of HP’s support, if your course demands less change. You can also expend additional outlay of migration tools and advice, since so many migrating 3000 customers are chosing to meet this challenge in-house.

At the same time, you must respect your experience and heed the small voice of wisdom that tells you it’s time to end your effort and find a new finish line. “There’s no shame in sag,” we told one another over our weekend. Indeed, there’s great honor in the courage to know when you’re reached your limits. However, you might discover those limits are further than you imagined. Listen for that voice of wisdom, but make a place for the spirits of sag that tell you, “Just keep pedaling.”

— Ron Seybold

Copyright The 3000 NewsWire. All rights reserved.