Left-Handed Baseball Gloves

A local Sporting Goods retailer that had just acquired a Baseball competitor. Their ecommerce system had a clever database structure to make ordering easy from either the website or the call center. For any given Product, there could be hundreds of Stock Keeping Units (SKUs) based on Sport, Size, Color, Number, or other attribute. The database was easy to use but difficult to load.

Jim was brought in to build a one-time application that would build all the data base records needed from Excel spreadsheets from the old system. In addition, every SKU in the system had to be "smart"; that is, anyone can tell everything needed to know just from looking at the SKU. For example, a Wilson A2000 medium left handed female softball catcher's mitt might be: WIL-A2000-M-LFSC-01.

Jim wrote the application to build and load all the SKUs, Sales Orders, Work Orders, Inventory Locations, Boxes, Bins, history, and supporting indexes. He had 10 users log in to the new fulfillment system and update all the activity not on an Excel spreadsheet. This took 2 days.

Then a strange thing happened. The owner of the acquired company asked why they coded all of the left handed SKUs as right handed and vice versa.

Huh? Apparently the people from the acquiring company who encoded the Excel spreadsheets didn't realize that a left handed player wore their glove on their right hand! Every data base record was wrong.

The choices to fix this were:

1. Make L = Right and R = Left forever.

2. Jim could add one line of code to his load application to reverse the bad data on the Excel spreadsheets, rerun it, and then redo 2 days of data entry.

3. Jim could write a "quick and dirty" one-time program to fix 500,000 bad data base records. It would take a day or so to write, test, and run, but no one could do anything until he finished.

They chose Option 3, sent 5 people home, and had the other 5 do other work.

BIG QUESTION: Why didn't anyone in a Sporting Goods company know that a baseball player wears their glove on their non-throwing hand?

BIGGER QUESTION: Why didn't anyone from either company review any of the plans, specifications, or data BEFORE work began?

BIGGEST QUESTION: Why didn't a Sporting Goods company that had made 9 acquisitions in the past 3 years have any standard methodolgy to do acquisitions? Why did they even need Jim?