Daimler Takes DIY To The Extreme To Extract Financial Systems From Chrysler

When the big-name consultants said separating Daimler's and Chrysler's financial systems would take years and cost more than $100 million, CIO Jan Brecht launched a huge internal undertaking that cost half as much, saved loads of time, but required some heavy lifting from his staff.

Mary Hayes Weier, Contributor

October 17, 2008

4 Min Read

By October 2007, when the companies were legally separated, the work was well along. The IT staff was building the environment that would run on the servers at the EDS data center and had figured out what data needed to be moved and functionality replicated from Chrysler's systems. The business staff wrote detailed business requirements for the new systems, and IT started writing more than 17,000 scripts for testing software that was replicated or developed for the new operation.

The business staff tested what IT developed, checking connections to banks and running 360 business validation tests and 170 transaction processing tests. If the new systems didn't work properly, customers could get incorrect invoices, financial figures could be wrong, or the transactions might fail altogether.

The project managers from business and IT met daily at 9 a.m., often for several hours, to make sure both sides were in sync. Business managers shared the results of tests with banks, while the IT group updated the team on the readiness of specific servers to go live. Thousands of spreadsheets were used to coordinate all the tasks.

During this time, Daimler Financial continued to run its business systems at Chrysler's data center, and any changes had to be reflected in the existing systems and the ones under development. Daimler began selling the Smart Car in the United States at this time, so both systems had to be adapted to support Smart Car financing.

As IT staff dug deep into the 8,000 utility programs at Chrysler's data center, they discovered that some hadn't been touched in years and the source code documentation was missing. So IT tracked down retired IT personnel who had written the original code and brought them in to help rewrite the code for the new data center.

In February 2008, Daimler Financial launched a test, replicating data from the Chrysler systems, to show that a one-month financing period could end and another begin without 1-cent difference in the numbers.

Over the course of the entire project, a few problems showed up. Data extraction programs that the auditors had signed off on were accidentally lost; they had to be rewritten and signed off on again. Some data backups weren't done properly and had to be redone.

But the big gut-wrencher happened the night before Day X. Hundreds of people had already been up all night, testing systems and loading data onto disks when the worst happened. The daily reconciliation of all changes to data, which should have kicked in between 1 and 5 a.m. Saturday, didn't happen. A system error--one that had occurred about once a year in the past--was to blame: Daimler needed reconciled data in order to start the move to the new data center. "It was the most difficult moment in the whole project," Brecht says.

Dozens of employees and auditors leaped into action, completing a manual reconciliation in three hours. The sedans transporting the data disks, originally scheduled to make their first round trip at 9 a.m. Saturday, didn't leave until 2 p.m. The final trip was completed at 8 p.m., about four hours behind schedule.

View the timeline

From Merger
To Breakup

Everyone scrambled to get back on schedule because everything Daimler-related had to be deleted from Chrysler's systems before the next data reconciliation at 1 a.m. Monday. The team worked all Saturday night loading disks into the new servers and testing systems. At 2 p.m. Sunday, Chrysler got the go-ahead to delete all Daimler data and functionality from its systems. At that point, "there was no return," Brecht says.

On Monday morning, IT staffers monitored the systems closely, but there were no reports of errors from banks, dealers, or customers. That was proof enough for Brecht that the project was a success and that the decision to ignore conventional wisdom and handle the transition internally was the right one.

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