Don't Duplicate Your Databases. Or Oscar Envelopes.

Not the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  If you watched the Oscars last night (or if you have a pulse and either an Internet connection or TV this morning) you've probably already seen the finale -- Warrant Beatty announced that La La Land had won* Best Picture, the producers gave their acceptance speech, then the audience was told that a mistake had been made -- the Best Picture actually went to Moonlight

Apparently PricewaterhouseCoopers has a person waiting on each side of the stage, and each of these people holds an identical set of envelopes for the announcements.  (Their names are all ove the Internet, if you're that interested in personally vilifying them.)  When a presenter approaches, the person on that side hands the presenter an envelope.  See where this is going?

 No Oscar for you!

No Oscar for you!

After the Best Actress award was presented, one of the PwC folks was left with the unused envelope and accidentally handed it to Warren Beatty as he and Faye Dunaway approached to announce the Best Picture.  Beatty was confused by this, clearly.  I think he was trying to ask Ms. Dunaway about it; she saw La La Land next to Emma Stone's name and announced the film as Best Picture. 

Anyone with PMP certification could tell you this is a process just waiting for an error.  In fact, any perceptive 14 year old could tell you that.  Or a BI person -- this is why we get so pissy with people who want their own replication of a database "so I can do my own reporting."

We have to have two envelopes; we don't know from which side the presenters will approach.  How can you NOT know this?  It's one of the most choreographed events outside of the Super Bowl Halftime Show.  The seat numbers aren't assigned in that auditorium?  Even Cinemark assigns seats now when you want to see Resident Evil: This Series Just Won't Die.

It's never been a problem before.  So your success rate has been excellent in the past.  Good for the past!  Weigh the acceptable failure rate -- clearly, failing once for the Best Picture presentation isn't considered acceptable.  Likewise, an airline can make 4,999 safe landings and nobody says about a plane crash, "But it was only .02%!"**

We suppose you have a better solution?  Well, sure.  To start with, only print one set of data.  I mean, envelopes.  That'll reduce the chances of your end users giving conflicting information.  Second, plan ahead.  I know, strategic planning is so 1980's -- it's a lot easier to just hope for the best.  Third, if you really can't predict the direction the presenter will approach from, just have one envelope, and have Vanna White deliver it to the presenter after he/she has reached the microphone.  If anyone can make a superfluous activity seem vital and elegant, it's Vanna. 

At the very least, invest in some operations management.


* Yes, I originally had "one" instead of "won" here.  Dragon Naturally Speaking is great, but everyone wonce in a while it chooses the wrong homonym and I miss it.  Thanks Eileen!

** It's probably not as extreme a comparison as you think.  People today seem to take it as personal betrayal that George R. R. Martin is so far behind on the next Game of Thrones novel, or that Burger King changed their menu.  I'm waiting for the protest marches to start.  Shouldn't be long; the conspiracy theorists are already hard at work.