Kudos to Times’ staff for mastering software upgrade

This past week, the staff at the Fort Frances Times went through intensive training on new software.
You will not see a great deal of difference in the paper, but the changes were required because the software we were using was becoming very dated.
By dated, I’m admitting the software was four years old. But we were beginning to have issues with advertisements that were created in newer software from outside the newspaper that we could not use.
Our order entry system and accounts receivable system, meanwhile, were almost 10 years old.
Back in September, we suffered a server malfunction. And even though we were able to recover and get the server rebuilt, the support for the system had ended and we made the decision then to upgrade the accounting and order-taking side of the newspaper.
That sounded easy. But with that knowledge, we also learned we would have to upgrade our news-writing software and the various automated tasks that are involved in publishing the paper.
Both halves of the updating were co-ordinated. Earlier in January, new computers had arrived for all the reporters and editor, and the new software was installed on them awaiting the arrival of the trainers.
New counter computers also arrived while some computers were upgraded with more active memory. We thought we had all the bases covered.
Our original plan was to create last Thursday’s Daily Bulletin with the old system, and then go live with the new system in the afternoon and redo the paper.
That plan fell apart Wednesday afternoon when we discovered the old computers and software could not talk with the updated data base where our photographs and stories are contained. As such, we were going live first thing Thursday morning without any prior testing.
As with all good things, there always are bugs between the theory and the practice. The new computers that arrived could not find the printers on the network, which required some scrambling by our IT department.
Fortunately, the problem was solved and a little addendum was added to the training manuals.
Then after publishing last Thursday, we discovered we had missed a couple of ads. We don’t know why, but the trainers went back in and found them, and they did appear properly in Friday’s Daily Bulletin.
We apologize for this error.
We also encountered some unexpected problems which caused some minor delays in the distribution of the paper Thursday afternoon.
You will not see any major changes in the paper. As our population has become older, many seniors have expressed concern that our typeface was too small. We have made the type size slightly bigger, which makes it easier to read.
Meanwhile, there are many new features available on the system that we will roll out in the next several months. Those features will make it easier to do business with the newspaper from your homes or desks.
Should you happen to come to the counter to pay a bill or place an advertisement, the front office staff may appear to be a little slower. They are just continuing to learn and adapt to the changes in the software.
Our staff has been working overtime to learn and use the new tools, and will continue to learn and make more use of these upgrades.
It has been stressful and I really have to say thank you to them for the extra hours they have put in to master the new systems.

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