The past few weeks I’ve been working on updating and upgrading almost all of the software and services that power our website: the PayPal API, FedEx and USPS 2016 rate changes, and new versions of PHP, MySQL, and Apache. It’s a combination of coding, system administration (not my strong suit), and obsessively monitoring after launch to ensure nothing goes wrong.
I tend to save up work like this for January because it’s our slow season, but I’ve never had this much pile up at once. It kind of just sort of happened as the year progressed and it made sense to push things off until after the holidays.
These types of projects are very important and totally necessary, but they’re still my least favorite kind of work. They’re all downside with no/minimal downside. If everything goes perfectly, things work the same as they did before, maybe slightly better. But if something goes wrong, well, some major portion of the business isn’t functioning (payments, security, sever, etc) and I’m likely reaching out for help because I can only debug a PayPal API issue just so much on my own.
In addition, these projects completely throw off my schedule because I have to be up at all hours of the night and on weekends. Take upgrading PHP or MySQL for example. I tend to perform the upgrade early in the morning, around 6 AM, because traffic is low and if there’s an issue I have all day to solve it. But, I also stay up past midnight to check on our daily special, sale items, and other routine tasks that change automatically at midnight. And I usually do this stuff on the weekends so I don’t interrupt our employees working on things like customer service, accounting, or order processing.
Maybe most significantly, they’re defensive projects. You’re not improving anything tangible for your customers, you’re doing them because you have to. I want to spend my time working on offensive projects – things that grow the business, improve customer experience, and save us time. Thankfully, starting now, that’s what I can get back to doing.