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Technology Committee Meeting

The ACBL held a briefopen meeting of its Management Technology Committee today in Chicago. For those of you who couldn't make it, I'll provide a summary of what was discussed and my thoughts on the latest developments.There are a few changes to the committee's composition: Bruce Knoll and Tony Lin are no longer with the ACBL, and new CIO Mitch Hodus has joined the committee.

The meeting started with a presentation by Mr. Hodus of the assessment he has undertaken during his eight weeks on the job of the state of the ACBL's technology infrastructure. The picture he painted is bleak. The presentation lasted about 15 minutes and highlightedserious issues with hardware, software, and personnel. Most significant is the lack of knowledge about the legacy systems by the younger members of the ACBL's IT staff. This is especially pressing because the two senior members with unique knowledge are ready to retire -- and no one on the staff can fill their shoes.

In light of Mr. Hodus's findings, the ACBL has shifted its primary technology focus to dealing with these infrastructure problems. The BoD has allocated $100K for the remainder of 2015. The project to replace ACBLscoreis being put on the back burner. The Technology Committee has plans for additional evaluations of the ACBLscore+ software in September, though the ACBL says it will not have resources to devote to the project for at least six months while it deals with the infrastructure issues. The committee plans to use this time to consider some outside-the-box (or, in this case, outside the original requirements of the ACBLscore+ specifications) ideas, such as unbundling the financial reporting mechanisms from the scoring software.

There was time for a few questions, most of which focused on the status of ACBLscore+ and the revelations about these infrastructure issues.

A few things struck me. The first is the lack of urgency about replacing ACBLscore, though everyone still agrees it needs to be replaced. I know I'm not the only one who's sick of still crowding around a rack to get Swiss Teams assignments. I understand that these new issues are an immediate priority, and that when it comes to building new software we need to take our time and get it right. But the Swiss Teams problem is the one obvious thing that everyone has been clamoring for for years. Our tournaments are a laughing stock because of it. We need a short-term solution.

Another thing I found surprising was the number of issues Mr. Hodus cited with the ACBL's headquarters building in Horn Lake. The type of network and the wiring were inappropriate and limiting. There is only one line coming into the building and one available provider of voice and data services, creating a single point of failure. The servers are at the end of their lifespan. And there are actual servers -- nothing is in the cloud. Some of the software being used is out of date and no longer supported or updated with security patches. This building is pretty new. It was built in 2005 but not occupied until the ACBLtook it over in 2010. That means that a lot of these issues stem from poor decisions when the ACBLmoved in.

The glaring question -- which was never directly asked, but was the unacknowledged elephant in the room -- is, "Why are we just hearing about this now?" Obviously the short answer is that Mr. Hodus has just been hired and conducted this review, but how did things deteriorate so far before his tenure? The CIO is a new position for the ACBL, but someone was in charge of technology infrastructure previously. How did things gets so bad? And how did the CEO not know about it?

I'm optimistic about the fact that we are finally dealing with these issues head on and seem to be assembling the right team to fix them. But I'm worried about how we got to this point, and what it says about our management and oversight. And I'm frustrated to see another setback in the ACBLscore+ project. I know we have identified more pressing issues, but I still want my new scoring software!

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