Planning and Stress Testing

With the May rains in Texas finally over last weekend, everyone headed to the carwash to get their car clean. The car wash seemed to have plenty of people working which made me realize they had planned ahead for the deluge of cars. I’ve seen other examples of planning ahead for unusual rushes of demand. Target normally just has a bunch of cash registers and you pick which lane you think will be the fastest. On the day after Thanksgiving (well, I guess it’s now Thanksgiving day), they set up a temporary queue winding through aisles filled with goods for sale that ends where the cash registers begin and they have staff at that point directing customers to the next open register.

Having these temporary process changes made me wonder about the financial systems in the background. Are they ready for the tsunami of transactions from around the country at certain peak times of year? The process of ensuring that readiness is called stress testing, but it used to be very hard to truly stress test a financial system. Now it is much easier. You can have programs flood your financial systems with fake transactions before they are put into production. This way you can ensure they are ready for whatever the real business will throw at them. But do you need to build the capacity for a once a year event only to have it sit idle the other 364 days of the year?

That is where scalable cloud services can come to help small and midsize businesses. One of the many benefits to these services is only buying the using the capacity you need. It’s like just in time production but for your IT infrastructure. Of course calling on the additional resources after the tidal wave has smashed your front door down is too late. That’s where we get back to the planning part of the equation. Planning can no longer be something you do once at the beginning of a big project and then repeat five years later. Planning is something that needs to be dynamic and uses the concepts of big data to foresee the ebbs and flows of the need for extra capacity. With proper planning you can set-up the additional capacity ahead of time and then reduce the capacity after the peak has passed.

This is just another example of the integration of finance and operations. Operations is more accustomed to this kind of continuous planning and scaling. Finance departments that embrace the integration with the business can learn a lot from their colleagues and better plan for those times that will stress their system capacity.

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