Monday, 1 June 2009

Another day, another dollar

We had another meeting today, with just one question – "why are we still no closer to go live than we were before the New Year?" I put forward my list, the same one that I have kept since around last June; of the items listed, only one has actually been resolved. Their project manager spent about 15-20 minutes going thru the points, but at the end the only real answer for all the issues was “it hasn’t been done”. For what it’s worth, my list was actually one of the smallest – there are still over 300 items on the open issues register.

Now I will accept that my list is the only one that hasn’t actually been growing in the last 12 months – all the points I raised have been around since then at least. Of my colleagues, most have discovered more issues as we progress through the various parts of testing and correcting. However, about half of the items have been on the list for at least a year – we know because we recorded the date entered against the item. More than a few had been marked as fixed, only for us to find that they were not, or for other changes to have broken them again.

At the end of the meeting, we had actually achieved very little. Once again, lots of promises, but nothing to back up what they say. People were very quiet coming out of the meeting; in the past, they had grouped together to bitch about the lack of progress but this time, almost everyone just went off back to their departments without a word.

The FD was in one of his moods after the meeting. He wanted to talk to me because a decision has been made that wasn’t discussed. As I’ve indicated we have sites overseas – one of these was supposed to be going live shortly after us. To make that happen, we had planned a lot of changes to provide the infrastructure, most of which are now in place. It appears that this has all been pretty much wasted – the directors have decided that we will continue with the SAP project, but it seems unlikely that we are going to roll it out across the group for at least 3-4 years, and possibly not even then. (But this isn’t generally known just yet)

He showed me a document that detailed the consultant fees for that overseas site (not the same group that we work with, a different company) – just under $180,000. Apparently, the work they did was of no value as it didn’t match the site requirements, our group requirements or meet the needs of our consultants. It appears that we have no possibility of getting our money back – the company that these consultants worked for is in the local equivalent of chapter 11 and it seems probable that they will simply cease to exist.

Now I know that there are people that will say, “$180k is not a great deal for an SAP implementation” – true and I know of a company that spent $30 million, but we couldn’t afford to spend even a small part of that kind of money. To put it in context, our total group profits for the last 10 years was just over $30 million. We have a great product and excellent service - we retain a lot of customers for this reason. But we cannot justify spending that much money unless we get seriously improved efficiencies and I doubt we will see a return that will be even close.

What makes me really mad is that I have a small project I’m working on; it won’t get us any extra sales as such, but we can see the potential for better analysis to make us more labor efficient in one area and that might get a few more sales. The cost of the product? - $2495 plus tax, and this includes a half days training. However, I am having to again justify spending the money even tho’ I put it on my budget before the start of the financial year.

What’s really getting people pissed is the director from the consultants – he turns up having flown to the local airport, takes part in a 2 hour meeting then back to the airport for another flight. He promises much, but so far has delivered zip – everyone calls him the seagull, because he flies in, makes a loud noise, craps on everyone then flies off!

Better sign off – I’m waiting for a response from Global support.


  1. Situation seems discouraging! we have such a project in our company. Go live was supposed to happen in 2008 and now it is scheduled for 2010, but nobody believes it will happen. And guess what is the product ? Bingo ! Well in fact it's not CRM, it's another SAP suite. It's difficult to have a "quick win" with these heavy packages.

    Another point that you mention and that I found similar in my job is how difficult it is to make small expenses compared to how easy to spend hell of money for useless tools or consulting. This does not stop to surprise me!

    I don't know what global support is (a department in your company or another company?) but I wish you succeed.

  2. Projects like these are always frustrating and discouraging, they point to a lack of leadership and high light a serious issue with SAP implementations of any kind. Those who chose the team rarely know what to ask or how to check credentials; they look at budget which as you stated often leave out key elements, and they look at time lines which are too often so optomistic as to be fairytale quality.
    As a SAP implementation consultants we often run into bidding wars in whish we loose out to a team offering outlandish promises and then 2 years later we come in to "clean up the mess."
    What bothers us is that SAP is a good tool, it can be implemented correctly and it can provide the efficiency it promises.

    There is an excellent study done by the Panorama consulting group (no I am not in anyway associated with them)
    that looks at why ERP implementations go over budget and over time. I don't know if they offer solutions to get your consultant team back on track.

    I hear your concern for your team and hope you can shield them from whatever fall out may come their way. They shouldn't have to pay for shoddy consultants.

  3. seagull ... LOL!

    But seriously, if your company admitted pubicly to how bad this implementation is going, it would give SAP a bit of a black eye (an even bigger one to the consultanting outfit!). Can your company take the overall issue to SAP and get any satisfaction from them (i.e., help clean-up the mess)?