Saturday, 20 August 2011

Problems with prices

About 4-5 months after our go-live, I received a request for a change to a role. At that stage, we were still making quite a few changes as we discovered issues that had not been uncovered during the testing phase. This was quite normal, but something about the request didn’t seem quite right.

The particular role was one that I had worked on with the sales manager, and the request from our second site seemed to indicate that there was a problem that should have affected everybody. When I went into it in more detail, I wondered if it was due to the staff concerned not entering the correct information.

I passed this back to the relevant key user from sales, and she confirmed that the process was working for each site – it seemed that this was an issue with staff training. So the sales manager organised a quick refresher session with the sales staff at the second site.

Whilst he was going thru this with them, he also spotted an issue with the cost price of one item that they were using. Quite simply, the cost price shown in SAP was way out – in fact, even with the price uplift, they were actually selling the item at a loss of about 25c each for a selling price of just under a dollar. He then started checking a few other items – most were OK, but there were more than a few with a price that was wrong.

Subsequently, they spent some time going thru the rest of the price list to make sure that this was OK – and based on what he found, the second site had lost just under $10,000 in incorrect pricing during those first few months due to an incorrect price having been loaded during the data load process.

An investigation proved that the price had been wrong in our old system. At some stage, the price had gone up but never been altered in our old ERP system. No-one knows how much we lost in total, but most agree that it’s probably over $25,000 for each of the previous 4 years – a total of at least 100 big ones. You can imagine that there were some people that were very unhappy about this.

The reason I raise this now is that we were doing the training with our overseas site just over a week ago, and it appears that they also had the same incorrect prices in their old system. This has caused some real upset as people are trying to uncover when things went wrong and why. I doubt that we will ever know.

Of course, one thing we can say is that is not down to SAP. The problem occurred long before we started the implementation. It could be argued that this should have been picked up at the data cleansing phase, and that’s probably true – but it wasn’t. No matter what anyone thinks of the software, there is a limit to how much it will cope with the failure of the human element.

So chalk one up for SAP – while the correction of the price won’t cover the costs of the software, it’s identified a major problem that has taken money off the bottom line, and one that would quite possibly not have been discovered for many years. Although there are still questions about getting an ROI for the project, each of the areas where it has made a difference will help to justify the decision to buy it.

Oh well, vacation time is here. I feel that it is overdue, and am looking forward to a good break.