In a white
paper that I had written in 2007 titled “SAP Procurement for Public
Sector” I had highlighted how the challenges with failed ERP-centric
initiatives extended beyond the public sector to include the private
sector. The difference as one senior Colgate-Palmolive executive told
me shortly after scrapping a failed program was that “unlike the public
sector in which a failed initiative becomes front page news, private
sector company ERP failures rarely make a blip on the media’s
collective radar screen.”
The lack of media awareness notwithstanding, the frequency of
failures in the private sector is comparable to the number of setbacks
that occur in the public sector.
For example, and I am quoting from the above referenced SAP paper,
“Following an SAP R/3 implementation in the mid-to late 1990s,” the
bankruptcy trustees for FoxMeyer Drug “filed a $500 million lawsuit in
1998 against SAP, and another $500 million suit against co-implementer
Anderson Consulting, claiming the companies’ software and installation
efforts had contributed to the drug company’s demise.”
On June 23, 2004, “SAP reached a settlement with FoxMeyer pursuant
to which SAP was required to pay a specified amount.” For those who
would like to get more into the specifics of the FoxMeyer, as well as
the myriad of other similar misadventures, check out the "25 Terrifying Information Technology Horror Stories" article that appeared in CIO.com. A kind of “scared straight” version
for organizations that are still for whatever reason contemplating a
traditional-type licensing model initiative.
In today’s post by Martin Murray in his “Martin’s Logistics Blog” on
About.com, he shares with us the breaking story regarding nonprofit’s
Public Health Foundation Enterprises (PHFE) suit filed against Lawson
Software for “more than $1 million over an allegedly failed ERP
(enterprise resource planning) implementation.
What is amazing is that issues Murray lists has part of the PHFE
complaint have been a long-standing problem in the ERP world.
Specifically that “the consultants did not possess the knowledge
necessary to answer PHFE’s questions,” and “the consultant Lawson
initially assigned did not know how to properly configure the system to
The piece de la resistance is that “PHFE has spent more than $1
million on various programs, rather than one integrated program as
promised, that do not work.”
Murray’s article "Non-Profit Organization Suing ERP Supplier) concluded by stating the PHFE is “now using its
previous system to run operations.”
This is an all too familiar story that is repeatedly played out the
world over as demonstrated by the 85% rate of ERP-centric initiative
The reference to the “consultants not possessing the necessary
knowledge” and, not “knowing how to properly configure the system” is
in line with a comment I received from an individual who attended one
of my seminars. During a break in the session, and in response to my
disclosure of the 85% rate of failure statistic, the individual who at
the time was (and may still be) a consultant with CGI (a major systems
integrator), indicated that the number seemed about right.
When I asked this individual to provide their perspective as to the
reasons for the dismal results, they said that within CGI there are
only a handful of consultants who possess the necessary knowledge and
expertise to take on the majority of the contracts the company wins.
Unfortunately, once they land the deal, they are reassigned to landing
the next opportunity.
Subsequently, the implementation team (or second team as referred to
by the individual) is then left in charge of the project. Rarely, if
ever do they possess the prerequisite skill necessary to successfully
implement the program.
All this of course leads to a simple question . . . when will
companies stop capital commitments to pay exorbitant up front fees
based on the promise of a result that only occurs 15% of the time?
Regarding Lawson, they were highlighted as an up-and-coming small
ERP player in an August 30th, 2007 Canadian Business On-line article
“ERP: Small fish, big sea” by Mike Ouellette. I myself had referenced
the Ouellete piece (and Lawson) in my August 2007 “The Ariba
Interviews” post, in which I cautioned against using financial
performance as an indication of market acceptance. The “warning” while
directed more towards Ariba, extends to include performance capability
What does this all mean. It means that the market is finally cluing
into the fact that bigger or global is not necessarily better. It
might also be an indication that some – not all of course – of the
traditional sources of industry insight and analysis (i.e. blogs,
analysts etc.) have become somewhat stagnate.
Ultimately it should mean that the days of big dollar capital
projects should cede very quickly to the adaptive and results-conducive
on-demand models provided by the more technologically savvy and
seasoned SaaS vendors.
But that is a story for another day.