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It's Time to Take Control

It's Time to Take Control

Fed up with the failure of consultant-led enterprise software projects, CIOs are demanding more (and less) from the big consultancies or doing without them altogether

But customers have lost patience with the foot-in-the-door approach, according to Denny Wayson, vice president and chief analyst of enterprise solutions at Gartner Dataquest IT Services (US). " We don't think that vendors that use that approach are going to survive," he says flatly.

Worse, many of the consultants that arrive at a customer's door don't have the experience one would expect. " You get a mixed bag," says Craig Coggins, financial systems supervisor for Wacker Siltronic, a German semiconductor manufacturer, who worked with Deloitte Consulting on a recent SAP installation at Wacker Siltronic's US factory in Oregon. " You get some people who are very experienced and talented, and others who are intelligent, articulate people but don't really know the software and are learning as they go along."

Insiders call this the school bus effect. Born out of a drastic shortage of qualified people, the big consultancies began hiring young people fresh out of school. Though all big integrators hire youthful and less experienced consultants, Andersen Consulting (now Accenture) was best known for the practice. Eager to work the often egregiously long hours that these projects demand, the young consultants are trained quickly and armed with an explicit methodology - a sort of consultant's instruction manual - to help them get up to speed on enterprise software efforts.

Eastman Chemical's Hale says that inexperienced consultants were part of the reason his first ERP project was late and over budget. He felt the consultancy he hired was training its people on Eastman's time and dime.

Every big consultancy we spoke to for this story says it has scaled down the percentage of fresh-faced consultants assigned to enterprise implementations. According to James Hall, managing partner of technology and research for Accenture, which is headquartered in Bermuda, 70 per cent of its current consultants have prior project experience, and 30 per cent are junior-level people who may not have project experience.

The Yes Men

Even the most experienced and highly rated consultants have trouble delivering the changes in work methods that they promise at the beginning of these big enterprise software efforts. And when this transformation - promised first by the software vendors and seconded by the consultants - does not happen, customers are left embittered.

" We've invested $US200 million in SAP so far, and we don't have much to show for it," says Derek Dyer, manager of global e-business for Deere and Company, the Illinois-based farm equipment manufacturer based. Dyer doesn't blame the SAP software for Deere's lack of return on ERP. He singles out one of the consulting firms on the project, IBM Global Services, for criticism.

IBM Global Services was brought into Deere in 1999 to help make SAP the ERP standard across the company (some prior installations already existed). As part of the standardisation process, IBM was asked to help transform some of Deere's more antiquated work methods. But when Deere managers resisted the changes, IBM Global Services backed off, according to Dyer. " In some cases, we wound up mapping SAP to our current lousy manual processes, which made things even worse," he says.

In areas where the broken work methods were left in place, the new system performed worse than the rats' nest of old spreadsheets it replaced, says Dyer. " The managers ran the shop floor on an Excel spreadsheet before SAP, and if something didn't look right in the data, they'd just go in and change it," says Dyer. " Well, SAP doesn't let you do that. It's tightly integrated, and if you try to doctor data, it won't flow correctly through the system."

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