Taking The Great Expectations Out Of ERP Planning

Will Weider, CIO, Ministry Health Care & Affinity Health System

The following headline caught my eye as I was reading through my RSS feed:

How to deploy ERP in 120 days

As soon as I read this headline, I knew I was going to unleash a rant.

Caron Carlson wrote this piece, and it is a good story about Johnson & Johnson’s acquisition of a new business unit and how that business unit was transitioned to J&J’s ERP system (and other technologies) in three months. I am sure that this was a phenomenal accomplishment by J&J that required a lot of bright and talented people. I would bet that they are prepared for acquisitions like this and have a plan in place to quickly incorporate new business units (something I need to develop for Ministry).

I always enjoy reading Caron’s stuff. But, I have to pick a bone with her. This headline is inaccurate. J&J did not implement an ERP in 120 days. They added a new facility to an existing ERP (which probably took years to develop).

That may seem like a nuance, but it is frustrating to CIOs. Healthcare executives read these headlines — but not the articles — and then develop the false impression that a company can deploy an ERP in 120 days. For any company that even thinks they need an ERP, a three-month implementation is not possible. Most companies can’t negotiate the contract in three months.

The software vendors are already feeding unrealistic time frames to business unit leaders because they know long projects need a different level of review and decision making that could interfere with their desire to close a deal quickly. It is the bane of my existence. Add the unrealistic time frames with these other gems I hear passed on from my non-IT coworkers that are talking to the software vendors:

  • “None of our clients have never had any problems with their implementations”
  • “Our solution takes no IT time”
  • “We already have interfaces off-the-shelf that will work  in our environment (without knowing anything about our IT environment)”
  • “We do all the work”
  • “This software is so simple you don’t need to worry about project planning and management”

Most of these software sales people are good and decent people. They are valuable resources and I enjoy working with them. But they are not the best resource for information about the actual implementation. We should rely on the history we have implementing nearly 100 software projects a year. That is the unbiased data. The software sales person is not present at the implementations and has too great of an incentive to provide unbiased information. Just because they believe it, doesn’t make it true.

So, if you are part of the technology press (especially serving IT leaders), give us a little help. Don’t reinforce inaccuracies told in the software sales cycle.

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