Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Not the way to roll out software!

Today's WSJ carries an article about how Arizona State University decided to introduce its new enterprise-resource planning software:

The Tempe, Ariz., school has installed its new software using an unconventional -- if painful -- approach: Admit from the start that there will be mistakes; then work through the glitches with users' help. Most companies take their time and don't start using a new computer system until they are convinced almost everything works right; then they are caught off guard when mistakes inevitably happen. Often, the delays allow them to expand the project's scope, which adds cost and can further compound problems.

The information-technology department at Arizona State decided it would be more effective to stick to rigid deadlines, releasing the software on schedule even if all the kinks hadn't been worked out -- and try to fix problems on the fly.

Ouch! The fact that payroll was one of the applications that didn't work well did not help morale among employees -- or HR which had to deal with the fallout from the new system's errors.

The ASU IT department claims success: "The final price tag for Arizona State's project is $15 million to deploy the software and another $15 million to support it over the next five years." Sure the rollout was below budget and on schedule, but I wonder what the real support costs will be? IT is guilty of pushing implementation costs off on other segments of the organization, where the reduced efficiencies are hidden in non-IT budgets.

One of the maxims I learned long ago is that HOW change is implemented goes a long way toward its ultimate success. I doubt that future large-scale software implementations will be greeted warmly by the faculty and staff.