Lenovo neutralises SAP heartburn

If manually re-keying a sales, ordering and distribution system is every IT manager's worst application-integration nightmare, spare a thought for the Australian arm of recently expanded PC juggernaut Lenovo and its increasingly public issues with applications supplier SAP.

Having recently taken ownership of IBM's PC division, the China-based PC manufacturer has discovered seamless interoperability between differing versions of SAP's software really can be achieved on-time and on-demand.

It's just sometimes quicker if one re-enters the data manually rather than squabbling over who does precisely which bit of the seamless Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) delivery.

According to Lenovo, both IBM's PC division and Lenovo use SAP applications to handle orders and distribution. However, none of the vendors are able to explain why manual re-keying is necessary in the age of service oriented, real-time, adaptive or interoperable enterprise systems. It's just the way vendor systems operate.

The fallout from the vendor menage a trios came to light after questions were raised when delays started to hit Lenovo and IBM's PC supply chain in the middle of its second-quarter 2005 shipping cycle, with a number of clients experiencing delivery delays following IBM's sale of its PC division to Lenovo in December 2004.

According to a Lenovo spokesperson, the vendor has now re-keyed almost all of its local ordering and distribution system after customer delivery promises took precedence over EAI promises.

Officially the Lenovo line is that "temporary issues with transitioning our SAP systems from IBM Personal Computing Division A/NZ to Lenovo A/NZ back in May have been resolved in-house".

Among clients suffering delays has been the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) which ordered some 25,000 desktops from IBM, only to find their PC OEM vendor promptly sold off.

Concerns escalated when some machines due for delivery failed to materialize on the specified dates, with integration teams stood down on as little as 24 hours notice of delayed deliveries.

According to a DET spokesman, 5 percent of the forecast deliveries for the massive rollout failed to materialize on time due to "some logistical problems" in PC deliveries to regional areas.

The spokesman would not comment on whether service level agreement penalty clauses have or will be enforced, but emphasized the situation was under control with 99 percent of machines now delivered. The spokesman said he was not familiar with what measures had been invoked to achieve delivery targets.

A source close to Lenovo confirmed service level agreement penalties had been "activated" across a number of criteria relating to the project, describing certain aspects of vendor project management as a "complete bugger-up".

Locally, a Lenovo spokesperson confirmed delays had occurred but stressed the vendor had been "completely open and transparent" about the likely impacts of vendor consolidation issues.

The spokesperson said unexpected data integration issues between IBM's SAP order management system and Lenovo's SAP system had produced the delays. However, the problem had been resolved when Lenovo had "re-keyed all orders manually".

The DET desktop rollout was described as "massively complex", adding it was the largest of its kind in Australia.

At SAP, a spokesperson was not immediately aware if Lenovo was a local SAP customer - but hastened to add that merger integration matters may not have been handled by the respective vendors' local offices. The spokesperson said SAP was not aware of the Lenovo SAP integration issues in Australia and as such could not comment on issues.

The Lenovo spokesperson subsequently added that because Lenovo is a "global" customer of SAP, the vendor was unable to provide specifics about which applications or versions of SAP caused local difficulties because such details were "company in confidence information" - and that IBM is in a similar position.

The Lenovo spokesperson said manually re-entering the SAP data into another SAP system was certainly not the only option available at the time; just the most expedient one given the circumstances.

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