Check the plan, warts and all, user warns

An ad-hoc delivery of essential project modules, causing conflict between certain modules and necessitating "build in" at different stages, turned a simple ERP upgrade into an "exhausting process" for renewable energy company Hydro Tasmania.

Through this frustrating implementation, senior project manager and systems strategist, Robbie Lehman, said if there was one lesson he could pass on to others it is to be honest with yourself about the health of your implementation plan and to not ignore the "warts and all" of an IT project.

Lehman said the internal JD Edwards OneWorld Xe upgrade project took two months longer to kick off than planned (beginning in July 2001 instead of April 2001), because of the exhausting, and unplanned for, amount of time it took to test the new package. Added to that, he said, there was also the drain on internal project staff. Lehman added however, that he had no gripe with how JD was involved in the actual software testing.

"After the early stages of the project we did a bit of navel-gazing. Right before the upgrade, internal project staff took leave and we lost a key person, our report writer. So this meant existing staff were run a bit ragged."

Lehman said he also felt there was a need for a generic implementation guide for Xe upgrades showing the "guts of a project -- what problems to expect and how to deal with slip-ups".

"Considering the number of upgrades that have been released, surely there would be a guide showing some of the key problems that can arise, like making sure you have a certain version of IE, or your development and production environment are as in sync as they can possibly be.

"If someone can pinpoint these sorts of things, in our instance it could've saved us one month of work."

Because of these unforseen factors, Lehman said the team was not as well prepared as it could have been, causing a delay in its rollout of the solution.

He said the organisation also lacked sufficient module experts to resolve "conflict between certain modules", which needed to be installed to address business processes like job costing for external consulting work.

The company first implemented a JD Edwards ERP system, OneWorld B7332, worth around $3 million, in September 2000, leveraging the solution for its financial and budgeting modules, Lehman said.

The main drivers of the upgrade to OneWorld Xe, he said, were the need for new software functionality to perform external contract billing for its consulting arm, managing fixed assets and meeting senior management expectations of keeping abreast of current ERP technology, rather than "lagging behind".

Before the JD Edwards' implementations, the company had been using a combination of ERP-centric software packages from Praxa, Motherwell, MYOB and Mat-Man for general ledger, purchasing, accounting and fixed assets management.

While Lehman said Hydro Tasmania is not expecting any hard cost savings yet, because it has been in heavy project mode since the first JD Edwards implementation, he said the upgrade has sped up business processes.

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