ESM a minefield

A very fine line determines whether enterprise systems management (ESM) solutions are the eighth wonder of the world or the kiss of death.

Peter Johnston, network administrator for the Grace Removals Group, said these 'wonder' products that automate business processes, are "absolutely vital". But they cost a fortune to put in place, and could potentially be a waste of money.

"We have (Computer Associates') TNG and when it is working it is doing the work of one person. It's a hell of a bugger to configure, [and] they cost a fortune to put in place.

"I was trained on it, which cost about $20,000; very pricey. It cost twice as much to train on as to own it."

In addition, Johnston said vendors normally like to put it in themselves.

"CA told us it would take two weeks to configure. I have been doing it on and off for about a month and a half and I am about half way done. Once you have the method set up, which is really just copy and pasting, everything is fine."

An Ernst & Young paper, Optimising Investment in ESM, warns these solutions are "complex, expensive" and, when not carefully controlled and customised, can "fail to meet business objectives".

The paper names the biggest risk to the success of these solutions, as incomplete or inaccurate project scoping, and organisational requirements not being fully understood.

Johnston agrees: "Companies need to identify a requirement before implementing [these sort of solutions.] They also need to ensure they are not getting the data another way. They need to check they are not running other things that would do the same job."

Accurately budgeting for an ESM implementation is also a major problem as many managers fail to realise the upfront cost of the technology is just the tip of the iceberg, Ernst & Young said.

Faith Page, partner, Ernst & Young's technology and security risk services (TSRS) division, said: "The more significant costs relating to ESM implementations are those relating to customising the product to fit the organisation's IT environment and to meet that company's objectives.

"In our experience, the cost ratio is about 30 per cent software purchase and 70 per cent implementation costs."

The report said most of the risks associated with ESM technology can be minimised by addressing the key areas of implementation planning: current and future needs analysis, product research, adequate budgeting, implementation strategies, strict project management and maintaining project momentum and focus.

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