Great expectations fail IT reality test

No one can accuse IT managers of not being optimistic. They have great expectations when selecting an enterprise solution but a mere 4 per cent are happy with the implementation outcome.

Accenture's Future of Enterprise Solutions Study found while organisations have invested "millions of dollars and attention" to automate and streamline their information flow and business processes across different business functions and geographies, few can claim they've achieved the kind of payback they expected such as the ability to serve and retain their customers better, cheaper and faster, or improve business planning.

However, most were successful in terms of improving financial management and enabling faster information access.

The survey canvassed around 200 companies from the fast moving consumer goods, information and communication technology, resources, government and finance sectors across Australia, the US and Europe. These organisations invest roughly $50 million in enterprise business solutions and run at least two modules of a packaged solution.

Only 58 per cent of companies surveyed -- which had installed at least two solution modules -- had achieved "significant" integration of their business solutions and processes, the study found.

Australian companies, like Melbourne-based industry superannuation fund administrator Superpartners, believe that organisations' ability to leverage 'new' solutions -- like Web services and portal technologies -- continue to be primary business concerns, particularly in the financial services sector. "These solutions have a compelling value proposition as they're seen as key ways of speeding up B2B and B2C transactions," the company's business innovation manager, Diana Brown said.

While companies try to extract hard benefits from multimillion-dollar customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning projects, Brown argued, "By no means can they consider their attempts successful", based on the payback they are seeing.

"The problem with these projects is that they're seen as 'IT projects', but they are business projects. They have business-wide goals and need business-wide involvement. The key is the marrying up of the business with business processes."

Brown also warned customers to take vendors' sales pitch with a grain of salt, saying: "I think they can set clients' expectations unreasonably high."

"I've had some interesting talks with vendors who have a mass of solutions and case studies to verify [they work] but the vendor doesn't always understand what we mean by things like CRM and what our organisation wants to do through it."

Andrew Cheung, a software support and deployment analyst for a Sydney-based IT firm, said his organisation's deployment of Siebel CRM solutions throughout the call centre and company three years ago was showing clear business benefits, because the rollout was planned and managed well from start to finish.

He said his organisation ensured Siebel played a large part in taking responsibility for issues like application functionality, stability and customisation during the deployment. "If the vendor's [work] falls short of any of these elements, I feel they'd be mainly responsible for any [disappointing] results."

The most commonly installed solutions were financials, then supply chain management and human resources (HR). Most organisations said they planned within the next two years to roll out CRM, HR and management and reporting metrics software.

Respondents also showed strong interest in new technologies such as Web services and portal solutions with some 87 per cent planning to experiment with Web services over the next two years, and 81 per cent with portals. Also high in their pilot plans were automated data entry solutions (79 per cent of organisations) and mobile computing and wireless technology (73 per cent).

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