High Profile Government ERP Software Failures Continue
A continued pattern of failed government ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software applications shows troubling consistency without regard to implementation size or even country. In July 2008, as soon as the SAP financial software implementation for the city of Paris went live, the city incurred major problems and the inability to process payables payments. As the overdue payables accumulated, the city dispatched a team of 25 staff to catch up the backlog and get payments out to overdue suppliers. However, additional problems surfaced and existing problems compounded resulting in city services and projects coming to a stand still. For example, suppliers stopped delivering materials and labor to the 17th century church of Saint Sulpice thereby suspending one of France's most treasured projects. SAP spokeswoman, FranCoise Nove-Josserand, disputed the city's view of the troubled ERP implementation and stated, "What's happening isn't related to the solution we installed."
Within hours of the Paris SAP finance system implementation making negative headlines, Berlin Ticket Machines entered the spotlight as their ERP extension project and RFID-based electronic access cards failed commuters on London's public transport network. Not only did the card readers become inoperable, leaving many travelers stranded, but many travelers who swiped their access cards were incorrectly charged a maximum fare while additionally over 60,000 smart cards were made inoperable after being swiped through the readers.
Also in July 2008, the city of Philadelphia is incurring charges of trying to brush under one of the largest US failed public sector business software implementations. The city of Philadelphia has attempted to replace its 30 year old mainframe municipal water billing system for over 20 years at a current cost of nearly $50 million. This cumulative loss is as of the end of the 2007 calendar year and the meter is still running in 2008 (and possibly for much longer). The ERP implementation project, initially branded Project Ocean, started as an Oracle ERP software implementation, however, after the city reached $18.9 million and had little to show the Oracle system was scrapped in favor of a COTS (commercial off the shelf) water billing system from Prophecy International. The outcome of this new enterprise software direction and an ultimate implementation completion is not fully clear.
ERP software implementations fail for a variety of causes and factors in both the private and public sectors. However, according to analyst Tom Foristell, failed government ERP software implementations often exhibit strong negative organizational cultures, turf wars and deep rooted politics which collectively challenge even the most well managed ERP implementations. While software technical challenges generally play a contributing role in implementation failures, the catastrophes are exacerbated by inexcusable executive leadership, insufficient project management and denial of the facts. Philadelphia's upgraded billing system was on its fifth iteration over a two decade project. After one of many internal audits were performed, in August of 2007, Philadelphia Controller Alan Butkovitz commented that the city "spent money for years of nothing."
Tags: Government ERP software, public sector enterprise resource planning systems, implementation failures