back to article West Sussex County Council faces two-year delay to replace ageing SAP system for Oracle

West Sussex County Council faces a two-year delay to a £7.5 million Oracle ERP project once offered up as an exemplar of the company's competitive position against SAP. The English public authority, which controls net expenditure of £625 million, had planned to replace its 20-year-old SAP ERP system with a new solution based …

  1. Robert Grant Silver badge

    ERP is such a disastrous space. And all the good solutions (i.e. the ones that don't rely on a single enormo-vendor) seem to require a lot of effort of the sorts of people who'd rather just ask for more budget.

  2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Another important ERP project going off the rails before even going live

    Not that I would defend Oracle in any way, but it is kind of hard to imagine that the Oracle engineers and technicians don't know how to install and configure their own product. I do think they have internal training on that question.

    So the issue likely lies more with the civil administration who, despite having an ERP for a while already, have apparently not understood what they were getting themselves into. It's almost like they don't understand their SAP installation and, instead of trying to get to grips with it, they decided to go with another top-of-the-line behemoth only to hit their collective skulls against the same wall.

    I might be reaching, but if the product you're thinking of acquiring needs more people to install it then you have people in your own IT department, maybe you should think twice before signing that contract.

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Another important ERP project going off the rails before even going live

      This is SaaS not on-premises Oracle ERP so there is no technical installation.

      I think it's more likely a mapping gap at a functional level between what SAP (and customisations!) does and what Oracle ERP SaaS does - so a shortcoming from the requirements process in the pre-selection stage OR a realisation of what's involved in migrating historical data across and an associated descoping swinging into motion. This could be IT/Finance or more likely both!

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Another important ERP project going off the rails before even going live

        Or a mapping gap between what they need (whatever that might be, which could be the nub of the matter) and what either product provides.

      2. OldSod

        Re: Another important ERP project going off the rails before even going live

        I think it is possibly a "mapping gap" between what Oracle sales staff led the council to believe they were buying for price X versus the much reduced functionality that was actually available at that price. During the "pre-design" phase there were probably a lot of "that's extra cost" revelations. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that there is a much higher price tag on the project as well as on-going operational costs once the project is complete.

        There is almost always a big gap between the capabilities demonstrated to senior management types and the capabilities actually made available for the price that is mentioned. The ugly truth is only revealed once the required signatures are in place, the project has begun, and the technical staff (who know what the real requirements are) start digging into the actual implementation.

        1. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Another important ERP project going off the rails before even going live

          That rings a bell. I seem to remember, at the start of various projects, hearing (and hearing of ) senior officers lauding all the wonderful things that some project will be able to do. But when a given project is actually in use none of these benefits seem to be available.

          Even silly little things. It still annoys me after maybe 20 years that they put in loads of networkable photocopiers that would have saved us lots of money on inkjets and made doing our jobs a teeny bit easier. But ours wasn't networked - and we ( and teams like ours) with lots of little individual printers would be the ones that would have benefited. Someone told our manager they would be going to do this to us, she being pretty clueless just let them and didn't tell anyone. I spent months, even years, trying to get this sorted out. When I finally got agreement it was nearer the end of that contract, we discovered they hadn't even put a network card in the machine- and that since it was now obsolete they couldn't get one.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Another important ERP project going off the rails before even going live

      The common factor seems to be the County Council, not the vendors. One problem might be that they don't have enough people in their IT department for the existing product.

      1. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: Another important ERP project going off the rails before even going live

        Another ( a common theme of mine, I know) is possibility that the people who pay the bills haven't a clue what the staff who use the tech actually do, with the tech or even in the wider jobs.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Another important ERP project going off the rails before even going live

        "One problem might be that they don't have enough people in their IT department for the existing product."

        Having intereacted with the county council "IT departments" and their managers, it's a combination of "not enough people", "not enough skills" and a really bad case of Dunning-Kruger

        Remember these were county councils that dropped in car parking charges on rural car parks to cover general revenue shortfalls (not legal as it happens), only to discover that motorists responded by staying away in droves. It's almost as if they could go to places which didn't have parking fees and chose to do so...

    3. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

      Re: Another important ERP project going off the rails before even going live

      As with most failed ERP implementations, it'll be because of the 3rd party implementation partner setting unrealistic timelines and costs in their tender bid, along with a probable lack of functional and technical GAP analysis, current e2e business process mappings and up front technical / integration design.

      Yes, Oracle EBS and SAP are complex beasts - but in my 20 years as an ERP Programme manager, the underlying application platform installation is rarely the problem projects like this fail.

      YMMV of course.

    4. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Rule 1 for SAP

      is that you don't try to fit SAP to your business... you fit your business to SAP.

      1. Jet Set Willy

        Re: Rule 1 for SAP

        "you don't try to fit SAP to your business... you fit your business to SAP"

        That is certainly true now, especially with SAP S/$... Sorry S/4, but in the olden days of R/3 3rd party implementors were more than happy to customise SAP to do whatever you asked. Lots of lovely technical debt and future support money that way.

      2. neilo

        Re: Rule 1 for SAP

        This is true for any ERP, though. A new ERP with new processes and functionality is a business-transformative event. It's not like installing the latest version of Word.

        Many years ago, I worked on a site where the ERP system (Dynamics AX 4) had been extensively modified to run like its predecessor (SAGE Line 100). It was, predictably, full of bugs and awkward work-arounds. Naturally, the users hated this Dynamics AX 4 thing.

  3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Alert

    WSCC - Out of a frying pan and right into the fire

    I'm not sure which is worse SAP or Oracle?

    I don't hold much hope about it ever being completed. I'm so glad that I don't live in West Sussex although, I can walk over the border in less than 10 mins from my home in Surrey (just as bad a council mind you)

    1. Dinanziame Silver badge

      Re: WSCC - Out of a frying pan and right into the fire

      I think Oracle has a much worse reputation, specifically due to their audits that invariably discover that due to the default settings that were used at installation, your licensing fees have now doubled.

  4. Fonant

    Probably a combination of the council struggling to retain high-quality technical people due to massive budget cuts, and elected councillors not having the tiniest clue about what is needed or the complexities involved. I think the Tories are to blame for both.

  5. James Anderson

    English local gov != US Corporation

    Buying a system designed to meet the needs of a large US business for an English local government body is never going to end well.

    The accounting and legal requirements are completely different.

  6. Nifty Silver badge

    Strangely enough, West Sussex's speed camer and bus lane camera revenue machines will continue to work with perfect efficiency.

  7. msobkow Silver badge

    Gee, a failing Oracle project.

    All the excuses they like can be trotted out, but anyone who has paid attention to the industry should be well aware that signing up with Oracle is signing up for delays and overruns ad nauseum.

    Why anybody would voluntarily join the Oracle billing cycle if they weren't already participating is beyond me.

    *shrug* I guess somebody was treated to some rather posh rounds of golf to start...

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And another one...

    To be fair I remember having a conversation with someone from a Private Sector company several years back who said she'd only got most of her team's staff back after they'd spent the best part of 2 years sorting out the mess that their new ERP had caused. I said "SAP" and she wondered how I knew...

    So it may be a case that ERPs are tricky to implement well for all organisations. And hard to switch between when you have one already embedded.

  9. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Just a question as an observer

    I've never had to use an ERP system. I've only worked with organisations that have them, so hadn't taken too much notice. Could it be that the whole complexity of integrating everything in this way isn't the best method? That may be a set of simpler systems could be better. Maybe the whole is less the sum of its parts?

  10. PeterM42
    Facepalm

    Oh well.....

    ......it's back to the spreadsheets, then.

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