back to article University orders investigation into Oracle finance disaster

The University of Edinburgh has launched a review into its disastrous go-live of an Oracle finance system as it admitted suppliers have walked away over stalled payments. Information passed to The Register also shows university staff were forced to fetch their own supplies and charge them to expenses owing to a lack of stock …

  1. Julz

    If

    the answer is Oracle you haven't asked all the right questions.

    1. b0llchit Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: If

      Or,... the wrong people were paid (on time) to ask the wrong right questions to which the answer obviously is Oracle. The people in this set are never users or operators. You know who I suggest to belong in this set. Those who make the decisions are the ones without any factual knowledge about what they are deciding. For this set of people it is about being paid (on time) to prevent delaying decisions.

      1. Kane Silver badge

        Re: If

        "Those who make the decisions are the ones without any factual knowledge about what they are deciding."

        Ah. Just another day ending in "y" then.

    2. David Hicklin Bronze badge

      Re: If

      That seems to be the general answer to all these ERP/Finance systems by any of the major players once the salespeople have sold the snake oil.

      1. MostlyRight

        Re: If

        Business users: "How long to migrate"

        Oracle partner: "3 months" - in a quieter tone #well that's when we'll be gone anyways#

      2. CFtheNonPartisan

        Re: If

        The old saw is never confuse selling with installing. Once the money is in train the rest can always be negotiated, or so it is claimed.

  2. werdsmith Silver badge

    An investigation into the choice of Oracle. Entitled “why the fuck???”

  3. Paul Smith

    Software 101

    When replace a working system with a new system, do not turn off working system until new system proven to work better.

    1. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Re: Software 101

      Been there, done that.

      The only problem is that often bean counters decide, nor users neither IT.

      "Paying for two systems at the same time?! No way!". And in the end, the costs are multiplied because tests weren't made, or other blunders (or lies) from supplier or software vendor, and everything collapses.

      == Bring us Dabbsy back! ==

      1. johnfbw

        Re: Software 101

        That is a fairly unfair assessment. Having two concurrent systems will duplication of all processes - including user effort and IT. I have been in projects where the financial costs of dual running are minimal but the users don't want to dual run

    2. TVU

      Re: Software 101

      "When replace a working system with a new system, do not turn off working system until new system proven to work better"

      ^ This. When a system is working well, even with older software, someone will always come along to say that new and shiny will always work better and they thereby break the rule "Don't fix something that isn't broken" and it invariably ends in tears.

      In accordance with the Peter Principle, the moron who decided that new and shiny was a good idea will escape the blame and will be promoted to create even more havoc at a later date.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        Re: Software 101

        In accordance with the Peter Principle, the moron who decided that new and shiny was a good idea will escape the blame and will be promoted to create even more havoc at a later date.

        Well obviously. *Now* he has experience in the subject!

      2. EvilGardenGnome
        Headmaster

        Re: Software 101

        Peter Principle would hold that this cock up is the result of a promotion. If it's proper Peter Principle, once you hit your level of incompetence you stop getting promoted; any further movement is based on an external factor - nepotism, cash, blackmail... You know, the classics.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Software 101

        The problem with this is payroll systems have to be maintained to accommodate statutory changes each year. You pretty much can’t run a large org on an out of date unsupported solution.

        1. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Software 101

          And you don't run a non-US payroll system on an US payroll software, especially one made by Oracle...

          They have absolutely no idea on how computers work outside of the USA, and will INSIST that dates are always entered or printed using the MM/DD/YYYY format.

          And there is only one currency sign: $

          1. CFtheNonPartisan

            Re: Software 101

            -> And there is only one currency sign: $

            Wrong. Their currency sign is $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ +/- one or two characters depending on how well the customer negotiated.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Software 101

            It isn't US software, its a global erp which supports UK legislation, payroll rules, date formats and any currency but don't let that stop you commenting about stuff you know nothing about.

          3. Mattyb1975

            Re: Software 101

            What baloney! Oracle provide a way to set how dates are input dependent in fact how a user like to input. They also have a dedicated UK team working on UK tax setup etc.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Software 101

          On top of this, there's also the fact that Scottish tax rules are different from rUK.

  4. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Silence is golden

    "Oracle and Inoapps have so far declined the opportunity to comment".

    And when they do it will probably only be to tell us their number one priority is to ensure the perfect on-time delivery of everything they have failed to deliver.

    It seems to me the only people who have to say "our number one priority is..." are those who have failed to meet it.

  5. Graham Newton

    This is almost identical to a incident at a large government laboratory I worked at. The admittedly aging accounts system was replaced by a shiny new Oracle system by switching off the old one and switching on the new one. Exactly the same issues -- suppliers were not paid who would then not sell us anything else until we paid up. The laboratory appeared on the front page of Computer Weekly and the management did get the privilege of appearing before the public accounts select committee. The minutes of which detail the full scale of what happened, which included a £100 million "anomaly".

    1. Youngone Silver badge

      This is also almost identical to the ongoing incident at a large corporation I happen to work for, but in this case we turned off a working (sort of) Oracle system and turned on a shiny new SAP system.

      I have just finished talking to an outside contractor who provides a very important service for us, and while he was apologetic he won't be working for us anymore because he no longer believes our finance people's assurances that he will be paid on time.

      Fortunately for me, I can make this someone else's problem. I also have a job interview next week.

    2. NeilPost Silver badge

      Standard implementation across sectors proven to work. In this case with Sponsor being UK Universities as the sector group.

      Seriously how different can Edinburgh University be to other universities that but needs a bespoke implementation. Same for councils, Govt departments, NHS etc

      Payroll, HR, Planning, Procurement are fairly rudimentary processes with same interfaces to same partners sector-wide.

      Also noted ‘staff forced to pay for their own taxi’s’ ?? Like WTF ??

      1. Management Order

        You might think that, but you would be surprised at just how different Universities are from each other in their internal workings. Its a bit like saying Easyjet and Ryanair could just use the same sales, billing and loading system because they are both airlines - but they dont, because they are organised differently.

      2. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Because they made an explicit choice not to standardise.

        The first rule of ERP club is dont modify the ERP.

        The second rule of ERP club is turn down all invitations to join ERP club. Run for the hills if someone mentions finance transformation to you. Or more BOFH like, join the project for long enough to get it on your CV for buzzword bingo, but get yourself re-allocated to a "business critical" project prior to go live.

        1. fishfingers77

          Oracle Fusion erp is not really customizable but the legacy 12.1.3 system would have been. So by moving to Fusion cloud they have in a way standardised.

      3. Strahd Ivarius Silver badge
        Devil

        Edinburgh?

        First thing to ask your accounting or payroll software provided what is the difference between the Scottish and English pound...

  6. Code For Broke

    "Never let a good crisis go to waste." - Larry Ellison (Churchill was misquoted after submitting his comments to the Social For Oracle Accounts Payable FBDI interface for CMK and consequently overflowing the DVM table.)

  7. Terry 6 Silver badge

    There are so many of these incidents

    Obviously we don't hear ( here or in the news) about the ones that do work, are on time and within the quoted price.

    But even so, as an outsider in these matters, it does seem as if it happens an awful lot and that these kinds of project are just too big and too complicated.

    Is it that they are trying to get too many functions into one over complex, do everything, system?

    Is there another way? Something more modular?

    1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

      Re: There are so many of these incidents

      ERP is the systemd of finance. In order to track everything,it must control everything.

    2. NeilPost Silver badge

      Re: There are so many of these incidents

      .. or standard. I mean how different is Edinburgh Uni to any other ?? Why would you not want anything everyone else has ??

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: There are so many of these incidents

        Most unis have one of four Finance systems: Oracle ebs, SAP, Unit4 or Advanced eFinancials. They are all as shonky as each other.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: There are so many of these incidents

          There's at least one university in Scotland using an Australian cloud ERP.

          They seemed surprised that Australian tax codes didn't apply in Scotland. And other parts of the original contact have been quietly dropped as unsuitable.

    3. David Hicklin Bronze badge

      Re: There are so many of these incidents

      I have been part of one such migration back in the 1990's which other than a few relatively minor teething issues (you will always get some) went quite smoothly on go live day.

      The two take outs I remember most from this were weeks of testing/training sessions with the supplier involving *all* departments of the business, and that as far as possible we adapted the business processes to fit the new ERP system rather than the other way around.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: There are so many of these incidents

      Same story at our university 5 miles down the road. An Oracle ERP/Fusion project gone horribly wrong. Long overdue on delivery and costs have more than doubled from the initial £5m tender. r12 still needing to be fired up in parallel for key financial reporting functions. Purchasing badly affected and even now none of our research groups can get an accurate picture of their finances. Seems to be a pattern here but unlike UoE our senior leadership have conveniently decided to kick any investigations into the long grass.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This will be me!

    Or at least the US entity of my company.

    Oracle ERP go live over December. Thankfully I work for UK entity. Less thankfully most of the tools I use are licensed by the US entity and Jan is our main renewal date.

    Im resigned to the fact that all I can do is sit back with the popcorn....

  9. Jimbo1975

    A common result of people at the top being "sold" on the idea of a Software as a Service solution being the answer to everything.

    Rather than take the solutions they've been building and developing for years and simply moving them to Cloud platforms and upgrading naturally, they took the decision to undertake a large, complex, multiyear program full of inherent dangers.

    It doesn't matter who the vendor is: SaaS is not the answer to the question every time

  10. dunelm15

    It's all about the processes

    I’ve been involved with ERP implementations for over 20 years now (started with the “wonderful” Y2K anomaly). The ones that I generally see go OK are where the business aligns with the processes in the ERP system. Where it goes to pot is when the idiots from Finance (or Purchasing, or HR) say “No, it has to work to my process”. Sales guy says no problem, budget remains unchanged, followed by bad analysis / decision making by the client. Throw in a bit of off-shore consultancy and the biggest wonder is why anyone believes this can possibly work.

    But as people have said, those in charge of the project very rarely have experience or ability. But they do have one common trait – an ability to move off the project before it hits the fan.

  11. Baximelter

    This seems to be a replay of the situation in Oregon a few years ago. The state hired Oracle to create a user interface to the (then) new Obamacare health system. The software never worked and never went online. In the end, the state used the software provided by the federal government - which is used in Oregon to this day. Oregon sued Oracle for the $240 million wasted. The lawsuit eventually was settled for $100 million.

  12. Xiox

    Also Cambridge

    Also see the infamaous Oracle produced CAPSA system in Cambridge University twenty years ago: https://www.admin.cam.ac.uk/reporter/2001-02/weekly/5861/1.html

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oracle Fusion technology

    So named because it'll be working in 20 years. Honest.

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