|A global company more than 100 years old was
purchased by a venture capital group of dot-com
Generation Xers. Their mission: to build brand mystique
through publicity, and to launch an initial public
offering that would deliver a 12-to-1 return on their
investment within 24 to 36 months. Generation X was
dreaming of a big payday.
The Gen Xers eliminated the infrastructure and all
traditional products and introduced a new product range
directed at consumers half the age of the company's
traditional customer base. After replacing 90% of the
old organization, a new global enterprise resource
planning (ERP) system was being developed that would
solve all of its problems. Of course, it depended almost
completely on third-party consulting.
When sales began to plummet after nine months and the
venture capital group wanted out, another downsizing
occurred to give potential buyers the impression of a
lean company with low expenses and no debt.
Consulting the Community
In need of validation, the Executive Suite member
caught in this web of chaos wrote to the discussion
boards: "Uninformed, independent decision-making rules
the day. There is no consideration for ramifications or
end result, while unrealistic expected outcomes are
dictated daily. This is an incredibly dynamic scenario;
we are developing a global ERP system, but we are not
sure who the final end users are, what their
responsibilities will be or where they will be located!
The timeline for this project is Oct. 1, 2001, to March
1, 2002. Do you think the expectations of management and
the ultimate end users are realistic or have any chance
of being met?"
At some points in our lives, we all come to timeless
forks in the philosophical road: Do you fight? Or do you
preserve your sanity and retreat from an impossible
situation? Our IT leader's peers answered the call.
Venner (right): If management does not
understand the implications of what they are
driving, this looks like a train wreck in motion,
and one I would not want to be sitting on.
D. Rachlin (left): This is either a chance for
you to step up to a leadership role, making your
management aware of what is needed and
coordinating all the variables, or to step aside,
because there will be finger-pointing, blaming and
sacrificial slaughter at the end.|
|Paul Bruno: I guess this is just more
evidence of the epidemic that rages worldwide in
our profession of unrealistic expectations:
too-limited resources vs. a universe of wants.
|Scott Fisher: Well!!! I have done a few
ERPs myself and thought that I have had
experiences. My vote is no. If you want some good
stories, read Death March, a book by [Ed]
Yourdon on where you are.
K. Wray (right): It's incumbent on IT/project
leadership to clearly communicate that failure is
impending and that certain steps are necessary to
avert it. ... I can tell even from the way the
question is phrased that there is a defeatist
outlook at work. Does IT not play a part in
guiding "the expectations of management"? If it
doesn't, and it can't, then go work somewhere else
or learn to communicate.|
A. Mathes (left): If no one in IT is thought
of as an executive-caliber business partner,
there's not much chance of leading this directive
to success. Best wishes on your job search!
Schwartz (right): If I did not know better,
this poor person is telling us a joke. It is hard
for me to believe that any intelligent life form
would think that success is possible. I would be
looking somewhere else, soon.|
Rod Aguilar: I'd take on this challenge
with the mind-set that I can't possibly fail,
[since] anything I achieve in the tight time frame
and the near-impossible conditions would be a
sweet victory over chaos.
A. Puglisi (left): The question again, as Mr.
Wray points out, is whether you can convince them
that the unintended longer-term result will be a
decline in revenues through lost sales or reduced
|Dan P. Boncher: I agree with Ken. Next
stop is the slaughterhouse.
Barnes (right): This effort is so out of
control that even a blind man could see it. No one
will win here.
Howard (left): Oh yes, there will be a winner.
It's just unlikely to be anyone who currently has
a finger in the pie. Some lucky person will get a
golden career-enhancing opportunity to "sort this
IT mess out."
Rhoads (left): Hi, Mike, you are right. The
turnaround specialists win in these circumstances.
Of course, that's assuming the business will
McDowell (right): I wouldn't jump ship, but I
would be communicating with everyone to find some
executive help and put some realistic expectations
on the table.
A. Dumas (left): Perhaps getting an
experienced and seasoned "external" moderator in
would not be a bad idea. Someone from outside just
might be able to open some eyes.
|Andrew Papandreadis: If the date does
not move, or you don't have the business support
to reshape the project, or the business priorities
have shifted, then you go to management and
recommend that the project be killed. ... The
easiest thing to do is walk away.
Palmer (right): The organization seems like
it's in chaos. You don't know who your users are,
there's no project team with clearly defined roles
and responsibilities, you have multiple projects
occurring at the same time, no money and six
months to implement the system. More like bizarro
Our member was extremely grateful for these
responses. The community helped someone mired in a world
of hurt step back and regain confidence. But sometimes
there's nothing anyone can do to stop a runaway freight
train. Here's the third and final chapter of "Anonymous
Story," written by the member as a prelude to the
discussion question that lurks beneath it.
Epilogue: The Politics Are Thick
My time is short. Once this "impossible" ERP
implementation is complete in one country, my position
will be eliminated (after 16 years of service),
according to the plan that domestic management has
submitted. I have little to lose at this point, so I
reach out to the global CIO and COO.
I plead for reasonable thinking with regard to the
- Recruit a steering committee.
- Get executives' commitment for time necessary and
- Develop a timeline of key deliverables and
- Make public realistic and necessary costs.
- Get the development team to work on-site for most
of the remaining project timeline, and after it goes
- Get process maps and test scripts developed and
into the hands of key users.
- Get a conceptual data communications solution
agreed upon in theory.
- Get agreement on coordination and time frame for
the new datacom backbone rollout.
- Raise issues still to be addressed in the tactical
rollout of the point-of-sale phase.
Development over the past 30 days has shown
remarkable promise. However, I am soon informed that the
sitting domestic CEO and CFO will soon be dismissed, as
well as a significant group of other middle managers who
were initially brought in.
The politics are thick, and the exiting group is
stirring the pot. "Is it incompetence or sabotage?" the
group asks. The remaining players are jockeying for
position, forming new alliances, hoping to survive the
exodus -- little or no collaboration; no one is to be
I feel like I am on a track with two trains rushing
at me from either direction. I probably have committed
career suicide, knowing my future here is doubtful.
Every day becomes more painful. I will at least depart
feeling I gave it my best shot.