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Teachers Give ERP Implementations Failing Grades 169

Posted by Zonk
from the taking-the-soft-out-of-people dept.
theodp writes "Nine months after the Los Angeles Unified School District launched SAP HR and Payroll as part of a larger $132M ERP rollout, LAUSD employees are still being overpaid, underpaid or going unpaid. In June, about 30,000 paychecks were issued with errors, falling somewhat short of the Mission Statement 'to effectively deliver services to meet the payroll needs of all District employees serving our students.' Meanwhile, a $17M PeopleSoft-based payroll implementation has been making life miserable for Chicago Public Schools teachers and staff since last April, including June retirees who were stiffed for more than $35M. It's been a bad computer year for CPS staff, who also had to contend with a new $60M system that wasn't up to the task of taking attendance."
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Teachers Give ERP Implementations Failing Grades

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  • Par for the course (Score:5, Insightful)

    by realmolo (574068) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:49PM (#20888803)
    In my experience, this kind of thing is typical.

    It's almost a rule that the more expensive the software, the more likely it is to really and truly SUCK.

    It's also a rule that the bigger the company/organization/school district/whatever, the less likely it is that "technology" purchasing decisions are made by someone who actually HAS A CLUE about technology. The reason being, of course, that technology is too expensive to let the "tech" people get involved with the purchasing process.

    Like I said, this is all par-for-the-course in the American corporate world. And school districts/government organizations are even WORSE.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by grasshoppa (657393)
      You nailed it. I've only been involved with government work for about a year now, but from what I've seen this is par for the course.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Seumas (6865)
        The answer is to spend more money.

        Teachers should be familiar with that concept. Remember, when someone isn't producing results, it's not their fault -- it's that you're not throwing enough cash at the problem!
        • by tsm_sf (545316)
          Considering that the pay difference between teaching and the private sector is something like 30-50k a year for someone with a masters... how do you expect to attract top people to the job? You get what you pay for, and it looks like you want a KMart quality educational system.

          You got it, pal.
    • by alekd (580693) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @01:13PM (#20888979)
      Neither SAP nor Peoplesoft suck. They might be expensive, complex, old-fashioned and suffer from having been around and tinkered with for a long time (especially true for SAP), but they do work and with them it is actually possible to implement a system with the required functionality that works in a reasonable amount of time. This is not something you could do with a custom-built system or any of the cheap COTS systems. The problem is typically not the technology, it is the convoluted and almost impossible to understand business rules in the payroll area. This is especially true in the public sector and in other places with heavy union involvement. Over time you get more and more complex rules for how to calculate pay. The end result is that nobody understands their pay slips anymore and it is nigh impossible to implement and test a system that handles all the exceptional cases. Still, they try and fail instead of simplifying the rules and use the money saved in consultant fees in a way that would actually benefit their employees.
      • by realmolo (574068) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @01:23PM (#20889051)
        I realize that SAP is complex, and that payroll is complex.

        IT DOESN'T MATTER. The software should work. The customizations needed should be relatively EASY to implement. I mean, it's not like they're trying to model global weather systems or something. SAP is really nothing more than a big fat database/spreadsheet. They should be able to make it work. There is no excuse.

        • by DarkOx (621550) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @03:49PM (#20890217) Journal

          I realize that SAP is complex, and that payroll is complex.
          You apparently don't realize that at all. I have spent most of my short career working with ERP systems or doing work very tightly coupled to ERP systems like activity based costing. If you every start doing that sort of work and talk to business folk behind it you will be amazed at how often you find yourself saying "You must be kidding" when they start explaining all the rules and exceptional cases to you. Then you run in to the legacy issues, and how the old system they used in the eighties stored time in 27ths of a second and for that reason you have if not store at least present data that way because those of the numbers the desk workers are used to seeing and it has the tie out with the data wharehouse which has always be loaded that way.

          Oh and payroll is something you can't get wrong. Quite possibly more so then any other business function has to be right the first time. Fixing mistakes is hard and extreemly costly, and that is before any legal exposure is considered. You will also find your self working with the group of business people who are the least trusting, and first to loose confidence, for very good reasons.

          If you think ERP is anything like a database and some spread sheets you have never been close to ERP. I admint its not climate modeling, or interstellar navigation but its not simple.
          • by Alioth (221270) <no@spam> on Monday October 08, 2007 @01:51AM (#20894523) Journal
            This is part of the problem. If the rules are so byzantine that you find yourself going "you must be kidding", and they aren't prepared to change those rules - well, then there's really no point in installing a new system because all you're doing is computerizing a mess... and it will all end in tears.

            Let's rewind the clock a bit. I have a book on my desk, which I recite a short passage out of every time management wants us to computerize a mess. The book is "Businessman's Guide To Microcomputers", by accounting firm Deloitte Haskins and Sells - published November 1982.

            A short excerpt from chapter 14, "Common first time buyer pitfalls"

            We've got a lot of problems, but we're getting a computer
            The buyer is asking for trouble...there is a new "old adage": "Don't computerise a mess...clean it up first". It is important to understand that a computer can't help you do things you don't understand, and it won't make decisions for you. All it does is process a lot of information very quickly...exactly as it is told to do it. To be of any real use, a computer requires a disciplined approach and an organised mind.

            If you're going "You must be kidding" frequently, you're just computerising a mess. Management needs to be prepared to re-engineer the business, not just throw overpriced software and multiple cores at it and hope it sticks.
          • If you think ERP is anything like a database and some spread sheets you have never been close to ERP.
            Not necessarily. It's equally possible that he knows nohing about spreadsheets and databases.
        • by LWATCDR (28044)
          You have never dealt with payroll trying to model global weather systems is easy compared to payroll. Payroll isn't bound by the laws of physics or logic. It is instead bound by the rules of accounting.
          Not only that when you model weather if you are off by one or two percent nobody gets too upset. With payroll it is a very different story.
        • You obviously have not developed in such a public school setting with any of the ERPs out there. Can ERPs be modified? Sure they can. But at what cost? I work on a payroll module of a sort for the community college I work at. If I total the time I've spent on that one project alone together, it would equal 2 consecutive months of non-stop 40-hour weeks in the past year alone. Why? Because for every business rule payroll comes up with, they also come up with 5+ exceptions to go along with it. As the
      • I'd argue that (Score:5, Interesting)

        by HangingChad (677530) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @02:25PM (#20889513) Homepage

        Neither SAP nor Peoplesoft suck.

        Suck is sort of a generic term but when it comes to specific customer installations go I've never seen one go smoothly...ever. Never seen one come in on budget, either. The best thing I can say for either one of them is they're better than Seibel.

        I have seen the reps leapfrog over the technical department to pitch the executives, glossing over the implementation and cost issues. Seen them give out customer testimonials that didn't hold up to investigation, low ball hardware requirements and suggest that the IT people were well-meaning but out of their depth.

        I also disagree that it's something that couldn't be custom built for less money and deliver longer and more reliable service. Now if you mean having EDS or Dell Consulting build it for you then, yes, you're completely correct in that context.

        • low ball hardware requirements and suggest that the IT people were well-meaning but out of their depth.

          That is what every sales rep tries to do. In technical matters, particularly those where IT expertise would be valuable to managers making a purchase decision, the sales rep will attempt to bypass IT because he knows that if there are any flaws in the product or bad reviews from previous customers then the IT department is the most likely to uncover them. The goal of the sales rep is to close a sale,
      • This brings up an important point: organizations don't bother to try to simplify their business rules. Complex business rules make life harder even IF the computer does work because people still have to verify the results and answer questions from users (paycheck receivers). Beurocrats build up layers of messy rules like a desk or fridge that nobody ever cleans. Until real AI is invented, it may be unrealistic for a computer to magically fix it all. If such a system is too complex for regular payroll clerks
        • by mikael (484)
          Maybe they evolve because the sales team or the marketing team feel that there is a price-point that isn't being matched by existing products, or that staff aren't being properly renumerated the effort that they are putting in. For example, working at a clients site, attending a trade show or conference - these allow sales leads to be created. There was even a category of work created: display stand duty.
        • by Allador (537449)
          The vast majority of the 'complexity' on the financial side (including payroll) of ERP systems are externally imposed. The business has no control over it.

          Federal regs, financial best practices, laws, contracts, etc.
        • This brings up an important point: organizations don't bother to try to simplify their business rules. Complex business rules make life harder even IF the computer does work because people still have to verify the results and answer questions from users (paycheck receivers). Beurocrats build up layers of messy rules like a desk or fridge that nobody ever cleans. Until real AI is invented, it may be unrealistic for a computer to magically fix it all. If such a system is too complex for regular payroll clerks
          • If by sucessfully automated you mean some convoluted plan whereby it's downloaded, printed, photographed on a wooden table, printed (again), rekeyed, changed manually and uploaded again via VBA you're 100% right.
            • If by sucessfully automated you mean some convoluted plan whereby it's downloaded, printed, photographed on a wooden table, printed (again), rekeyed, changed manually and uploaded again via VBA you're 100% right.

                    No, all these hundreds of millions of dollars of failed ERP systems are attempts to replace mainframe / midrange systems that works far better than any buzzword bonanza they can come up with.

                rd
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by JimBobJoe (2758)
        This is especially true in the public sector

        I got to watch a Peoplesoft HR implementation at a large public university in the late 90s. It was really the first time that Peoplesoft was being deployed for university HR purposes.

        It was a painful, ugly and almost absurdly expensive transition (we're talking an initial budget of $10-12 million, but a final cost more in the $100-120 million range.) Over and over again I heard complaints that there was no particular way of doing X in the Peoplesoft software--the
    • by DuncanE (35734) *
      We are talking about SAP/Peoplesoft? ... surely this stuff if just off the shelf payroll software? Shouldn't cost more than the average family car yeah?

      Oh hang on... theres "consulting costs" involved... Thats where SAP/PS "certified" consultants come in to "customise" the software... In that case its probably 100 family cars worth.

      They probably should of gone with Microsoft Access HR database template and hired a couple of VBA programmers. And at this point, you think Im joking....
      • by antarctican (301636) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @01:34PM (#20889141) Homepage
        Oh hang on... theres "consulting costs" involved... Thats where SAP/PS "certified" consultants come in to "customise" the software... In that case its probably 100 family cars worth.

        Oh don't get me started.... I have experience with both PeopleSoft and SAP, and I am not impressed by either.

        My employer has implemented PeopleSoft and it's been nothing but a nightmare. Inaccurate accounts, never quote being sure how much money you have in an account, and the web interface.... It's like something out of 1997! This is 2007, and if Google and other companies can make sleek AJAX interfaces, you'd think on a multi-million dollar system like PeopleSoft they could at least build one that looks as though it's from this decade!

        As for SAP, I administer a SAP system for a friend's company, we're talking a company of about $1-2 million in sales a year. And as I learn more about this system, I shake my head more in disbelief. I've spent weekends having to rebuild new laptops they've bought with XP because the software simply doesn't work under Vista, and the estimated compatibility date we keep getting is 1 year+. You might say that's Vista's fault, and to a degree it is, however when I learn about how their authentication works, and how it depends on Vista's authentication for their client-server model, plus their own internal authentication I wonder how these people ever got their CS degrees. The clients access MS SQL DIRECTLY, not through a nice integrity maintaining server process. That is such a huge no-no if you want good audit trails and data integrity, you do not let the clients directly access the database!

        I often wonder, if I knew more about accounting, I bet I could put together a startup and make a piece of software which cleans their clocks. It is complex, but doable, without interfaces out of last century and authentication protocols which depend upon the eccentricities of different versions of an operating system. If someone took on this challenge they could be very, very, very rich just by building a usable system that doesn't require millions in consulting fees.

        And yes, those SAP consultants, I can see my friend's blood pressure go up whenever I tell him he have to call them for assistance on some arcane matter which is far overly complex for what is trying to be accomplished. I guess the easier way to become very rich is to be a SAP/PeopleSoft consultant, if you can swallow your morals.
        • Now imagine if you had to work with the crap systems from Peoplesoft, Lawson, etc?

          I once worked for a consulting firm that though there was going to be big bucks with Siebel. Nearly became a Siebel consultant. Fortunately the company went under before I got into that too deep.
        • by AVee (557523)

          My employer has implemented PeopleSoft and it's been nothing but a nightmare. Inaccurate accounts, never quote being sure how much money you have in an account, and the web interface.... It's like something out of 1997! This is 2007, and if Google and other companies can make sleek AJAX interfaces, you'd think on a multi-million dollar system like PeopleSoft they could at least build one that looks as though it's from this decade!

          No they cannot just build another UI on top off their system. There is no such thing as a seperate UI in these old (mostly 4GL) systems, a new UI generally means either somthing which isn't much more than a new skin on the same UI or, to do it right, a complete rewrite of the whole system. And when you talk about an ERP system which took about a decade to build you can guess how much enthousiasm you will find within your management when you propose a rewrite.

          I often wonder, if I knew more about accounting, I bet I could put together a startup and make a piece of software which cleans their clocks. It is complex, but doable, without interfaces out of last century and authentication protocols which depend upon the eccentricities of different versions of an operating system. If someone took on this challenge they could be very, very, very rich just by building a usable system that doesn't require millions in consulting fees.

          You probably can, I'm sure I can. But it w

        • by theCoder (23772)

          My employer has implemented PeopleSoft and it's been nothing but a nightmare. Inaccurate accounts, never quote being sure how much money you have in an account, and the web interface.... It's like something out of 1997! This is 2007, and if Google and other companies can make sleek AJAX interfaces, you'd think on a multi-million dollar system like PeopleSoft they could at least build one that looks as though it's from this decade!

          PeopleSoft may not be the greatest, but at least their 1997-ish web interface works in browsers other than IE. Unlike these jokers [authoria.com], which my employer recently started using. The site that they set up for my company is so horribly broken there's no chance of getting it to work in FireFox. But somehow, IE ignores enough of the errors that it all works. I'll take a "primitive" but working interface over a fancy but non-functional interface any day of the week!

          I often wonder, if I knew more about accounting, I bet I could put together a startup and make a piece of software which cleans their clocks.

          While I don't think writing an ERP solution f

        • As for SAP, I administer a SAP system for a friend's company, we're talking a company of about $1-2 million in sales a year. And as I learn more about this system, I shake my head more in disbelief. I've spent weekends having to rebuild new laptops they've bought with XP because the software simply doesn't work under Vista

          I'm not sure you should be running a production SAP system on a laptop. Now you probably mean the sapgui frontend, but your inability to distinguish the two pretty much renders your opini

          • by Senzei (791599)

            I'm not sure you should be running a production SAP system on a laptop. Now you probably mean the sapgui frontend, but your inability to distinguish the two pretty much renders your opinions worthless.
            Given two inferences from a statement, one of which makes approximately zero sense while the other seems like a reasonable statement, you go with the near gibberish produced by a completely literal interpretation of his statement. You must be a lot of fun at parties.
            • Nonetheless, he said the wrong thing so he's an idiot, and so are you. P.S. He's having problems on vista, FFS - and he blames SAP. Does anything run properlty on vista?
      • Customising has a specific meaning in the SAP arena. Is that the meaning you're using here?
    • by ari{Dal} (68669) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @01:23PM (#20889055)
      The price has nothing to do with it. Here's why software implementations fail:

      - failure to scope the project correctly.
      - scope creep, as everyone rushes to get their own stamp on the project.
      - on the other side, scope reduction, once some pinhead in accounting realises how much the scope creep is costing.
      - implementing for IT instead of the end user.
      - allowing either IT or business sole authority in software purchase decisions. Either way it's a guaranteed disaster.
      - instead of improving current processes, projects attempt to replace/revamp said processes completely, with little to no impact from the people who actually use them.
      - lack of training. Nine times out of ten when a project runs over budget, the first area cut is the end user training.
      - cheaping out on the implementation. I've watched companies spend millions on software licenses, then shortchange on the implementation.
      - rushed implementation. Instead of planning and implementing on a schedule, the project managers fix a timeline and say "get it done in this timeframe", completely ignoring how long it SHOULD take.

      I could add more, but this is just part of it.
      • by _Sharp'r_ (649297) <sharper@boo k s u nderreview.com> on Sunday October 07, 2007 @02:13PM (#20889437) Homepage Journal
        Typical government/large corporate software project steps:
        1. Have a manager in a government bureacracy or at a director-level that the vendor takes out for "business" golf make the decision.
        2. Ensure that manager has no repercussions for his decision and probably isn't even in the same position when the project is supposed to go live.
        3. Have the vendor, with no knowledge of the existing system, come up with a timeline to replace it with their stuff, but "customized".
        4. Pay vendor millions in licensing fees. Golf has a very good ROI for big vendors.
        5. Pay vendor millions more to supply a few brand new employees who took the vendor's "class" on his product to "customize" it for you, thus making those employees valuable enough to get something of a real job working for someone else later.
        6. When the first few milestones are missed, have the vendor add a couple of people to the project that know even less than the original consultants.
        7. When things start go even slower, begin to blame the "extra" work that wasn't ever planned for to start with, but is critical to the project.
        8. To make up time, cut out any originally required user training.
        9. To make up more time, cut out all documentation efforts.
        10. To make up more time, cut out all quality assurance efforts and related paperwork.
        11. To save time, skip development and testing environments and deploy everything straight to production servers.
        12. Switch over to the new system, even though it's not done, hasn't been tested, and no one knows how to use it.
        13. Sign a long-term consulting contract with the vendor to pay them for keeping the original consultants on doing "maintenance" for the forseeable future, hoping something will eventually work.
        14. Ignore your own staff's original predictions and recommendations and complain about how no one could have predicted that this project could possibbly fail, since the vendor is the "industry leader".
        15. ????
        16. If you're the vendor, "Profit!!!!" . If you're the original manager, put "Successfully led a $50,000,000 software project" on your resume.
        • by saitoh (589746)
          Sweet jesus, Martin!?!? Is that you? I didn't think you read slashdot. I didn't think the implementation plan were to be public.

          (State agency which just put in PSoft...)
      • by BobandMax (95054)
        Amen, brother. We have just finished a first-stage PLM rollout and were fortunate enough to have a mandate for quality. We had an approximate and flexible timeframe and were able to devote adequate resources to testing and validation. Additionally, we took the opportunity to examine our business processes and streamline them when politically feasible.
        To date, we have had no serious issues and users are generally pleased with the result.
      • These types of things can no longer happen. Why? Because projects and HR types now insist on only hiring certified project managers with PMP after their names.... mmmmmm errrrrrr.... never mind.... forget I said anything. Sorry. Carry on.
    • by sohp (22984)
      SAP and PeopleSoft == ENTERPRISEY!!
    • by Splab (574204)
      This is often because its the lowest bidder who bags the contract.
    • by Troy (3118)
      In every (Ohio) public school district that I've worked in, teacher pay was determined by a very simple grid of years experience vs education. The district had a base salary, and every cell on the grid was merely a percentage (over 100%) of the base salary. Stipends for coaching/advising were also percentages (albeit much smaller) of the base salary.

      I'm not sure how salaried pay could be MORE simple. Starting this school year, I knew exactly how much I was going to be paid (gross) and was able to calculate
      • by Allador (537449)
        Some sources of complexity.

        Salaried vs. Hourly
        Overtime for hourly
        Accrued comp time for hourly
        academic year salaries vs. calendar year salaries
        vacation & sick accruals and rates
        pre-tax vs. post-tax deductions
        complex deduction rates for things like life insurance
        people paid off multiple accounts
        people paid off project money off multiple accounts based on what they work on
        time-reporting and approval (often part of payroll)
        leave request and approval (often part of payroll)

        Terminations:

        wow oh wow can this ge
    • by GrEp (89884)
      They shouldn't have rolled it out until it was fully tested. Run it on last years payroll and make sure it is 100% the same. Once the ERP firm has customized it properly, THEN buy the license. Why any organization would pay up front for a large software system without taking into consideration the fact that it has to be customized is beyond me.

      Software vendors need to be straight with their customers and describe how much time/money their systems take to customize and customization issues should be spelled
    • by RogerWilco (99615)
      I think part of the problem is that for these large projects they usually bring in a group of outside developers that do not know the processes at the organisation well enough, lack "domain knowledge" so to speak. In the worst cases I know of the developers are actually then barred from talking to people in the organisation, preferably future users, and are required only to work on some incomplete and often incorrect spec that was written as part of the tender.

      Also people are commenting here that the automa
    • by tompaulco (629533) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @02:56PM (#20889791) Homepage Journal
      Yes, they suck. And what they suck is a pretty hefty amount of money. This is because they are built to handle just about any custom configuration with a bit of customization. The customization is also expensive. This is why SAP, PeopleSoft, DBS, etc. are good systems for Enterprises which have large numbers of billions of dollars going through them, and can afford to spend years paralleling the system to make sure that it works. I worked in companies that used these systems, and they often had close to 100 full time very smart IT personnel making sure things ran seamlessly. It cost the company millions per year, but the amount was eclipsed by the billions saved in the automation of the accounting system.
      I am quite convinced that the Chicago Public School system does not have the expertise to run such a system, nor the cash flowing through the system to justify having purchased it.
      The software is not wrong, it is just being used in the wrong environment. Probably some salesman needs to be fired (out of a cannon; into the sun). The salesman's creed is: "The right customer is everyone, and the right product is the one I'm selling." This is absolute bullocks.
      • Probably some salesman needs to be fired (out of a cannon; into the sun)

        The salesman probably doesn't care if he does get fired, people get fired or laid off in sales all of the time. If he is a true mercenary then he will quickly find another position (probably higher paying or better commission) someplace else and repeat the process. I knew a guy like that once, extremely good at what he did, which was selling things, but completely without moral compunctions...all that mattered to him was the sale an
    • Murgatroyd's Second Law of IT Procurement: Never Buy Anything With The Word "Enterprise" In The Product Name
  • by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768@@@comcast...net> on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:50PM (#20888813) Journal
    As a IT Technician one of the things that annoys me to no end is how terrible our payroll setup is. We run software designed for 98 not because it is good (its terrible) but because our business admin refuses to upgrade and had threatened to quit if we did.

    Considering we pay her half what a BA in the business world would make because she works in education.. her quitting is not a option for my district.

    • by fermion (181285)
      I think it is a matter of support. When I worked in industry, and we put in a enterprise system, it wa made clear that there would be costs, and those costs were budgeted. When it was clear that the budgeted costs were low, more money was added until it worked. If something wasted a lot of time, it was fixed, as employee time had real and opportunity costs.

      In the schools, it is so much different. So many of the costs are externalized, usually by making teachers and administrators work off the clock. T

    • Considering we pay her half what a BA in the business world would make because she works in education.. her quitting is not a option for my district.

      Yep. But why don't we say it like it really is. Gross management incompetence. I have consulted for a major college and could not believe the lack of depth in the head of I/T. Totally freaking clueless to to I/T and industry best practices. Not one molecule in his head was into I/T and being irrational and political type no hope too either. A freshman i

  • by mrbill1234 (715607) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:52PM (#20888823)
    http://csueu9.blogspot.com/2007/08/peoplesoft-no-pay-for-arizona-state.html [blogspot.com]

    "The move to PeopleSoft at Arizona State has left hundreds of employees high and dry with smaller or empty paychecks. Employees are bouncing checks and having to scramble for loans to pay bills."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 07, 2007 @12:53PM (#20888827)
    One of the main problems facing these ERP systems is that they try to be far too generic. Site-specific functionality is jammed into the overall framework in the form of modules. Unfortunately, business logic is often very complex, and so it doesn't always fit well into these modules. This can lead directly to hackish attempts to circumvent the limitations imposed by the ERP modules system, which often leads directly to faulty software.

    Another problem affecting lower-end ERP solutions is the use of data abstraction layers like Hibernate. These layers separate the application developers from the databases that are actually storing the data being manipulated by the ERP system. Since the developers tend to now avoid writing SQL statements, they lose sight of the real relationships between the data stored within the database tables. Losing sight of these relationships means that the developers often take obtuse, roundabout ways to getting to data through the data abstraction layer, when the same data could be obtained in a few lines of SQL.

    • by Zangief (461457)
      Hibernate allows you to use raw SQL when you need it.
    • by Allador (537449)
      I hate to respond to an AC but I cant let this go.

      Another problem affecting lower-end ERP solutions is the use of data abstraction layers like Hibernate. These layers separate the application developers from the databases that are actually storing the data being manipulated by the ERP system. Since the developers tend to now avoid writing SQL statements, they lose sight of the real relationships between the data stored within the database tables.

      No no no. Several problems with this.

      In the typical case, you are going to have a set of business entity objects that very closely maps 1:1 to the entity tables (not including mapping and join tables).

      These BOs have exactly the same relationship with each other than the underlying tables do, and its expressed obviously and explicitly in the class definitions.

      Whether you're doing pure, modern OO domain modeling, and then developing the data schema later to

  • PeopleSoft 'implementations' have been making life miserable for those of us at UW (University of Waterloo) for years now. I'm guessing it's mostly due to vendor lock-in. It's not surprising to me that they're doing poorly elsewhere. Their systems are used for our co-op job system [uwaterloo.ca] and our student information system [uwaterloo.ca] (choose classes, view grades/transcripts, etc). Finally, as I'm about to graduate, they are using the talent we have at Waterloo [wikipedia.org] to hire some co-op students to write our own system, at least for
  • About $95 million was allocated for the BTS ERP implementation project, with $55 million earmarked for Deloitte Consulting
    Perhaps a big piece of the $55 million is to cover the expenses of good lawyers, who could be used to protect Deloitte from the financial burdens of a massive implementation failure. Technology consultants may no longer be a good project investment.
  • Yes, there are problems with not enough hardware for peak usage, trying to make a one-size-fits-all piece of software, etc. However we must realize that if a teacher (or anyone) is supposed to be paid X dollars per week, and the check is written wrong, it's probably because someone making $12/hr keypunched in the wrong salary.

    The OSFA software model is a problem, too, I'm sure, because it often can't be configured to do exactly what's needed for your industry. I have a customer on QuickBooks that stil

  • by thatskinnyguy (1129515) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @01:04PM (#20888917)
    It's common to think that ERP or some other big software is going to be the silver bullet for all of your company's problems. In fact, that is just throwing money at the issue.

    ERP implementations are meant to mirror existing business processes. If your business processes are ass to begin with, and there is no change before an ERP roll-out, your business will still experience the same issues.

    All this "blame the ERP vendor" stuff is crap. I blame the people who are running the system and poorly implemented it.
    • by khasim (1285)

      ERP implementations are meant to mirror existing business processes. If your business processes are ass to begin with, and there is no change before an ERP roll-out, your business will still experience the same issues.

      But it is VERY difficult to "mirror existing business processes" because of TWO things:

      #1. Duplicating a human decision process is difficult in software - the human may have 50+ years of experience that s/he cannot articulate to the analyst. Which leads to ...

      #2. The process and business logic

    • ERP implementations are meant to mirror existing business processes.
      Only at the very coarsest level - you buy stuff, pay for stuff, make/do/sell stuff, get money. But then all business systems do those things.

      Trying to mirror exixting processes in detail is a recipe for disaster. You might as well employ Nelson's tactics with aircraft carriers.
  • by starseeker (141897) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @01:04PM (#20888919) Homepage
    My undergrad college rolled out a Peoplesoft based system with (IIRC) the objective of avoiding having to deal with fixing the old mainframe based setup. After a very large amount of money (which included fixing the old system anyway since the new system wasn't ready in time) we got a new system that (at least from the student side) was less attractive than the old one. I don't know all that much about the admin/teaching sides of things, but from what I saw Postgresql + PHP + better initial design considerations + a few good coders would have done wonders for a fraction of the $$. At that time we also had wind of other schools having similar trouble with Peoplesoft.

    Perhaps the system got better over time, but I can't help wondering why Peoplesoft is so dominant in such situations - do people have better experiences with them they can report? My experience with it was admittedly very light (in the form of rather useless and highly non-intuitive grade reports) but if that was a sample of their standard work quality the market should be begging for competition.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hey! (33014)
      Why is any vendor of proprietary software more successful than its competitors?

      Because it has the longest punch list. It's very hard to select software which offers "less" for the same price.

      And once you've handed the vendor a pile of dough, you can never afford to admit defeat. Spending a ton of money on a system like this is like getting married, with the hidden proviso that if divorce follows, your erstwhile partner gets to keep your penis. The result is nobody is going to be candid; they just keep th
  • I've always said (Score:3, Informative)

    by rpillala (583965) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @01:08PM (#20888951)

    Payroll won't pay you if they have a choice.

    Our school system recently made a transition from individual electronic gradebook servers per school to centralized gradebook servers serving the district. The troubles they didn't foresee in testing came from not having actual teachers around to place a realistic load on the system. Not just in the number of concurrent users, but the varying operating systems in place at schools, the varying age of equipment from room-to-room, and other factors have popped up. I'm responsible at my school site for handling people's issues with the system, but I had no part in the decision to move to a centralized server. It makes sense though, I just wish it had been set up in parallel for a while last year so that we wouldn't have all this failure to deal with that could have been anticipated.

    The worst case with our gradebooks is that we get a little behind putting scores into the computer. No one's livelihood is at stake. I would hope that with something like payroll they could have tried it in parallel for a while to catch issues like the ones they're having now.

  • PeopleSoft? (Score:4, Informative)

    by CompMD (522020) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @01:23PM (#20889053)
    PeopleShaft not working right? Thats unpossible!

    Seriously, PeopleSoft sucks fiercely unless you have an army of people spending thousands of manhours on it to make it work right. At the university I attended, when they rolled out PeopleSoft to do EVERYTHING (including tuition, enrollment, etc.) all kinds of random errors would screw up what you were trying to do, and the university's stance was "oops, sorry." This was their stance even if it meant you couldn't enroll in a class (or couldn't drop a class), or pay your tuition on time.
  • Suckers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by g-san (93038) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @01:25PM (#20889075)
    This is one the biggest scam in business history. You get some company to buy into a huge software package, hire armies of consultants, schedule months of meetings, and they end up with something worse than what they had before, only poorer.
  • Results ... of about 387,000 for: peoplesoft failure.

    Some of those hits are irrelevant, but many lead to Peoplesoft horror stories.

  • by myc (105406) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @02:27PM (#20889519)
    I don't know much about the innards of Peoplesoft, but speaking as a faculty end user, it is a steaming pile of crap. The current implementation of Peoplesoft running across all 23 campuses of the California State University system is estimated to have cost over $700 million at this point.

    Just as one example, this fall students were being booted out of classes they legitimately enrolled in, because the financial aid module could not talk to the enrollment module properly, leading the system to think that these students did not pay tuition. Our department office spent the better part of the last 3 weeks manually re-enrolling everyone.

    There is a state auditor's report on the CSU selection and implementation of Peoplesoft, which began back in 1997 (too lazy to link to it but Google will find you the .pdf). After skimming through it, I couldn't believe that no CSU executives were not indicted on insider trading and corruption charges.
  • LAUSD problems (Score:5, Informative)

    by msaavedra (29918) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @02:37PM (#20889603)

    My wife is a teacher in LAUSD. Her paycheck has been screwed up on a number of occasions. She no longer knows how much she is supposed to be paid, because her salary is now different every month. The worst case was when the district deposited her check (direct deposit into the checking account), then withdrew every penny of it the next day with no warning. Why did they do this? No one has been able to explain it. The following day, they deposited the exact same amount back into the account. Even when we have the money in the account now, we feel like we can't touch it.

    Since this has affected us personally, and since I'm an I.T. professional, I've been following this pretty closely. Here is some more information that wasn't talked about in the article:

    • David Brewer, the LAUSD superintendent, has no experience in education. As far as I can tell, he has little experience in business too. He was a career military man, and probably is used to things like the fabled $600 toilet seat, $300 screw drivers, etc. To be fair, the problems started before he took office, but he has been woefully unable to deal with this situation. To make matters worse, despite his inexperience, he makes even more money than the last superintendent.
    • There is suspicion of corruption in the contracting process. Deloitte, the company who got the job, were not able to get this contract legally, because they were too expensive. Someone in the district hired a lobbyist who got our state legislature to pass a law changing this. The day after the law changed, Deloitte was hired. Through an amazing coincidence, the aformentioned lobbyist is also employed by Deloitte. I think that as things progress, we'll find people in the district with other ties to Deloitte.
    • The last contract negotiations between the teachers union and the district was very ugly. The union hired a real firebrand to negotiotiate, there was nearly a strike, lots of inflammatory stuff was said in the media, and lots of bad blood was created. Eventually the district was forced to give in to most of the union demands. I wouldn't be surprised if the district is dragging their heels on getting this fixed simply out of spite.
    • Aside from that, the slowness also seems due to everyone going into CYA mode, probably because there is plenty of blame to assign to all parties involved. I suspect that when everything comes out, we'll see that not only was Deloitte incompetent in managing this project, but also that the district did not give proper specifications of what they needed. After all, the important part for Deloitte and their cronies in the district (the part that needed lots of thought, effort, and creativity) was figuring out how extract as much money from the taxpayers as possible. As for the actual project, who cares?
    • To make matters worse, despite his inexperience, he makes even more money than the last superintendent.

      Perhaps he is subject to the same disruptions in the payroll system as everyone else so he makes more in theory, but only when the system doesn't inadvertently pay him less or $0.00

      I remember reading once that Deloitte was one of the biggest proponents of project outsourcing so it would not be surprising to me if it comes out in a later investigation of what went wrong that the people responsible fo
    • by Rich0 (548339)
      The worst case was when the district deposited her check (direct deposit into the checking account), then withdrew every penny of it the next day with no warning.

      Minor rant here - why on earth do banks allow random people to WITHDRAWL money from an account with no knowledge other than the account number?

      It is even worse than letting random people charge a credit card knowing only the account number - at least in that case you have a week or two to pay the bill and the charge can be contested and not paid in
      • by mcmonkey (96054)

        Minor rant here - why on earth do banks allow random people to WITHDRAWL money from an account with no knowledge other than the account number?

        Calm your rant. They don't.

        If you read your direct deposit form, you'll see in addition to providing information for the company to put money into your account, you are also giving authorization for the company to remove money from your account to correct over-payment.

        In this case the answer is simple. Don't use direct deposit.

  • I am a SAP Integrator (not on the functional side, but on technology - SAP Basis).

    1. There is nothing wrong with the software or architecture design.
    2. SAP is highly customizable to customer's requirements.
    3. Projects are normally rushed thru without proper planning.
    4. Lack of quality SAP specialists. These days, SAP consultants are commodotized.
    It is difficult to identify a good consultant. It appears consultants without relevant
    industry experience were deployed (SAP+Government+Education+HR background
  • Some of these problems have little to do with the software itself. Rather, the process was a load of crap from day one with a zillion stupid little rules. Naturally, such rules can turn a fundamentally dead simple process into a giant hairball in an instant.

    The give and take in business software should be at the boundary the old process and the new software. That is, developers should have input into the business process side of things. After all, most business programming uses procedural languages, so it

    • by Peeteriz (821290)
      "a set of 20 rules can be compressed down to 3 if you don't mind the result being up to a penny off"
      Sadly, this is not the case.
      Many 'penny off' cases, once they happen on accounting papers, will most likely result in at least 10 hour long investigation (think $$ in costs), as every penny must be correct, even if the cost of investigation/corrections greatly exceeds the amount of mistake.
      • by sjames (1099)

        Really, that depends on the circumstances. If a penny just appears of disappears from a ledger, then yes, it's a nightmare in the accounting world, mostly because if a penny can disappear this month, it could be $100 next month.

        I'm talking about cases where something like a paycheck is computed and that ends up a whole penny off. In that case, the check is correctly entered in the register, it's certainly close enough that nobody has a complaint, and the ledger will balance perfectly.

        Often enough, busin

  • I suspect they tried solving their problems with lots of cash, relied on outside consultation, didn't consult with internal key staff, and got hit with reality.

    I wonder how many meetings were made with the schools' operational staff to analyze the payroll system that was in place to take care of all the factors and how much was planning was done to make sure the transition was smooth?
  • by jwiegley (520444) on Sunday October 07, 2007 @05:38PM (#20891055)

    PFFFFFT! $132M... $17M... $60M... Bah! Nickels and dimes! Come see me and bitch when your school system's people soft implementation has cost you $800M+.

    [wikipedia]The California State University system adopted PeopleSoft in the early 2000s. The university spent $500 million on this system in a process so deficient that it resulted in an investigation and a rebuke by the state legislature. The Report of the California State Auditor criticised the University, amongst other things, for not having a business case for the implementation. When asked why it never conducted a formal return-on investment analysis on the CMS project, the university explained that the magnitude of potential savings estimated by its consultants, IBM and Pacific Partners Consulting Group (Pacific Partners), led them to believe that such a formal analysis was unnecessary.

    And yes we bitch that the state doesn't fund our university well enough. That we should be given more funding. When, in fact, we are given enough money. Our administrators, chancellors and trustees just choose to waste it in the most inefficient ways possible.

    And don't get me started on the lack of business case. That's just S.O.P.

  • I've been overpaid, not sure how much. Could be 900, could be twice that. Either way, the money is spent. I did spend almost 4 hours one day at the district offices only to be told they had no answer and couldn't help me. Lame! I was also told that if I was overpaid they will request it back. However I got mixed answers to how and when I'd have to repay them. SOme say they will deduct it from one full paycheck. Others say it will be taken out in smaller increments. We'll see what happens. What really suck
    • What really sucks is those of us who have been overpaid have also paid taxes on that money.

      No, you've had a portion of that money withheld for taxes. At the end of the year, you'll get it all squared away when you actually file and you'll only end up having to pay taxes on the money you've received.

      You'll only have paid too much taxes if the discrepancy is not corrected until after january 1, and then only if the extra falls in a higher tax bracket than you usually fall. You can mediate this as well, buy

  • Being out of work now for a while I applied for an "SAP HR business analysis" even though I have very little HR or SAP training. Much to my surprise the University of Texas called me in for an interview. They had 'reciently implemented the HR SAP' and are now looking for people to 'fine tune' it to make it run correctly. They could not find any trained HR types with this knowledge so they interviewed me - an IT type. One comment they made was 'not to make any interface programming changes because after they

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