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The recent announcement by the U.S. Air Force of their decision to scrap the billion-dollar ERP program ECSS (Expeditionary Combat Support System) was not a popular one with U.S. taxpayers and is one of several government-funded IT projects that have been abandoned due to lack of ERP project management. As reported in Computerworld, the project was abandoned because it has "not yielded any significant military capability."

According to an Air Force representative, it is estimated that another $1.1 billion would be required to meet the FY17 FIAR (Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness) compliance standards, and this is simply not viable. The announcement was not unexpected, as even Air Force officials have publicly voiced their dissatisfaction with the project, with the systems integrator CSC ending its contract last March.

Midsize companies can learn a valuable lesson from this report and ensure that all ERP proposals are analyzed accurately in advance of implementation. Midsize companies would not typically be dealing with projects of this value, but the underlying principles of project management remain the same. Project management methodologies are utilized by perceptive companies to manage all aspects of a company's operations, whether it is sales lead tracking or social CRM projects. ERP is no different and requires competent project management for maximum success.

When instigating or upgrading an ERP process, all involved departments need to outline their objectives and expectations. IT professionals in particular, need to be aware of all requirements, in every department in the organization. Issues of compatibility, whether hardware or software, need to be identified at an early stage, usually in the concept stage, before any investment has been made.

For example, if a company uses SAP extensively in its processes, any software or hardware upgrade needs to consider this fact. It is pointless to purchase the latest version of Microsoft Server if existing software is not supported and cannot be integrated successfully with the current SAP version or indeed with other legacy applications. As SAP users require individual licensing, a failure to recognize such issues can result in high licensing costs for the company, especially if upgrade licensing is not available. Users of earlier versions of SAP will be familiar with the compatibility issues caused by new releases of Internet Explorer, with most small and midsize companies making the decision not to upgrade Internet Explorer to the latest version, as SAP functionality would be lost.

This is the main reason why IT administrators have to prevent company users from installing applications on business systems. Even simple changes can have serious consequences for productivity. This is especially true when custom solutions are implemented for internal processes, using additional software such as FileMaker Pro, for example. Midsize companies do not have the luxury of U.S. taxpayer subsidies and could not survive a loss like the one absorbed by the U.S. Air Force. Therefore, in many ways commercial companies are more responsible when it comes to ERP project management, realizing the possible cost implications of any mistakes and considering the benefits to customers for all upgrades.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. Like us onFacebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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AltaFlux Corporation

By AltaFlux Corporation

AltaFlux understands what you and your organization need to excel, and can deliver rapid innovation to unleash your full workforce potential. Together, we can empower your business by streamlining, transforming, and optimizing your key HCM and talent processes with industry-leading SAP SuccessFactors technology—enabling you to adapt at the speed of change.