Phase 2 and beyond

“When are we going to do Phase 2 of our administration systems?”

This is a question that has been asked by operations staff through at least

two generations of package implementations. The answer of course is that it

probably will not happen because company and government executives don’t

always understand the value of their systems investments.

Corporate administrative systems don’t generate additional revenue, nor do they appear to provide much more information than the old systems did. The integration of ERP and the relative ease of interfacing to other systems is technical elegance that isn’t very visible in the boardroom. The end result is that very many large organizations and governments paid 100 per cent of package licence fees to use 75 per cent of the package functionality.

Large enterprise systems such as PeopleSoft, SAP and JD Edwards have a lot of functionality that could be considered added value if it were implemented and used properly. Unfortunately, after all the upheaval and effort of implementing the basic functionality, anything beyond that is relegated to Phase 2. Administrative elements such as training administration, occupational health and safety, financial modelling and performance measurement which can be relatively simple to implement once the basic system is in place, are ignored.

Undoubtedly, some of this is caused by fatigue, both physical and financial. But probably the largest single cause of not adding functionality is because people don’t realize it’s already there.

This was dramatically brought home to me at a recent conference when several people approached me about adding functions to their systems, either by buying additional software, or writing it in-house. After some discussion, it turned out that each of the packages from different vendors had all of the increased functions these folks were looking for. It also turned out that the people looking for the added functions had not been part of the original implementation, or been given the usual vendor sales pitch that includes everything but what you’re interested in at the moment.

In each of these cases the implementation project was finished, the consultants had moved on, the vendor sales people had disappeared and telephone and e-mail handled the maintenance. No one was left that understood the business side of the package that was purchased. I suggest this is more common than we like to admit. The worst part is that some of these things that are ignored can help reduce the administrative overhead. Some could help improve customer service and some could help finance departments look like wizards. Some could improve employee satisfaction and still reduce personnel administration costs.

So what do we do about it? A good start would be to look at the administrative systems and see what’s available that isn’t being used. Go back and find out what was supposed to be in Phase 2. Give some serious thought to how the application end users could benefit. Get the users involved and listen to them. Try to resist the temptation to re-design or re-write the package code. Help management understand the information they could have instead of what they do have. Get help. Both the vendor and good systems integrators can help you without breaking the bank. Don’t even mention e-commerce and the neat new toys until you get your infrastructure systems operating efficiently. That’s when evolving into Web-enablement and e-commerce becomes the logical next step in the business — not just another forgotten Phase 2.

Horner is a Partner in Sierra Systems Consultants Corporate Enterprise Systems practice. He can be reached at