Frankie Does ERP, Part 3

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[Editor’s note: Frank is a real person, employed at a real company. However, I’ve changed certain identifying particulars for a variety of reasons. This interactive series is an exercise in what-if analysis based on ongoing interviews with Frankie as well as your feedback. You may find Frank’s use of language a little colorful. I have toned it down. It’s still colorful.]

Previously: Episode 1|Episode 2


My boss wants an ERP system. My boss wants an SAP ERP system. My boss wants me to call SAP now so we can get this ERP system. He’s got it in his head that SAP is the Rolls-Royce of ERP, and that’s why he wants it.

And because my paycheck is the only one currently feeding the people who are fond of me, I should probably do what Theodore tells me to do.

But committing our company to a six- to seven-figure expense could potentially kill my career deader than it already is.

I’m never what you’d call a frontrunner for the continued-employment award, anyway. If I become an unperson after the next round of layoffs, that would cover Theodore’s ass perfectly.

Covering his own ass is Theodore’s main area of expertise. He has a black belt in six-sigma ass-covery, which means that as political circumstances warrant, he will not only cover his ass, but also insulate it, brick it in, bury it in lead casing, and surround it with a tasteful picket fence and a barbecue for guests.

He’s especially busy now, with some weird C-level shake-ups over the last couple of weeks. Not only is our CEO conspicuously absent from the premises lately, but we’ve also got a new CFO, Greta Samson, parachuted in from a start-up from somewhere in Canada.

What we hear down in the trenches is that the outgoing CFO was energetically encouraged to resign, which may or may not have something to do with his failure to anticipate the speed at which we’re heading for Chapter 11 territory.

From Theodore’s perspective, here’s the way it’s going to play out:

If I arrange for the purchase of SAP ERP and the implementation goes south, the company plays the “blame the fired asshole” game. On the other hand, if the implementation saves the company, Theodore takes the credit and is awarded another gold star.

Theodore’s playing both ends against the middle, and guys who play both ends against the middle irritate me when it happens to be me in the middle.

So I walk back over to his office.

“Hey Theo, just wanted to get some stats before I call your German friends.”

“You never heard of e-mail? What kind of stats?” Theodore doesn’t like stats. They’re too closely related to paper trails.

“Well, it’s our annual report I’m after, actually. Just wanted to get some perspective on our big-picture strategy.”

Theodore stares at me suspiciously, wondering who I’ve been talking to, wondering if he’s got grounds for disciplinary action yet.

“See, I was looking at SAP’s implementation track record, and I think we should form an ERP selection committee before committing to this SAP thing.”
He’s just about to start excoriating me when someone sticks her head into Theo’s office.

“SAP? What? What’s this? Hi, I’m Greta.”

It’s the new CFO. What she’s doing in our neck of the woods?

Theo starts introducing himself.

Greta cuts him off. “Mind if I put in my two cents’ worth?” She doesn’t wait to see if Theo minds.

She’s all for creating a selection committee, it turns out. She makes her case by using phrases that I can see Theo is trying to memorize—phrases like “fixing specific broken processes,” “preparing for strategic change,” “redressing a competitive imbalance,” and “meeting or exceeding new compliance requirements.”

She seems to know what she’s talking about. This puts Theo is in a difficult position. He wants to impose his authority on me, but not at the expense of contradicting his superior.

“Thank you, Greta. I’ll make sure Frankie here reports to me on the committee’s progress.”

“I’ll head up the steering committee,” she says to me as she leaves. “Call a meeting for this afternoon, would you?”

Shit. On one hand, she saved my ass from Theodore. On the other hand, she’s entirely new to our processes (such as they are) and our environment (such as it is). If she’s going to use this selection project to spearhead sweeping changes to our company, we could be in for our rockiest days yet.

What do I tell her? Did things just go from bad to worse?

What should Frank do now? Got any advice? Recommendations? Helpful links? Suggestions? Leave your thoughts in the comment field below!
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