US Senate Issues Scathing Report—$1 Billion ERP Implementation Lessons Learned

  • Written By: Ted Rohm
  • Published: July 23 2014

The United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has issued its official report on the Air Force’s failed enterprise resource planning (ERP) system implementation. The Air Force Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS) was supposed to be a “transformational” logistics program that would make the US Air Force more efficient and effective. The goal of the program was to replace hundreds of legacy systems, some dating back to the 1970s. But, after nearly a decade of work by the system integrator, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), and more than $1.1 billion (USD) spent, the ECSS program was terminated in December of 2012.

The more than 40-page report, after stripping away the Congressional finger pointing, should be a must-read for any organization embarking on an ERP implementation. The report sheds light on critical ERP implementation lessons to learn, and has some great recommendations—and one doesn’t need to spend $1 billion to find out. This massive exercise in project mismanagement and the final report were paid for by the US taxpayer!

There are some problems that doomed the ECSS project:
  • Cultural Resistance to Change—The Air Force culture includes users who “refused to accommodate new ways of performing their day-to-day-tasks.” The Air Force personnel were to use COTS (Commercial Off the Shelf) products from Oracle, IFS, and Click Commerce and leverage industry best practices. According to the report, the Air Force resisted changing business processes and requested CSC customize the software.
  • Lack of Leadership During Project—There was no individual in the Air Force chain of command responsible and accountable for the project from start to finish. The timeline below shows some five program executive officers over the course of the program. The lack of leadership meant that business process changes were not effectively pushed across the organization.
  • Inadequate Mitigation of Risks—Though these problems were identified early on in the program (circa 2004) when conducting a risk management analysis, the risk mitigation strategy was deemed to be “woefully inadequate” even by the US congressional committee.
Other items exposed in the report read like they are out of a software implementation 101 article, such as: no defined scope; the business processes weren’t documented (no as-is and to-be process models); the set of software solutions selected from Oracle, IFS, and Click Commerce was supposed to integrate out of the box—are you kidding me!; and there were multiple program governance structures. Interesting that neither the Air Force nor the CSC seemed to wish to put a stop to the program and another billion or so dollars was requested to continue the farce for just a few more years . . .

All one can say is don’t let these things happen to you.

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