Indianapolis ERP Project: Learning from Others' Mistakes

Ann All
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12 Tips for a Successful ERP Launch

Clear expectations and planning can improve your experience and near-term success.


Indianapolis certainly sounds like a good candidate for a shiny new ERP system. According to a Computerworld report, the city and the county in which it's located, although a merged entity, maintain multiple separate back-office systems for crucial functions like payroll in a 30-year-old mainframe environment. Not only that, but hundreds of "shadow" systems have proliferated over the years, with users relying on products like Microsoft Excel.


So it's no surprise that Indianapolis-Marion County plans to spend $16 million to consolidate the multiple systems into an ERP system based on Oracle's PeopleSoft technology. That's got to be a big improvement, right?


Maybe. But let's not forget ERP projects typically involve long and convoluted implementations and occasionally result in splashy litigation like Waste Management's $100 million lawsuit against SAP. More recently, California's Marin County filed a $30 million suit against Deloitte Consulting over an allegedly botched ERP project.


ERP implementations are so arduous that many companies consider them a success if the system is up and running, never mind whether it actually satisfies business needs, I wrote in a post about a $337 million ERP project at the United Nations. Indianapolis-Marin County seems aware of this and has taken a number of steps to ensure its ERP project will be more successful than some of those mentioned above.


Perhaps most important, business goals rather than technology will drive the effort. Said Glen Baker, the city's CIO:

We are going to focus on business transformation and not the implementation of technology.

Indianapolis-Marion County has hired systems integrator Zanett Inc., which the Computerworld story says has a local consulting presence and plans to hire folks from central Indiana to help with the project. This might reduce travel-related fees, which can add up quickly. The U.N.'s ERP project allots $14 million for travel. Other smart moves:

  • Initial customization will be minimized. "We are committed to implementing the products as vanilla as we can," Baker said.
  • City planners produced a detailed list of project requirements so vendors know what they want.
  • A change-management team with folks from across the city and county has been appointed to help handle the transition.
  • The implementation has been broken up into multiple small modules, with aggressive deadlines attached to each of them.

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