Open Source Fiasco

Summary:Hugger-Mugger Yoga Products  is a $5 million supplier of yoga-related products such as clothes, yoga mats, and so on. After struggling with a variety of individual software products that did not integrate well, the company decided to implement open source ERP package Compiere.

Hugger-Mugger Yoga Products  is a $5 million supplier of yoga-related products such as clothes, yoga mats, and so on. After struggling with a variety of individual software products that did not integrate well, the company decided to implement open source ERP package Compiere. This package was chosen on basis of low-cost and because it includes modules that Hugger-Mugger specifically required.

After implementing Compiere, the company faced a variety of serious operational problems related to the software. From an article on SearchOpenSource.com:

“[The IT staff] didn’t do any pre-work. They just installed Compiere,” said [new company president] Chamberlain, who wasn’t with the company at the time. “They didn’t understand that ERP is very complicated, and moving from point solutions to an integrated suite requires a whole different way of looking at the business. Most people take about a year of preparation.”

The IT staff only did a small amount of testing and did not do that testing with Hugger-Mugger’s data and processes, according to Chamberlain. Instead, early this year, they just put Compiere into production fairly quickly. Chamberlain, still stunned by this approach, said: “You don’t go live and say, ‘Gee, how does this work?’”

The only user training given was a short speech.

“Operators didn’t have a clue how to use the new system,” Chamberlain said.

In fact, the way Compiere was set up – incorrectly, that is – made all the processes more complicated than they had been before. The IT people set it up from an IT perspective, one in which some processes are intuitive to an IT expert and clicking from screen to screen isn’t considered a chore, according to Chamberlain. So, call center reps had to click through eight screens to enter an order, making a process that should take only a couple of minutes take five-to-10 times longer.

Many data entry and data routing mistakes occurred due to lack of training, the result of a failure to create needed reports and other oversights in implementing Compiere.

Enterprise software implementations are complex — jobs can change, processes across an organization can be affected, and great care and feeding is required to be successful. This situation offers a classic study in how an IT initiative can move forward under its own steam, without sufficient reference back to what users actually need. In addition, it can be tempting to think that open source means cheap and easy, which is not necessarily the case. As someone wise once said, “Don’t let this happen to you!”

Topics: Open Source, Enterprise Software, IT Employment, Software

About

Michael Krigsman is recognized internationally as an analyst, strategy advisor, enterprise advocate, and blogger. For CIOs and IT leadership, he addresses issues such as innovation, business transformation, project-related business objectives and strategy, and vendor planning. For enterprise software vendors and venture-funded star... Full Bio

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