Predicting 2012: Rapid implementation in focus

Predicting 2012: Rapid implementation in focus

Summary: Enterprise vendors are investing to reduce failures and improve deployments for customers. Here's what this positive trend means for you.


The world of IT failure is bizarre. Despite outrageous statistics that affect virtually every major enterprise software vendor and customer, from ERP to CRM and beyond, mere mention of the topic terrifies many in the industry. As a result, IT failures have become an accepted, almost expected, part of enterprise life. The time for this unfortunate situation to change is long overdue.

IT failures arise from a confluence of factors such as misunderstanding technology, poor judgment, lousy project management, politics, conflicts of interest among the Devil's Triangle, to name just a few. Enterprise projects are hard precisely because they extend across organizational and functional boundaries; solving the problem requires a holistic view that encompasses multiple stakeholders and project participants, inside and outside the company.

As we enter 2012, three trends will drive renewed interest in improving IT success rates:

  1. A difficult economic climate that is less forgiving of financial waste and lost productivity
  2. Software as a service (SaaS), which holds the potential to simplify implementations and reduce risk, cost, and time
  3. Consumerization of IT, including rise of the CFO (and lines of business) as a powerful force in IT investment

These trends have placed pressure on enterprise software vendors, system integrators, and customers to improve implementations and reduce the waste associated with enterprise projects.

As we enter 2012, there is evidence of enterprise software vendors taking steps to help customers run more successful projects. This post takes a look at the rapid implementation work of three vendors: Syspro USA, SAP, and Oracle.

Syspro USA and the Quantum Architecture »»


During a recent meeting with the CEO of Syspro USA, Brian Stein, rapid implementation was a primary topic of discussion. Syspro, an ERP provider serving the mid-market, designed its product strategy around a unified implementation approach intended to address communication and other issues that interfere with successful projects.

Syspro calls its suite of implementation tools the Quantum Architecture. The suite consists of a repository for business process documentation, a collaboration methodology for working with stakeholders, and system pre-configurations. These components are illustrated in the following slide:

The so-called process repository (a term that that makes me wonder why enterprise software companies can't speak in plain English), contains key data and documentation for the implementation. Despite the techno-geek name, the repository provides a "single version of truth" for all participants in the implementation. Perhaps this is too much detail, but here's a picture:

Although Syspro is not the first to develop this kind of approach, the company is unusual in focusing so intently on implementation as an integral part of the product experience. By elevating the role of implementation and customer process change to a strategic level, Syspro has created a point of differentiation in the crowded ERP market.

I asked Syspro USA's PR manager, Stanley Goodrich, why the company decided to emphasize implementation to this extent:

SYSPRO invested heavily in implementation methodology because market studies revealed that this is where the competition falls down. The news is replete with lawsuits against SYSPRO competitors for failing to implement their software offerings in an economical timely manner.

Syspro relies on a well-developed ecosystem of 1500 channel partners that handle sales and implementation. While experienced partners are clearly beneficial, like all vendors Syspro cannot fully control the channel since it consists of independent companies. As a result, Syspro cannot guarantee that its partners will use the prescribed methodology, which is a potential source of implementation risk for Syspro customers. This issue is common among enterprise vendors and I discuss it later in relation to Oracle.

Advice to CIOs: When selecting a Syspro partner, ask about their experience with Syspro implementation tools and methods. For most customers, adhering to the standard approach is best; don't let the integrator stray without strong reasons for doing so.

SAP and Rapid Deployment solutions »»


SAP (disclosure: SAP is a current client) is actively developing a broad set of offerings, called Rapid Deployment solutions (RDS), intended to make implementations faster and easier. The company's focus on these solutions reflects growing recognition -- among customers, partners, the media, and analysts -- that smaller, highly focused implementations reduce risk and increase customer satisfaction. Negative press about failed implementations has tarnished the SAP brand, making this a critical issue for the company.

SAP is driving the message of implementation improvement through its own organization, especially to Sales and Professional Services groups. I recently spoke with co-CEO, Jim Snabe, who strongly stated his support for Rapid Deployment solutions; during a separate conversation with Sanjay Poonen, SAP's President of Global Solutions Go-To-Market, he stated a similar message. In this video, Poonen discusses the Rapid Deployment solutions.

Rapid Deployment solutions consist of a series of modules, or packages, based around various functional parts of the SAP software. For example, there are RDS modules for CRM, ERP, HANA, and many other parts of the SAP software.

As the following diagram shows, each RDS package contain:

  • Content such as training materials, documentation, and templates
  • Implementation services based on a fixed-price and fixed-scope of work
  • Pre-configuration based on best practices
  • SAP software

Fixed-price, packaged services are an important component of the RDS package. Fixed-price projects can help decrease risk and increase transparency for customers, even though they are not perfect for all situations, especially when requirements unclear or the project has unusual complications. Nonetheless, standardized implementations, based on fixed price and scope of work, are definitely a basic tool in the fight against IT failures.

In some respects, the RDS offerings disrupt traditional professional services much as software as a service disrupts the on-premise business model. In both cases, well-defined outcomes and predictable costs replace a model that involves open-ended expenditures and high risk; that's a good combination for enterprise buyers.

Read also: CIO backgrounder: Understanding packaged solutions Packaged Services in a Complex Environment

Despite the growing importance of Rapid Deployment solutions, a few caveats are in order. These solutions are still relatively new and do not yet cover the full range of SAP software. In addition, they are currently most suitable for smaller projects or pieces of a larger implementation.

Advice for CIOs: Any organization contemplating an SAP implementation should evaluate whether RDS is a suitable possibility. While not a fit in every case, Rapid Deployment solutions offer a compelling means to save time and money without paying consultants to reinvent the wheel. Customers considering an RDS project should examine how it fits into their overall implementation plan and be sure to understand any external components or dependencies that will be required.

Oracle's Fusion HCM Rapid Implementation and concluding thoughts »»


Oracle's sheer size means that any attention to reducing implementation cost and time is important to the enterprise software industry as a whole. Like SAP, this company's customers have suffered from failed IT projects, making implementation an important topic.

Oracle recently announced that several system integrators have developed "rapid implementation offerings" for the company's Fusion Human Capital Management (HCM) product. Although there is obvious value in Oracle's recognition that customers want rapid, more efficient implementations, the press release is short on details. Also, it does not indicate whether Oracle has developed its own Fusion HCM rapid implementation tools or is leaving that job entirely to partners.

A decentralized approach to implementation methodology (if that is in fact Oracle's plan) encourages buy-in from the system integrators developing such tools, which is an important benefit we should not underestimate. However, when each integrator develops its own tools without centralized planning from the vendor, substantial duplication of effort is likely, potentially leading to inefficiency and confusion in the market.

Although vendor-imposed implementation standards give customers confidence and make it easier for them to buy professional services, convincing external partners to standardize on the vendor's methodology is difficult. Because each partner serves a unique market segment with particular needs, integrators complain that a "one size fits all" approach to implementation is not in the customer's interest. On the other hand, some (including me) believe that integrators benefit at the customer's expense when enterprise vendors do not specify implementation standards and tools. Regardless of one's view, it is difficult for a software vendor to force tools and process on third party partners. This is the same basic challenge I described earlier in relation to Syspro. SAP also faced this problem when it first standardized on its AcceleratedSAP methodology, almost 15 years ago.

Oracle does have a separate rapid implementation approach called Oracle Accelerate. Earlier this year, I spoke with Mark Johnson, VP of Oracle Accelerate Applications, who explained that Accelerate includes a web-based tool designed to facilitate collaboration between Oracle partners and customers during the implementation planning and configuration phases. Veteran analyst, Michael Fauscette, who is Group Vice President at IDC, described it this way: "Oracle Accelerate provides a process based software configuration tool that configures the software based on customer requirements."

In contrast to the new Fusion HCM rapid implementation offerings (at least those described in the press release), Accelerate does involve centrally administrated intellectual property developed by Oracle. As Fusion HCM matures in the market, perhaps Oracle will release centralized implementation tools for partners.

Advice to CIOs. Reading Oracle's press release, it seems each system integrator is responsible for developing its own Fusion HCM rapid implementation offering. Therefore, be sure to investigate carefully each integrator's unique toolkit and conduct due diligence into the implementation process used by every Oracle partner you consider. That's good advice in general, but give it special attention here.


As an industry, we have allowed IT failures to become an accepted part of life; it is time for customers to stand up and register displeasure with vendors that do not invest in solving this problem. Although none of the approaches described in this post is perfect, collectively they point to an industry that is starting to accept broader responsibility for creating positive outcomes for customers.

We have a long way to go, but 2012 will bring heightened attention and scrutiny to this issue -- and it's about time.

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  • Customers need Test, Training, and Live.

    Whatever the supplier, there needs to be a quick, economical way to clone the entire app onto a separate database and app-server. I just wonder whether any of these have thought to incorporate that process capability. I'm sceptical.
  • Why I remain unconvinced by SaaS

    "Software as a service (SaaS), which holds the potential to simplify implementations and reduce risk, cost, and time"

    I would put it to you that installing SAP or Oracle Applications isn't actually very difficult.

    The only advantage that SaaS gives you is that the software is effectively installed.

    However the main work with implementing a large package, independent of whether it is on or off premises, is the configuration and customization required to make the package fit the particular business. I can't see much differentiation here between on and off premise here.

    Possibly the off-premise solution might win out precisely because customization is harder; leading the business to adapt to the software rather than the other way round. I don't think this is necessarily a bad strategy.
    • RE: Predicting 2012: Rapid implementation in focus

      @jorwell If installing "SAP or Oracle Applications isn't actually very difficult," then what explains the failures, lawsuits, etc? Thanks for commenting.
      • I only said installing - not implementing

        @mkrigsman@... <br><br>I think these are two very different things.<br><br>My point is that the difficult configuration, customization and integration part of the process still has to happen no matter whether the software is on or off premise.<br><br>Installing the software is easy, getting it actually working in your business is the hard part. This is where the delays and lawsuits come in - I expect we will see similar litigation with SaaS providers once they start moving into more mission critical areas.<br><br>Therefore I remain sceptical about how much advantage really comes from SaaS. The integration part of the process might, for example, be much more difficult with SaaS - the network is after all the slowest and least reliable part of the system and your access to the SaaS data is probably limited to APIs rather than having full flexible access to the whole database.
  • Focus on solution benefits still req'd

    Given much publicised project failures, its perfectly understandable that everybody looks for quicker, cheaper and less risky opportunities to implement enterprise software. The product-reach, scope and scale of IT-enabled change programmes has increased the complexity of the implementation and organisational change required to implement successfully, but time, cost and technical quality are not the real drivers for these projects - least they shouldn't be.

    Whether its the wholesale replacement of legacy ERP systems or enhanced functionality offered by new products, modules or technologies, the underlying motivation still needs to be the delivery of business benefit and value.

    Formulating initiatives that are more contained and manageable technically will benefit from and be automatic candidates for rapid deployment solutions. The greater need though is being clear about why the projects are being undertaken in the first place and focusing on the impact that these new IT-enabled solutions will have on people, organisation and processes, to increase the chances that the new solutions will be adopted and the expected benefits delivered.
  • How SaaS dodges the real issue

    The real problem with implementing an ERP is not the installation (though this is usually harder than it should be) but the configuration, customization and integration of the product. <br><br>As far as I can see an SaaS product will run into exactly the same problems on these issues as on-premise offerings. <br><br>As large implementations start on SaaS, the provider will end up having to keep different code versions for every customer as customizations progress. <br><br>This is an extremely challenging (and interesting) version control problem. What do SaaS providers have currently in place to address these issues?<br><br>Furthermore on the integration issue, you could at least in theory, run all your systems on a single server which means there are no network issues effecting performance and data duplication (with its inherent risks of error and inconsistency) can be kept to a minimum. With SaaS you have either poor performance over the network or massive data duplication.<br><br>I'm not in principle against SaaS, but I feel a lot of the real issues in ERP implementation have been completely brushed over by SaaS enthusiasts.

    I meant to post this on Dennis Howlett's blog, by the way, but commenting doesn't seem to be working there.
    • RE: Predicting 2012: Rapid implementation in focus

      @jorwell I think you certainly raise a very important point when considering SaaS. The below link will take you to an article which highlights some of the problems clients are finding when the start to go beyond a vanilla flavoured SaaS deployments: