Oxford University Press' rollout of SAP across the globe has been highly beneficial to the company.
Careful planning and the use of a template-driven model have delivered solid business benefits for the publisher without an excessive amount of heartache. However, it also provides a useful reminder of how important it is to maintain realistic expectations.
We're always being told that IT must deliver real business value, but for many CEOs even that doesn't seem enough. They want things to eternally become faster, cheaper and more efficient.
Moore's Law might be useful for processors, but when it comes to business software systems, which involve unpredictable variables such as human behaviour, there are definite limitations.
Case in point: OUP's first regional rollout of SAP took seven months; the most recent took five and a half. That's an improvement, but the fact remains that even for a company with a decade's experience in rolling out a highly specific software package, the best part of half a year is needed to get it working.
That's not intended as a criticism. Rather, it's a useful reminder that decent business software implementations for modern enterprises take time.
The notion that new software can be rolled out on demand at so-called Internet speed is, for the most part, a crock. IT managers need to point this out to their superiors early, often, and as bluntly as necessary.
The alternative is ludicrous schedules that no-one will meet, disappointment all around and, potentially, the need to hunt for a new job.