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9/27/2007
12:26 PM
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
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Using Google's Fix-It-As-We-Go Beta Approach-For ERP

Arizona State Unversity's technology officer, Adrian Sannier, is at it again. First, he embraced Google e-mail and applications for students and staff on a massive scale. Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting he tried a variation of Google's fix-as-we-go public beta approach to software with the university's ERP system, with sometimes painful results.

Arizona State Unversity's technology officer, Adrian Sannier, is at it again. First, he embraced Google e-mail and applications for students and staff on a massive scale. Now, the Wall Street Journal is reporting he tried a variation of Google's fix-as-we-go public beta approach to software with the university's ERP system, with sometimes painful results.The Journal article summarizes Sannier's approach this way:

Admit from the start that there will be mistakes; then work through the glitches with users' help. Most companies take their time and don't start using a new computer system until they are convinced almost everything works right; then they are caught off guard when mistakes inevitably happen. Often, the delays allow them to expand the project's scope, which adds cost and can further compound problems. The information-technology department at Arizona State decided it would be more effective to stick to rigid deadlines, releasing the software on schedule even if all the kinks hadn't been worked out -- and try to fix problems on the fly. .

That led to very serious problems, like some employees not getting paid. Sannier tells the Journal problems are going to happen with big IT projects, it's only a matter of how drawn out the pain will be. The Oracle project cost "$15 million to deploy the software and another $15 million to support it over the next five years," the Journal says, compared with $70 million the school's board expected.

The Journal notes this is a very Google-esque approach, but doesn't point out the close ties the university and Sannier have to the company. Sannier is probably the single-most aggressive business user of Google Apps, pushing it as an alternative to on-premises e-mail and other desktop software for the university's staff and 65,000 students. (Here's video of Sannier discussing the topic.) The university has broader ties with Google as well.

Sannier is challenging some pretty fundamental assumptions about how IT is implemented and operated. With ERP, instead of trying to anticipate-test-and-solve all problems, he's accepting problems as inevitable and pushing ahead, even if business-unit colleagues feel the pain. The problems that caused were significant but so it appears were the savings. With his use of Google e-mail and apps, Sannier's pushing for a change in IT strategy that many companies couldn't stomach.

So is Sannier a prophet, or a crackpot? And if he were CIO at your company, would he still have a job?

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