symantec erps turmoil an analysis and evaluation of implementation of its erp sysytems

Symantec Corporation was established in 1980 and is a leading software vendor specializing in security and information management with operations in 40 countries and 17,500 employees. Since inception Symantec has grown by acquiring companies like Norton, Brightmail, Altris and other smaller software developers. The company made its largest acquisition to date in 2005, when it acquired Veritas Software for approximately $13. billion. Though both organisations were of similar sizes Symantec’s focus was security and information management for consumers, while Veritas specialised in storage management software geared toward large-scale licensing. Prior to the merger, the two companies had each used highly customized versions of Oracle E-Business Suite 11d, which was difficult to integrate.

As a result of the difficulty in integrating the information systems being used by both companies, an Enterprise Resource Process (ERP) Project, named “Project Oasis” was rolled out by Symantec to create a single ERP system that would be used by their partners and customers to place orders for their over 250,000 different products, reduce the cost of maintaining Symantec’s IT infrastructure and licensing fees for the enterprise software and improve customer service delivery.

However Symantec had overlooked the needs of many customers while designing a technically sound but user-unfriendly ERP system, the company then set about undoing mistakes with a follow-up project, named Project Nero. The goal of Project Nero was to recapture the loyalty of customers who were disenchanted by the changes brought about by Oasis and to assure those customers that Symantec still had their best interests in mind. Slooten and Yap(1992, p226) define ERP as an integrated multi-dimensional system for all functions, based on a business model for planning, control and global (resource) optimising of the entire supply chain by using state of the art IS/IT technology that supplies value added services to all internal and external parties.

Elliott (2004) defines an ERP system as a large integrated business system that handles and manages business processes and databases across a range of business units and business functions. Research shows that the main reasons companies implement ERP are to improve business performance; to replace an old ERP or legacy system; to increase efficiency; and to standardize global business operations(Collins Group 2010).

In a sense ERP, is a convergence of people, hardware and software into an efficient production, service and delivery system that creates profit for the company (Khosrow 2006). The ‘dream’ of ERP is to have a single software solution integrating the different functions and activities into a seamless whole where information needed for decision-making is shared across departments, and the action taken by one department results in the appropriate follow-up action up and down the line.

A critical analysis and evaluation of Symantec’s approach to their proposed ERP implementation through Project Oasis, and latterly Project Nero revealed the following: The system was said to be technically sound and was working as intended, which implies that an investigation and analysis of the existing processes must have been carried out to identify the limitations of the existing system in line with the organisations objectives.

However the deluge of negative reaction that greeted the initial launch of the system indicated that the stakeholders were not carried along during the design of the system; hence they struggled to process the large amount of information provided to them and the increased number of steps required to place orders became overwhelming.

Symantec neglected to coordinate the development of its new ERP system with the launch of other products from different divisions within the company, this inability to manage the different projects happening within the organisation at the same time compounded the issues with customer support and average response time spiraled to 25 minutes from 2 minutes. Furthermore, Symantec improved the stock-keeping unit system by creating a single set of codes for all of its applications to ake ordering products simpler and easier, this also caused dissatisfaction with the partners and smaller distributors because they had to update their systems as they were unable to submit purchase orders electronically, they also felt the change was unnecessary as many were satisfied with the previous system. Finally Symantec’s changes to the software licensing process proved to be another irritant to customers.

Prior to the ERP rollout license certificate were received usually within a couple of days, this became much more difficult after the roll out, forcing customers to wait multiple weeks before receiving their licenses. All the problems itemized above would have been eliminated if all the relevant stakeholders (business partners, customers and customer service staff) were identified and involved in the project analysis and design. This is because they are the ones who use the system on a daily basis and are familiar with its benefits and limitations; they also know what they want the new system to do.

Involving the end users in systems design increases the achievement of organisational objectives, it create ownership of the system, engenders knowledge transfer (Shackel and Richardson 1991), convert them to project champions and implementers (Mingers 1995). The users are more likely to help find solutions to the inevitable teething problems of systems implementation, than those who have a system imposed on them (RGU note 2010).

Project Oasis would have fared better if it had combined the socio technical approaches of ETHICS (focused on job satisfaction and end user participation) with SSM (aimed at identifying stakeholders, actively including representatives from the stakeholder community to achieve a cultural consensus at the outset of any information system project) and SDLC (the technique of business information systems based on structured sequential stages of development). This combination would ensure that technology aligns closely with the prevailing social and organisational factors within the business environment (Elliot 2004).

The inability to coordinate the development of its new ERP system with the launch of other products from different divisions reveals that the projects were not properly managed. The key project management success factors according to Feeny & McMullen (1995) include; top management support, selection of a recognised project champion, clearly defined project goals, selection of a project team, clearly defined end-users’ needs, clearly defined business requirements, stakeholder involvement and management of user expectations.

An ERP process in addition to being a project is also a change and transformation process and Clemons (1995) identified five groups of risks which are inherent in carrying out organisational change activities. They include the following: financial, technical, project, functionality and project risks. * Financial Risk: This results in a project not being delivered on time and on budget (Clemons 1995). In the case of Project Oasis, this risk was manifested as though the ERP rollout cost 7. 75% less than budgeted; the organisation had lowered earnings and would need to cut $200 million in annual costs through layoffs or restructuring activities. Technical Risks: This occurs when a very large gap exists between old and new technology infrastructures (Clemons 1995), this is often the case with ERP implementation (Bancroft et al 1998) * Project Risk: It arises when the project phases and activities are improperly sequenced (Clemons 1995). The main causes of project risks are the lack of qualified people, insufficient knowledge and training (Scott 1999), lack of information communication and sharing among project members, poor consultancy service (Welti 1999) and inadequate definition of project scope (Scott 1999).

Functionality Risk: Occurs when business requirements cannot be met by the right systems capabilities (Clemons 1995) * Political Risk: refers to the organisational resistance and the lack of commitment which together represents an impediment to the entire implementation (Clemons 1995). This was also evidenced by the negative response the system received by the users. Symantec would have led an effective change/transformation process with Project Oasis using the following guidelines as developed by Kotter (1995). * Establish a sense of urgency * Form a powerful guiding coalition * Create a Vision Communicate the vision * Empower others to act on the vision * Plan for and creating short term wins * Consolidate improvements and producing still more change * Institutionalize new approaches With respect to the organisational fit of the proposed ERP system, the improved stock keeping unit product system introduced by Symantec did not fit with the technology and culture of their customers as the new process necessitated the overhauling of the customers systems and technology that is being in use, as some customers did not see the need for the change as the old process worked perfectly well.

The software licensing process also did not achieve a business fit as it was not coordinated with the rest of Project Oasis. Swan et al (1999) argue that organisational misfits of ERP exist due to the conflicting interests between user organisation and ERP vendors. This conclusively points to the fact there was no fit between the proposed ERP process and the goals/ objectives of the organisation. Due to the issues that arose from the short-sightedness in implementing Project Oasis, an antidote, called Project Nero was introduced.

Symantec added 150 new customer representatives to handle the increasing customer satisfaction issues. Their customer sales executives travelled round the country to mend fences with their aggrieved customers and partners. In addition to this, the issue of product updates being released at the same time as the ERP overhaul was corrected by the introduction the master list of product releases made available to all stakeholders and the standardisation of the communication methods between departments regarding new projects and change management.

An initiative to periodically survey customers’ satisfaction with Symantec was also introduced. The tool identified criticisms and problems of customers and aided the organisation in correcting them. Furthermore smaller value-added resellers and distributors are now receiving more attention from their regional representatives and the even from the CEO Thompson, this has also improved the quality of customer service and the company boasts that this has restored the customer satisfaction level to the industry average.

However, since the company does not release the results of its Net Promoter surveys to the public, the extent to which it has repaired its reputation is unclear. In conclusion the case study revealed that there was a critical need for an implementation of an ERP system as a result of the acquisition of Veritas by Symantec Corporation. Even though the implementation was a success technically, Project Oasis was a colossal failure as it was plagued with many issues ranging from the non involvement of the stakeholders in the system design and development to the non integration of the ERP process with other projects within the organisation.

The inability of the customer service units to attend to customer requests and queries led to the spiraling of the average response time from 2 minutes to 25 minutes, this increased customer dissatisfaction and threatened the customers loyalty. Project Nero was therefore implemented to resolve all the issues that were thrown up by the former project. It is often said that ERP implementation is about people, not processes or technology. Therefore implementing an ERP causes massive change that needs to be carefully managed to reap its benefits.

Critical issues that must be carefully considered to ensure a successful ERP process includes commitment from top management, reengineering of the existing processes, involvement of all stakeholders in the process design, development and implementation, integration of the ERP with other business information systems, selection and management of consultants and employees, and training of employees on the new system. Finally management must not only fund the project but also take an active role in leading and monitoring its progress.

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