San Diego's SAP system has tripled workloads for some tasks, report says

SAP's software systems 'work exactly as designed,' a spokesman says

San Diego's US$50 million SAP system has ended up tripling employees' workloads for certain types of tasks, but the city has also failed to devote enough attention to training, according to a consultant's report released earlier this month.

Purchasing and contracting staffers are unable to easily generate reports from SAP that are crucial to the department's operations, and have become "overwhelmed by the exhaustive and mainly transactional workload, resulting in burnout and low morale," Huron Consulting Group's report said.

"Most P&C individuals interviewed are frustrated by the time consuming and 'click-intensive' requisition process in the SAP system," the report adds. "Interviewees indicate that barring any additional time caused by approval delays, it can take anywhere between 20 minutes to a few days to process a requisition depending on how many line items it contains, a direct result of the SAP system as implemented."

The SAP system was primarily implemented to help out the city's finance department, and it is working well in that regard, according to an official municipal document.

But for purchasing and contracting, the city only implemented SAP's materials management module, and not an SRM (supplier-relationship-management) module, which would have streamlined procurement and payment processes, the Huron report said.

As a result, "the majority of shopping and quoting activities are conducted outside of SAP," the report states.

San Diego recently implemented a system called PlanetBids, where vendors can register, but it isn't integrated with SAP.

Overall, purchasing and contracting department employees' workloads "increased as much as three times post-SAP implementation compared to the old system," the report states.

In addition, SAP was used to replicate the department's existing processes, rather than redesign them for more efficiency.

Some steps are being taken to remedy the situation, including a "deep-dive" training plan aimed at getting users more comfortable with the system, according to the report.

SAP spokesman Andy Kendzie declined to comment on the specifics of San Diego's situation. However, "SAP's goal is to make every customer a best-run operation," Kendzie said via email. "Our systems work exactly as designed and we want to help customers use them to their fullest potential."

San Diego clearly made some missteps, according to one observer.

"Change management and training are critical parts of any ERP implementation," said analyst Michael Krigsman, CEO of consulting firm Asuret. "Employees without sufficient training may avoid the new system because they cannot figure how to use it. Bypassing the new system is prescription for disaster because data may then reside in multiple systems, or software applications."

Also, the fact that San Diego "memorialized" inefficient processes into the SAP system rather than take the opportunity to refine them will require it to "repeat this core implementation step," Krigsman added.

San Diego began work on the SAP implementation in 2007. It was the biggest IT project ever undertaken by the city and is meant to provide a core IT architecture for 15 years, according to a municipal document.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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