CFO has a role to play in ERP rollouts

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When an ERP implementation goes south, the good news is that the CIO shouldn't have to handle it alone--the chief finance officer has a role to play as well. If the CFO plays an active role earlier on in the project, there may be less chance for failure, reports Fred O'Connor at Computerworld.

Despite a long and well-documented history of troubled ERP rollouts to learn from, the complex software systems remain a daunting challenge for enterprises. Analysts say that a variety of ERP vendors make unrealistic claims, and companies often aren't exactly sure what they're looking for anyway.

"It's like the company and the vendor have been speaking two different languages, and then things go wildly off track," said China Martens, analyst with Forrester Research. "Sometimes ERP vendors oversold it and are promising things it can't do. Other times the company hasn't been very clear on what it's trying to do."

This is a good time for CFOs to come in and help resolve the problems. Not only can they make definitive statements about the project's impact on revenue and operations, but they also can offer an enterprise-wide point of view regarding long-term needs. An ERP system should be able to scale to meet future financial goals, and a CFO can offer much-needed perspective.

CFOs may be attracted to new ERP deployment strategies developed in response to competitive pressure from cloud computing solutions, Martens said. Some vendors are touting packages that cover an entire deployment for a set fee. "They try to package something up that is the software, the services, the training and commitment to implementation and try to hit various mast ends," she said. "The idea is that everyone sits down, you map things out and there is a fixed price."

While this may sound alluring, customers have to be wary of where the vendor is cutting costs. In some cases, Martens said she has seen vendors scale back on services in order to offer a fixed price deployment.

For more:
- see Fred O'Connor's article at Computerworld

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