ERP can sometimes spell disaster

An agency must first study its own business blueprint before diving into a colossal enterprise resource planning system rollout, said Andrew H. Moxam, Census Bureau comptroller, speaking from the experience of trying, and failing, to fit ERP into the bureau's IT infrastructure.

Simple trial and error can reveal whether agencies should try to integrate their financial management systems into an ERP model or stick with individual best-in-class applications, which often sacrifice standardization for added functionality, he said today at an executive breakfast sponsored by Savantage Solutions of Rockville, Md.

'It's a very deliberate, multiple-decision process you make as you go along, as opposed to having a solution at the beginning,' Moxam said. 'I don't think you can deal in absolutes.'

Census leaders who were considering ERP discarded the idea, partly because the re-engineered system didn't integrate with their existing Core Financial System. Trying to mesh the two disparate systems would have been 'death on a stick,' Moxam said.

Generally, he said, ERP's benefits include the much-desired architectural integration across an agency, as well as centralized control of financial management systems, availability of one-stop upgrades and major vendor support. But those benefits have trade-offs'namely long, expensive implementation timetables and, perhaps, loss of functionality in individual applications.

'It's a balancing act,' Moxam said. 'There is no silver bullet that I can think of.'

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