SAP and its other ERP software counterparts generally have a bad reputation among users. So; is the software bad? Was the organization not ready? No, the implementation failed. The industry standard process for implementing integrated software into business is fatally flawed, and is built on false premises, incorrect assumptions and naive optimism. It is as simple, and as complex, as that.
In the 3rd decade of integrated package software it is clear that the biggest causes of statistics in this industry are the cost, pain and failure rate of the implementations. Vague and cliché explanations include "lack of buy-in from the users", "lack of management commitment", "no change management", "not adopting best practices" and so forth.
Ten years ago we found that, outside the IT world, there were no pleasant recollections by users of SAP. When asked what I do for a living by the passenger in the airplane seat next to me, I felt defensive and apologetic. Today, those encounters are a little less harsh, but still not good. The general trend seems to be that users still had bad experiences, but now blame the software less and themselves more. They seem to have acquired a sobering and harsh education of the realities that implementing Integrated software is hard, and unfortunately a lot of them seem to have given up on the use of SAP in their core business, relegating it to back office functions. Some "will try again when they are ready" (never), and others have acquired best of breed solutions that are badly or not at all integrated into their back office systems.
This is sad, because there was so much promise a decade ago. The possibilities for doing really, really, really amazing stuff with technology has not diminished. We can still have real-time integration all the way from the salesman with his Ipad at the client site, through to the sales en distribution system back at the factory in China, to its suppliers, to the cash forecasting system, to the financial forecasting systems to the dials on the management information systems.
Lately I have been encouraged to discover that there are still believers out there who quietly know and pursue these possibilities, almost stealthily. The hype is now over, and anyway, why tell your competitors your secret? Not surprisingly these are the companies that we admire for always leading in their respective industries. While the Wall Street press blaze the CEO's face on the front pages, praising him or her for vision and all kinds of intangible qualities, they smile at the cameras, knowing that the real secret of their success are the people back at the office making sure that information, the live blood of a modern business, is taken care of properly.