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Avon slams the brakes on SAP deployment, proving once again that enterprise software is hard

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News emerged this morning that Avon Products is scrapping a planned roll out of an SAP order management system and taking a charge of $100 million to $125 million. The Wall Street Journal had the story (registration required).

This should remind all of us that while everyone talks about the consumerization of IT, and while we understand the need to make our mission-critical applications as easy to use as iPhone(s aapl) apps, that’s a very tough job. After all, enterprise-resource planning (ERP) software — or in this case, order management — is not for the faint of heart. Avon Products disclosed the charges associated with the failed roll out in an 8K filing with the SEC yesterday.

An SAP spokesman told the CIO Journal, which has more here (again, registration required), that it worked on the back end of this project only. That leads to another point: Enterprise software is very heavily connected to other systems so it’s sometimes hard to figure out where things broke down, hence the finger pointing.

I’ve reached out to SAP for comment and will update as I hear back.

This is about way more than SAP — which is the ERP leader. It hits all the big guys — Oracle, Microsoft, CA, etc.  If you don’t believe me, follow Chris Kanaracus over at IDG News who has made pretty much an entire beat out of failed enterprise software implementations from Oracle, SAP and others.

So, the next time you see your CIO, give him or her a hug.

3 Responses to “Avon slams the brakes on SAP deployment, proving once again that enterprise software is hard”

  1. At Avon, the field representative are independent contractors who sell products and recruit downline sales reps. These Avon representatives have to be stroked, motivated, and inspired to sell lipstick, beauty products, and gifts.
    In many respects the field users of Avon’s IT apps and services need to be viewed as customers to be cultivated via marketing efforts rather than compelled, instructed or trained in a classic hierarchical implementation model.
    Even if SAP’s product was flawless, inspiring Avon’s field reps to use new technology would require many million of dollars more in marketing efforts and development of network effects within the assertive culture of Avon field reps. The demographic distribution of Avon field reps is varied – think of your grandmother confronting a new remote control or a 20-something socially networked rep who is fluent in smartphone and accustomed to quick, simple and easy apps.
    BYOD is here to stay – and the hundreds of thousands of users of Avon’s IT should’ve been polled, assessed via focus groups, and beta-tested before committing $125M to a new ordering and fulfillment platform.

  2. Dave Duggal

    Hi Barb – CIOs probably do deserve hugs, or at least kudos/props for juggling complex interrelated models in an increasingly dynamic, distributed and diverse environment. I think the problem you are describing boils down to architecture, both business architecture (organizing the model of the business around its mission) and enterprise IT architecture (implementing systems and solutions architecture to support operations).

    Right now we’re just taking same old middleware stacks / silos and replicating them in Cloud, addressing some problems while compounding others.

    We need to re-think Enterprise Architecture for new demands.

    Our view at EnterpriseWeb is that you need horizontal architecture to organize distributed enterprise objects/entities, and policies to control orchestration from human processes to VM deployments. Then Enterprise apps can be as cool, fast and responsive as mobile apps.


    We need