Editorial: ERP Failure Tempts Nurses to Shoot the Implementer

I have a common name, and over the years I’ve gotten used to the idea that mix-ups can happen.

Like in seventh grade when someone mistook a painting done by a kindergarten girl for mine. (I was an admittedly poor artist.)

But then there was the time when my paycheck got mixed up with someone else’s. I laughed, until I realized I was facing a nightmare. Blissfully unaware of this windfall, I had inadvertently spent it. Now I was scrambling, trying to make up the loss.

The VON Payroll System Gong Show

In this day and age, there’s a lot of assuming that takes place – a primary one is that our employer delivers the right amount of money to the right person at the right time. When that doesn’t happen, well, all hell breaks loose.

So you can imagine the gong show that has been playing out in Halifax with news that a new ERP payroll system installed for the Victorian Order of Nurses has resulted in multiple headaches fit for a system-wide brain scan.

Six months of overpayments and underpayments has now led the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union to file a policy grievance forcing the VON to fix things up. The union has even gone so far as to lump in compensation for the financial hardship on behalf of its members.

Meanwhile, the VON is doing what nurses do best – trying to smooth furrowed brows. But in this case, they’re doing it by blaming the implementer – in this case junior third-party consultants, according to an IDG News Service article. The result is VON is now embedded in the growing list of ERP implementation disasters.

When ERP Goes Wrong, People Take the Brunt of It

The fact that this case involves a caring non-profit, only garners more headlines and adds pathos to the situation, much the same as the case Software ThinkTank uncovered earlier this year.

But what it really brings to light is that no matter how much we want computers to resolve the tedious and repetitive nature of today’s business world, at the end of the day every system is created to pave a smoother path for people. What that means if things go wrong – it’s people that are hurt, not systems. And when that happens, expect the knives to come out looking for a scapegoat.

There were likely thousands of hours of conversations that went into this project, and it may be impossible to know where and when things went sideways.

Holistic Approach Needed to Avoid Future Failures

But what I do know is that the VON story is truly not so much about the technological failings, but the human failings we so often bring to the table. In our collective effort to cut costs – whether by hiring less-qualified staff or pulling back on resources devoted to the project – we fail to communicate our desires, our expectations, and our ability to deliver in the rush to get things done.

Companies can no longer afford to be cavalier. The costs – from business, to reputation, to human relations – are far too high. Just look at HP’s experience that resulted in $160-million in order backlogs and lost revenue – five times the project’s estimated cost.

In this case, it would be a step forward if The Victorian Order of Nurses were not only to dispense medicine, but take a holistic approach to healing their own wounds in order get to the root of why their systems failed, rather than simply apply a bandage.

*Image ©zeathiel http://www.sxc.hu/profile/zeathiel

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