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Burned by a Consultant: Salvaging an ERP Project Gone Wrong

For an ERP project, you'd better hire the right consultant or you'll get burned. John Kemp, CIO of Lion Apparel Inc. in Dayton, Ohio, found that out the hard way.

The $150 million manufacturer of protective garments hired a consulting company to structure a key piece of an ERP module that would be used to configure garments, such as a fireman's jacket. The software, Oracle Corp.'s Product Configurator, relies on rules called the Bills of Materials. These specify which of many product options will be used in a particular order.

Kemp's group had allotted 14 months for structuring and testing the Product Configurator. They were 11 months along in June 2003 when Kemp began the testing phase, creating first a simple scenario and then adding more complex items to the configuration of a jacket. Once he reached four or five scenarios, he noticed a slowdown.

"We thought this [was] peculiar, or maybe it was an anomaly," Kemp recalls. "So we did six scenarios, and then it locked up."

The problem: The consulting firm had set the wrong rules. "The way our Bills of Materials were put together was not going to work with the Configurator," Kemp says.

With Oracle's help, Kemp salvaged the project, and the system went live last November. But the snafu was costly: a 14-month delay, $500,000 in missed business opportunities and an increase in cost equal to one-third of the original implementation. "If I had to make that decision again, [the consultant] would have to physically take me to a site to see the project working instead of looking at a PowerPoint presentation," Kemp says.

Now that the software is up and running, verifying an order takes just two days, down from 12 when the process was done by hand. Production orders are more accurate when they move from order entry to manufacturing, and there are fewer manufacturing errors. Problem solved.

Stefanie McCann was formerly editor at large at CIO Decisions magazine. To comment on this story, email

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