ERP Vendors Rev Fast-Rollout Efforts

Enterprise software vendors are rolling out programs that promise a rapid return on investment for their respective supply chain software, but the jury is still out on the effectiveness of such programs

Enterprise software vendors are rolling out programs that promise a rapid return on investment for their respective supply chain software, but the jury is still out on the effectiveness of such programs.

Oracle Corp. and PeopleSoft Inc., among others responding to ongoing user complaints about laborious and time-consuming deployments, are offering a second generation of their rapid implementation programs and tools for supply chain management. Another company, Vizional Technologies Inc., is doing the same with a partnership that brings together consulting, facilities and software.

Oracle, of Redwood Shores, Calif., next month will release retooled versions of its FastForward Flows consulting and implementation offerings. The FastForward Flows program in the last three months brought out a 90-day CRM (customer relationship management) implementation and a 30-day Procure-to-Pay solution.

The companys newly christened e-Business Flows packages will provide more complete supply chain offerings that include five new modules, such as Order to Delivery and Design to Source. Oracle will add more modules later this year, including a Release Management module developed with automakers in mind, a Product Development Intelligence module and a Shop Floor Management module for scheduling routine maintenance.

Oracle officials said, however, that adoption has been minimal thus far. They also said that the 30-, 60- or 90-day e-Business Flows implementations guarantee very specific core functionality with minimal configuration options, and anything above and beyond that costs extra.

Oracle applications user Michael Morris heard about the FastForward Flows program but avoided it. Morris, senior manager of strategic projects at Beneficial Life Insurance Co., a subsidiary of Standard Life Insurance Inc., knew that further customization was all but inevitable based on his previous experience with a fast implementation of call center software developed by a consulting company.

"Your implementation costs will be less, but your ongoing maintenance costs will be much greater and expensive in the long run," said Morris, in Salt Lake City.

Meanwhile, PeopleSoft is rolling out software Accelerators to speed implementations, which officials said can be completed in as few as 70 days. The Pleasanton, Calif., company this week will announce four new modules: Accelerated Distribution and Accelerated Procurement for supply chain management, and Accelerated Sales and Marketing and Accelerated Support Solution for CRM.

Supply chain software vendor Vizional next month will announce a three-way partnership with logistics company ProLogis and professional services company CapGemini Ernst & Young LLC. The trio will market the Adaptive Distribution & Sourcing Networks, which will analyze a business supply chain needs—both software and warehousing—and deploy solutions in about 90 days.

Vizional, of Santa Monica, Calif., this week will release an update to its VizionalNet private exchange, which provides such things as management of peer-to-peer sharing and high- volume transacting, events-based alerts, a roles-based user interface, and templates to define interenterprise order fulfillment.

For IT shops with limited resources, quick deployment programs can be beneficial. O Cedar Brand Inc., of Springfield, Ohio, chose PeopleSoft for a rapid implementation of its order management, production planning and other software because of PeopleSofts configuration templates.

CIO Bob French did not consider the limited customization a hindrance. "Its not a total re-engineering process. Thats why the rapid implementation works," French said.

Still, PeopleSoft was ready to do the implementation faster than 90 days, but French put the brakes on there.

"You have to make sure it works first, especially on the customer-facing apps; we have to make sure what we agreed to was in the configuration," French said.

But for IT managers such as Beneficial Life Insurances Morris, a fast implementation program would require him to change his business processes to fit the technology, something he isnt prepared to do.

"Even if you have a system thats supposedly customized to life insurance, there seems to be too many differences [with individual businesses]," Morris said.