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US Air Force Scraps ERP Project After $1 Billion Spent 362

Posted by samzenpus
from the on-second-thought dept.
angry tapir writes "The U.S. Air Force has decided to scrap a major ERP (enterprise resource planning) software project after spending $1 billion, concluding that finishing it would cost far too much more money for too little gain. Dubbed the Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS), the project has racked up $1.03 billion in costs since 2005, 'and has not yielded any significant military capability,' an Air Force spokesman said in a statement. 'We estimate it would require an additional $1.1B for about a quarter of the original scope to continue and fielding would not be until 2020. The Air Force has concluded the ECSS program is no longer a viable option for meeting the FY17 Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness (FIAR) statutory requirement. Therefore, we are canceling the program and moving forward with other options in order to meet both requirements.'"
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US Air Force Scraps ERP Project After $1 Billion Spent

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  • Re:1B? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:37AM (#41988801)

    The Thief In Chief blew over an extra *trillion* *every* *year* and people weren't' smart enough to fire him.

    Compared to that a billion is change.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:41AM (#41988821)

    From my observations, I've concluded that no organizational group works toward reducing its size, reducing the amount of its discretionary budget, or increasing its accountability for the preceding.

    Any exceptions?

  • those billions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wbr1 (2538558) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:43AM (#41988829)
    Those billions could have put a man on mars, or housed many,many homeless people, or any of a bunch of other uses. When will we realize that most of out debt is crime useless military spending, not social programs?
  • by brillow (917507) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @02:10AM (#41988929)

    Answered my own question:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVRgIXLWDHs [youtube.com]

  • Naturally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @02:38AM (#41989017) Homepage

    ERP is a bunch of disparate functions mashed together then held in place with a metric assload of duck tape. It's only natural that if you try to tacle the whole thing at once the result will be a sort of dynamic paralysis where you run back and forth in a nearly random pattern burning money all the way.

    Just as well, if you ever manage to build the thing, you'll create paralysis across the entire company if you suddenly drop this chimera on people's desks.

    Note, I am NOT claiming that the individual functions aren't necessary nor am I claiming that they shouldn't support common data formats.I am claiming that trying to build the whole thing at once and as a single 'solution' is wrong headed and doomed to failure.

  • Re:Ouch. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pete6677 (681676) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @02:51AM (#41989081)

    Seriously, has there EVER been an ERP implementation that was anything other than a colossal fuckup? Way behind schedule, overbudget, and not functioning properly are the general themes of ERP. And businesses continue to fall for this scam.

  • by Epicaxia (2773451) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @02:52AM (#41989085)

    Perfect application of Hanlon's Razor [wikipedia.org]: Not so much a conspiracy to waste money as the worst combination of both world (defense acquisition and enterprise software development). Both fields are very prone to overruns, scope creep, and repeated waste of funds as manager after manager--or contractor after contractor--throws away work to start over again. Another great example is the FAA's version of enterprise software [wikipedia.org], which is currently at $63.4 BILLION and counting (though, to be fair, it's quite possible the most complicated software project in the world).

    Still, there are worse examples--specifically, when these kinds of overruns, violations, and program restarts are done deliberately to ensure continued funding to entrenched players in a limited field and / or to pursue minor permutations on someone's pet dream of a project. This can occur at the cost of throwing away many years and billions of dollars of decent work while never really getting closer to a functioning system. Space Launch System [wikipedia.org], anyone? (Not a software example, but the line between software and aerospace engineering is a lot thinner than most people realize.)

  • Re:those billions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @02:56AM (#41989099) Homepage

    "Those" billions? It's one billion, singular.

    The US government spends 19% on defense, 19% on social security, and 20% on healthcare [reason.com]. The last two items are expected to grow much faster than the first.

    Useless? Do you know what a "contested sea zone" is and how it affects commerce? No? Yeah, that's what I thought, and the reason why is overwhelming dominance. Assuming, of course, you like imported coffee at the hip indie coffeeshop and hipster fruits like the Durian instead of that crap domestically made junk.

  • Re:Ouch. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by aXis100 (690904) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @03:02AM (#41989117)

    That's because it's usually the head of the accounting department that gets to approve it. Farking ridiculous.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2012 @03:37AM (#41989263)

    Obama is in charge... the buck stops with him; he's the one who brags about his "kill list"... Oh, wait, this is Slashdot... Obama has a GREAT smile and a cool attitude and nobody is to blame for the drone strikes. Move along, nothing to see here. Dick Cheney is retired so there is no evil to be denounced.

  • Re:Ouch. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raftpeople (844215) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @03:46AM (#41989293)
    Most of the ERP implementations I have been part of have been successful. Every major corporation has a working ERP system, how do you think that happened?

    There are big failures, typically in situations where the size of the project exceeds the experience and capabilities of the people managing them. With something as big as the DoD, there just aren't too many opportunities for anyone to gain the proper experience to know how to make it successful. Something like that needs to be broken into much smaller pieces and you just have to forego some of the efficiencies of a completely integrated non-redundant system in favor of more manageable pieces.
  • ERP is dead! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mschaffer (97223) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @03:54AM (#41989327)

    ERP is dead--especially for very large, agile institutions. The only people that don't think so are companies, like Oracle, that are pretending that it can scale to large institutions with some sort of economy of scale, let alone ones that probably make many changes. The fact that it took the Air Force an extra $900+ million to realize this is shameful. Especially since institutions like the Air Force are probably better off looking at agile and adaptive front-end software (it's not just the Marines that are supposed to "improvise, overcome, and adapt") like their equivalent to CRM, project planning, mobile maintenance, and whatever else they do.

    What a waste of time, money, and resources. Truly shameful!!!

  • Re:New project (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Antonovich (1354565) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @04:00AM (#41989343)
    Don't worry, such gifts are remembered for many generations - the Buckwhupistanis will likely return the gifts at some point... That's just the cost of being so generous.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 15, 2012 @04:48AM (#41989537)

    Obama does share the blame. I mean he was president during 4 years of that debacle and didn't put it to sleep sooner. In fact, the cutting of it was done by the military itself in order to get a working solution in place to meet the deadlines of a law passed.

  • by sg_oneill (159032) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @04:57AM (#41989569)

    Liberalism and leftism are not a fan clubs. Many of us might prefer the big O over the alternative whilst also deeply disaproving drone strikes against allied countries.

  • Re:Ouch. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by allcoolnameswheretak (1102727) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @06:27AM (#41989891)

    Actually, having 1000 developers working on one project is an excellent explanation for the cost, time taken and failure.

  • by TheCarp (96830) <sjc&carpanet,net> on Thursday November 15, 2012 @08:38AM (#41990429) Homepage

    Well you know...its ok to compromise on such a little detail like that. I mean, its not like people are going to die over it....oh wait...

    Yah, thats why I never voted for him. Being the scum floating on top of the other scum doesn't make it any more appetizing to me.

  • by erp_consultant (2614861) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @09:34AM (#41990739)

    Bullshit. I have been involved in dozens of ERP implementations over the years. The software works. When implementations fail it is always, in my experience, because of the people (i.e. management) making the decisions on how to implement the product.

    Me: "Let me show you how Product X handles Accounts Payable"
    Client: "That's not how we do it"
    Me: "This might be a good opportunity to take a look at your current business practices and see if they can be done in a more efficient way"
    Client: "But we've always done it this way"
    Me: "Why?"
    Client "Dunno...just always have. And I doubt that the team is willing to change"
    Me: "Ok, we can customize the product to make it work the way you want but it's going to take more time and money. And when you do an upgrade later on there will be implications as well"
    Client: "Fine. Just make it work the way we do it now"

    And so it goes. Time and again I see clients go out and buy an expensive ERP system only to customize the bejezus out of it to make it look exactly like the systems they are retiring. They are not open to better business practices. Too many political headwinds.

    What does this say about these clowns in the Air Force? It takes them 10 years and $1.03B to realize that the project is going to fail? On an original budget of $88M? One of the big problems with trying to shoehorn a best practice ERP system into a large government institution is that often they employ worst practices. They won't, or can't, change them so you have to end up rewriting the product to fit their ass backwards ways. The whole purpose of implementing an ERP system is to replace aging, stove-piped systems with modern integrated systems. It can work well if it's implemented properly and the right decisions are made along the way. But it's not a magic pill.

  • by GaryOlson (737642) <slashdot@ga[ ]lson.org ['ryo' in gap]> on Thursday November 15, 2012 @10:14AM (#41991057) Journal
    BING! BING! BING!
    We have a winner. I am seeing this very poli-drama being played out right now at my institution. The multi-decade tenured staff will not change from business processes implemented to fit a bad system bought 3 decades ago; and will not listen because they don't have to.
  • by DrLang21 (900992) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @10:25AM (#41991149)
    Oh to be young an idealistic again. Someday you'll understand that the world just isn't so simple. For example, while I do not condone Obama's actions in the Middle East conflicts, Romney would have been far more agressive and openly so. I actually believe he would start a war with Iran. So who am I to vote for in such a tightly contested race? Gary Johnson? We all know that he won't win because America won't even vote Libertarians into low level local offices. So it would be irresponsible for me to not vote for and support Obama.
  • by jackbird (721605) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @11:02AM (#41991483)

    While I hear what you're saying, government entities, and especially the military, are also subject to legal requirements that they not do things in certain ways, or have unique requirements not accounted for in a 'best practices' system.

  • Re:those billions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland @ y a hoo.com> on Thursday November 15, 2012 @12:15PM (#41992259) Homepage Journal

    Because civilization is built with taxes.

    There a plenty of countries that have no to little taxes, you are welcome to move their and enjoy the squalor and disease.

    BTW, you benefit from social programs. Less crime, more industry, more entertainment, better beer.

  • Re:those billions (Score:4, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland @ y a hoo.com> on Thursday November 15, 2012 @12:32PM (#41992515) Homepage Journal

    The only thing you proved is you don't know what a Ponzi scheme is.
    It's missing 3 crucial elements
    1) A 'undisclosed' way of making money
    2) A handful of people collecting the majority of the money.
    3) Unsustainable under any condition. Meaning no adjustment can be made without collapse the whole thing.

    In a Ponzi scheme, the people 'late' the the investment(which is everyone who didn't start it) won't get anything out of it.
    Social Security is running really well, it has minimal overhead, it's accountable, has money set aside, and is designed to allow for adjustments along the way.

    It should be held op up as one of Americans crowning achievements. Right there with the Hoover Dam, Golden Gate Bridge, the Interstate highway and putting a men on the moon.
    But republicans don't like it so they keep lying about it.

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