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Software Government The Almighty Buck The Military United States IT Technology

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

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:Ouch. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sorthum ( 123064 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:30AM (#41988765) Homepage

    Oh wow, it gets worse. Oracle won this with a $88.5 million bid; what the hell took the Air Force so long to pull the plug with that kind of overrun?

  • Re:Ouch. (Score:4, Informative)

    by LeperPuppet ( 1591409 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @01:57AM (#41988885)

    Granted, most organizations seem to wave off long before the $1 billion mark...

    Most organisations aren't connected to the DoD's endless money spigot.

  • Re:Ouch. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Amouth ( 879122 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @02:49AM (#41989071)

    I fully understand where you are coming from, and i can't answer for the Navy on the system as a whole, but i will say their implementation PM (Plant Maintenance) portion of SAP is a very good example of a very functional implementation that is very effective at doing it's job.

  • Re:Ouch. (Score:5, Informative)

    by purpledinoz ( 573045 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @03:21AM (#41989185)
    Did anyone also do a double-take on this story? $1B spent on software, and nothing to show for it? Let's say you pay a developer $100K/year, and the project lasted 10 years. That's 1000 developers working on this for 10 years! And after this, nothing to show for it? That's probably the most ridiculous thing I've heard in a while... I wonder if a big chunk of this money went to crony suppliers like Halliburton.
  • Re:ERP is dead! (Score:4, Informative)

    by raftpeople ( 844215 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @04:03AM (#41989359)
    In what sense do you think ERP is dead? The functions are all required and if you buy best of breed individual packages, you still need to integrate them, so either you do it yourself or you buy the ERP package that is already integrated.

    I agree that some decisions can be made to break it up into manageable pieces and accept less efficiency, but with an organization of that size you still have a problem of complexity whether using an ERP package or creating point solutions and integrating them.
  • Re:Ouch. (Score:5, Informative)

    by raftpeople ( 844215 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @04:11AM (#41989399)
    Don't confuse the "Resource Planning" part of ERP with actually meaning anything. ERP used to be MRP when it was just focused on the manufacturing aspects of a business and specifically planning raw material requirements to meet the deman for the finished goods. But as companies added modules to the suite to encompass the entire enterprise, they decided to change the name to Enterprise Resource Planning because it sounded more "Enterprisey". Sure there is some planning in there and a whole bunch of transaction execution and tracking that really isn't related to planning.
  • Re:Ouch. (Score:5, Informative)

    by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @07:07AM (#41990047) Journal

    But private industry learns from their costly mistakes faster.


    Let me restate that again: lol.

    This comment makes me think that you've worked in neither government nor industry. Or you've been very, very lucky with your employers. Or never worked at a very large company.

    Part of the reason (possibly the main one) they fail is due to people. That is the same for both sectors.

    With a project that large, it's a big embarressment if it fails, so it's in the interest of the people in charge of the project to force it through at all costs no matter what. Because they don't care about their host organisation (be it government or industry), they care about their own career. Having a big failure like that is a blot. So, instead some half-asses expensive, buggy and minimally functional heap of shit is usually foisted onto the hapless minions of the organisation, usually with a large loss of productivity.

    Oracle is usually the cause, and the event should be known as getting "Oracled".

    It happens in the public, private and education sector. Oracle knows no limits. They will screw anyone they can get their hands on with crap products. There is no escape.

    At least the USAF pulled the plug. After $1bn and a 10x overrun, there is not a single change in hell that the system would every be a net gain. It was a huge fuckup. But given where it was at that time, this was the only sane solution.

    The problem is inherent to large organisations. It's not a public versus private problem. It's a big versus small one. That means that the public sector experiences the problems more often due to its size. But basically, large companies suffer exactly the same problems too.

  • by Taco Cowboy ( 5327 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @07:24AM (#41990123) Journal

    disaproving drone strikes against allied countries.

    Huh ?!

    CIA launched drone strikes on Israel?!

    Oh, c'mon ! Pakistan isn't an "allied country". Them Pakis actively support the Talibans.

  • by KiloByte ( 825081 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @07:34AM (#41990163)

    How is that partisan? *All* recent Thieves-in-Chief blow trillions, what changes is who the main beneficents are.
    Dubya: big oil, military contractors
    B. Hussein: wall street, big media, big pharma
    [would be] Mittens: wall street, wall street, wall street

    And Obama's bailout has been more harmful that all recent wars put together. It ensured no financial companies not connected to the main mafia can thrive: they were either bankrupted, bought out or marginalized, while investors received a clear message that their money can be safe if they go with those "too big to fail". And even worse, the wave of bailouts spread to Europe and rest of the word, and shows no signs of subsiding.

  • Re:Ouch. (Score:5, Informative)

    by ZahrGnosis ( 66741 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @10:01AM (#41990929) Homepage

    To my dismay, I worked on this project. The project started with controversy -- the Oracle bid that beat out SAP like seven years ago was surrounded by complaints. The article skips some details. CSC (Computer Sciences Corp, who is quoted) was the main driver of about $800-million of that spending. It is accurate to say that this change didn't affect them, but that's because hundreds of people had already been laid off or moved of the project between last September and last March.

    There's enough blame to go all over the place. Years spent in requirements that weren't turned into code; time spent passing blame back and forth across development teams who were so large and segregated that they rarely communicated properly, both within the Air Force and within CSC and between the other teams. At it's peak I believe the project had roughly 800 people on it. I don't know what the maximum size a development project should have, but it's got to be smaller than that. That number includes everyone, trainers, managers, and some key initial users and testers, but still it's a very high number.

    The Air Force tried several times to realign the project, but there were contractual disputes or, once that was over, difficulty deciding what to keep and what to scrap, which lead to a death spiral where everything went back on the drawing board and I think ultimately leadership just lost hope.

    It wasn't a complete loss, though. A few small teams, including the one I was previously on, have survived. We built a robust data quality system and are working on some enterprise data dictionary and master data tools, which will help the systems that are left behind. With hundreds of systems supporting a half million users, $1billion probably isn't off the chart -- at least not had this been a successful project, but the worst part is that there's still much work that needs to be done, and now someone will have to start over... again.

  • Re:Ouch. (Score:3, Informative)

    by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Thursday November 15, 2012 @12:47PM (#41992679) Journal

    Yep. And who owns Peoplesoft.




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