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15 famous ERP disasters, dustups and disappointments

Josh Fruhlinger,Thomas Wailgum | July 11, 2017
It's no wonder ERP has such a bad reputation: The history surrounding the complex and expensive enterprise software market is packed with tales of vendor mud-slinging, outrageous hype and epic failures.

If enterprise software maintenance wasn't so boring, the details of this sordid story would make Hollywood producers fight over the rights to shoot this movie. Here's a brief summary: In 2005, SAP bought TomorrowNow (TN), a small company that provides ERP software maintenance and services for Oracle's ERP products—at 50 percent off Oracle's prices. Of course, TN's services could work equally as well for SAP's products (but we were supposed to ignore that). We have come to find out that not everyone at SAP thought the TomorrowNow acquisition was a good idea.

Flash forward to 2007: Oracle alleges that SAP (via TN) "has compiled an illegal library of Oracle's copyrighted software code and other materials." A nasty lawsuit unfolded (and is still going strong) and SAP abruptly shut down TN in 2008.

Meanwhile, a former TN cofounder (Seth Ravin) formed his own TN-like company (Rimini Street) and has been scooping up all the former TN business. And, oh by the way, in addition to the Oracle ERP products his company already services, he's going to start offering half-off maintenance services for some of SAP's ERP products this year. (BTW: I've got the script ready if anyone in Hollywood is interested.)


13. Shareholder pressure halts SAP ERP rollout

All was not well with bedding-maker Select Comfort's multi-module ERP implementation of SAP's ERP, CRM, supply chain and other applications. So in 2008, with serious shareholder pressure to end the $20-million-plus project that was "indicative of extremely poor judgment by management" (charged one shareholder's SEC filing), Select Comfort did just that: It put the project on hold.

In this economic environment, is this just an incidental sign of the times or a sign of more things to come?


14. ERP + SaaS = Software success or bad idea?

When CIO magazine surveyed 400 IT leaders about their ERP systems in early 2008, CIOs said they remained committed to on-premise, traditional ERP systems—despite aggravating integration and high-cost headaches.

The results weren't that surprising. CIOs have been reluctant to take chances storing the sensitive data (accounting, HR, supply chain) contained in their ERP systems in another company's data center. In the survey, just 9 percent of respondents reported using an alternative ERP model, which included SaaS applications.

That was then. This is now: SaaS ERP providers such as NetSuite have experienced greater acceptance of their house-your-ERP-data-offsite models, which in turn has allowed them to go from upstart to industry player.


15. A legendary "moon" on the high seas

The details of the infamous "mooning" between SAP's Hasso Plattner and Oracle's Larry Ellison have become stuff of urban legend. So what actually did happen? Well, during the 1996 Kenwood Cup sailing race, Ellison's sailing crew reportedly ignored Plattner's wounded sailing yacht (which had a broken mast and bloodied crew member).


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