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Lawmakers, SAP pointing fingers over failed payroll project

Chris Kanaracus | Aug. 16, 2013
The failure of a massive payroll project involving SAP software has California lawmakers, state officials and the vendor pointing fingers of blame at each other.

The Senate report also includes "troubling misstatements," such as a suggestion that there was confusion regarding responsibilities on the project, Roper said. "But the responsibility it references -- data conversion -- is not only clearly defined in the contract as SAP's responsibility, but also in the statement of work for the company."

SAP is unmoved by the report's conclusions, according to spokesman Andy Kendzie.

"We stand behind our software and our actions on this project," he said. "As we said before, we believe we have satisfied all contractual obligations. SAP and the state were jointly responsible for implementation of the system. We believe we upheld our side and share of the responsibilities. We dedicated our best resources to this engagement and had every confidence we could have completed it."

It may be impossible to reach a final determination of everything that went wrong with the project, according to one observer.

"Clearly a tapestry of fault is woven through the project to such an extent that even the auditors could not untangle the threads," said analyst Michael Krigsman, CEO of consulting firm Asuret.

While with any IT project there is a shared responsibility between customers and vendors, "the question is to what extent is the vendor responsible to make sure they're selling the right thing," he added.

The question now is what next steps state officials take regarding MyCalPays as well as other large IT projects.

Earlier this year, Chiang and California Gov. Jerry Brown convened a task force charged with making recommendations on how the state could improve its IT procurement and implementation processes. A report with its findings was released Thursday.

"Abstract, high-level recommendations are fine in theory but projects succeed or fail based on the details of execution," particularly training, Krigsman said. "It's very easy to talk about this stuff but going from the 50,000-foot view to the 10-foot view is a very big leap."


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