No boss? No problem! An ERP upgrade done right

When a messy ERP transition hits rough waters, one tech pro relies on know-how, grit, and luck to right the ship

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See ya, wouldn't want to be ya

One morning, my boss called me to his office. He then announced that he had accepted a job at another company and would be leaving in two weeks. Needless to say, my stomach began to churn. Not only had he been a fixture at the company, he had made a lot of noise about updating our ERP systems. The board was expecting it, but he provided no details about where we were with the project.

Nonetheless, my boss moved on, and to assist me with IT duties, the board promoted an electrician who was quite competent and a great asset, albeit not classically trained. My new co-worker and I hadn't even gotten our bearings before we took an already-scheduled meeting with a local service provider, who brought along eight individuals. They assured us we could not possibly handle this ERP transition ourselves and were more than happy to provide all the assistance we could ever need for the bargain price of $125 per hour.

After a two-hour beat-down, my partner and I thanked them for their demo and replied that we would be in touch. It goes without saying that our egos had been greatly dented and our ire was up. We vowed to never use that firm and to go down in flames before surrendering.

As the days went by, I began to uncover the extent of my prior boss's finagling with the software. I determined that it would be easier to roll to an new ERP package that contained the functionality and robustness we required rather than to try to convert the old one. Before he left, my ex-boss had assured us that he was available evenings and weekends for a mere $80 per hour as visions of new pickup trucks surely sailed through his head. Again, my partner and I made a second vow to not pursue that avenue, either.

It took a full two years to replace all the Novell servers with Windows 2000 servers and 250 DOS workstations with Windows 98 desktops, as well as roll the ERP software to the new package. In the process, we added two more employees to the IT staff. We had had to port several thousand inventory codes along with their current inventory count, AR and AP. It was a massive undertaking that we tackled one location at a time, spending two months on each site.

Since we were changing our bread-and-butter package, I decided to scrap the time-keeping, payroll, and HR packages as well and move to different ones. Looking back, I can see that I was young, foolish, and extremely blessed. Though it was a lot of work, we encountered no major problems, and the board of directors accepted and backed our recommendations.

The company has thrived and is still going strong, and management probably remains unaware of the miracle transition we pulled off 15 years ago. Because there was hardly a ripple, the job likely looked easy, and thus we received no accolades -- except, perhaps, the board approving our recommendations. But at least now a few more people know too.

Send your own IT tale of managing IT, personal bloopers, supporting users, or dealing with bureaucratic nonsense to offtherecord@infoworld.com. If we publish it, we'll send you a $50 American Express Gift Cheque.

This story, "No boss? No problem! An ERP upgrade done right," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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