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US Air Force mulling changes as major ERP system project stumbles

Chris Kanaracus | Nov. 2, 2011
The U.S. Air Force is close to making decisions on the future of a sprawling Oracle ERP (enterprise-resource-planning) project that is supposed to remake the military branch's worldwide supply chain, according to a recently released document.

Those changes could come from any place, including customer requests or a realization later on of the project's true complexity, he said.

In addition, systems integrators "feel tremendous pressure to keep their prices low during the bidding process," and tend to submit the "cheapest defensible" offer that will enable them to meet minimum project requirements and still win the bid," he said. "The bid up front later turns out to be apparent guesswork."

Air Force officials are clearly eager to see ECSS be a success, but have their work cut out for them, according to a October 2010 posting to the website Air Force Enlisted Forums by a user who said he attended a pre-rollout briefing on ECSS.

"The briefing was not a highly publicized affair, and only about 30 people showed up from the entire base. Most people showed up through word-of-mouth invitation only, and others were 'voluntold' to show up," the poster wrote.

It began with a slickly produced introduction video packed with testimonials from Air Force members who had tried out a pilot version of ECSS. "When I came to, I found myself chuckling at its infomercial-esque propaganda," the poster wrote. "My interest peaked as the speaker got on the stage for a Power Point presentation, and I was curious more than ever to find out why the Air Force was making such an overt attempt to sell ECSS. As the speaker went on about the vision, goal, and time line of ECSS, I realized the magnitude of the project. The Air Force was getting a heart transplant!"

"The speaker opened the floor for questions," the poster added. "The moment of truth was here. End user specific questions, from tool crib custodian, supply warehouse grunt, tech-savvy COMM CSA, etc., were unsuccessfully answered. It was a sorry sight. If the preparation level of the speaker was any indication, ECSS was still only at its concept stage! And this was supposed to roll out in 2 years?!?!"

While there is no doubt the Air Force would benefit from an upgraded logistics system, "I am now a firm skeptic of ECSS," the post adds.


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