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Teachers Give ERP Implementations Failing Grades

Zonk posted about 7 years ago | from the taking-the-soft-out-of-people dept.

Education 169

theodp writes "Nine months after the Los Angeles Unified School District launched SAP HR and Payroll as part of a larger $132M ERP rollout, LAUSD employees are still being overpaid, underpaid or going unpaid. In June, about 30,000 paychecks were issued with errors, falling somewhat short of the Mission Statement 'to effectively deliver services to meet the payroll needs of all District employees serving our students.' Meanwhile, a $17M PeopleSoft-based payroll implementation has been making life miserable for Chicago Public Schools teachers and staff since last April, including June retirees who were stiffed for more than $35M. It's been a bad computer year for CPS staff, who also had to contend with a new $60M system that wasn't up to the task of taking attendance."

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Cheaped out (1)

phantomcircuit (938963) | about 7 years ago | (#20888801)

It looks to me like they didn't buy enough equipment to survive peak usage, and they knew they didn't.

so it didn't work on a peak usage day, um surprise?

Re:Cheaped out (1)

phantomcircuit (938963) | about 7 years ago | (#20888817)

That wasn't clear which story I'm referring too (as there appear to be three separate issues in this article...)

I'm referring to the School attendance system.

Poorly spec'ed. (1)

khasim (1285) | about 7 years ago | (#20888893)

From TFA:

To buy enough capacity for IMPACT to operate perfectly on peak usage days would mean most of that same capacity would be "sitting idle for 90-plus percent of the year," he said.

Ummmmmm, yes. And ........ ?

Where is the graceful failure? We are talking MILLIONS OF DOLLARS spent on this project. And they couldn't come up with any way to overbuild it by 10% or so?

Who really gives a fuck if 10% of your system is "sitting idle for 90-plus percent of the year," if it works perfectly EVERY SINGLE DAY?

We are talking MILLIONS OF DOLLARS and they STILL cannot accomplish that.

Re:Cheaped out (1)

vtcodger (957785) | about 7 years ago | (#20891437)

At a guess, the problem is that system usage is very difficult to project for the first few days of school when it turns out that some kids are registered at two schools and show up at a third. Others are registered in the right school, but twice under two variants of their name. Others .... The number of possible scenarios that can cause trouble and have to be sorted out is impressive. Not only that, but many staff members are not going to be familiar with the system. There are a whole bunch of issues not the least of which is the school office knows who has excused absences, but not who has showed up for school whereas the teachers know who has showed up, but not who is at the dentist, is stuck on a bus that is being towed out of a ditch, etc.

I'm not the slightest bit surprised to see these huge systems fold when stressed. What is annoying is the arrogance of administrators and IT managers when it is suggested that new systems need to be extensively tested and phased in slowly. These beauties really believe that nothing serious is going to go wrong this time.

Slow learners. Really slow learners.

Par for the course (4, Insightful)

realmolo (574068) | about 7 years ago | (#20888803)

In my experience, this kind of thing is typical.

It's almost a rule that the more expensive the software, the more likely it is to really and truly SUCK.

It's also a rule that the bigger the company/organization/school district/whatever, the less likely it is that "technology" purchasing decisions are made by someone who actually HAS A CLUE about technology. The reason being, of course, that technology is too expensive to let the "tech" people get involved with the purchasing process.

Like I said, this is all par-for-the-course in the American corporate world. And school districts/government organizations are even WORSE.

Re:Par for the course (2, Insightful)

grasshoppa (657393) | about 7 years ago | (#20888963)

You nailed it. I've only been involved with government work for about a year now, but from what I've seen this is par for the course.

Re:Par for the course (2, Insightful)

Seumas (6865) | about 7 years ago | (#20892005)

The answer is to spend more money.

Teachers should be familiar with that concept. Remember, when someone isn't producing results, it's not their fault -- it's that you're not throwing enough cash at the problem!

Re:Par for the course (1)

tsm_sf (545316) | about 7 years ago | (#20892649)

Considering that the pay difference between teaching and the private sector is something like 30-50k a year for someone with a masters... how do you expect to attract top people to the job? You get what you pay for, and it looks like you want a KMart quality educational system.

You got it, pal.

Re:Par for the course (5, Insightful)

alekd (580693) | about 7 years ago | (#20888979)

Neither SAP nor Peoplesoft suck. They might be expensive, complex, old-fashioned and suffer from having been around and tinkered with for a long time (especially true for SAP), but they do work and with them it is actually possible to implement a system with the required functionality that works in a reasonable amount of time. This is not something you could do with a custom-built system or any of the cheap COTS systems. The problem is typically not the technology, it is the convoluted and almost impossible to understand business rules in the payroll area. This is especially true in the public sector and in other places with heavy union involvement. Over time you get more and more complex rules for how to calculate pay. The end result is that nobody understands their pay slips anymore and it is nigh impossible to implement and test a system that handles all the exceptional cases. Still, they try and fail instead of simplifying the rules and use the money saved in consultant fees in a way that would actually benefit their employees.

Re:Par for the course (3, Insightful)

realmolo (574068) | about 7 years ago | (#20889051)

I realize that SAP is complex, and that payroll is complex.

IT DOESN'T MATTER. The software should work. The customizations needed should be relatively EASY to implement. I mean, it's not like they're trying to model global weather systems or something. SAP is really nothing more than a big fat database/spreadsheet. They should be able to make it work. There is no excuse.

Re:Par for the course (1, Insightful)

Dionysus (12737) | about 7 years ago | (#20889133)

Well, if it's so easy, it's a great opportunity to create that simple software and take all the business away from SAP and Peoplesoft.
Of course, talk is cheap

Re:Par for the course (1)

Splab (574204) | about 7 years ago | (#20889203)

And while he is at it, he should also work out a fast way of doing the traveling salesman.

Re:Par for the course (2, Funny)

Bluesman (104513) | about 7 years ago | (#20890205)

Hmm. You could try propositioning the salesman in an airport bathroom, I'll bet that's probably one of the quickest ways.

Re:Par for the course (1)

lukas84 (912874) | about 7 years ago | (#20889439)

Yeah, they should've used one of those OSS ERP systems that simply don't exist.

Re:Par for the course (2, Informative)

sunwukong (412560) | about 7 years ago | (#20890957)

they should've used one of those OSS ERP systems that simply don't exist.
Compiere [compiere.com]
Tiny ERP [tinyerp.org]
opentaps [opentaps.org]
But I guess they'd never find out about these projects because a service that lets you search the web using keywords doesn't exist, either.

Re:Par for the course (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20889515)

I mean, it's not like they're trying to model global weather systems or something.
Sometimes, you honestly could've fooled me.

I don't work for SAP, but I do work as a developer for an ERP competitor to them. Some of the business flows are seriously convoluted. Tack on a few layers of customer specific adaptations, and it's pretty close to spaghetti.

Luckily it appears our framework is a lot more modern than SAP's. While we may lose the initial sale to SAP, it's not all that rare we're asked to deliver a few years later when SAP still hasn't managed to get things up and running. I'm guessing lack of flexibility in their framework is at least part of the reason.

Re:Par for the course (4, Informative)

DarkOx (621550) | about 7 years ago | (#20890217)

I realize that SAP is complex, and that payroll is complex.
You apparently don't realize that at all. I have spent most of my short career working with ERP systems or doing work very tightly coupled to ERP systems like activity based costing. If you every start doing that sort of work and talk to business folk behind it you will be amazed at how often you find yourself saying "You must be kidding" when they start explaining all the rules and exceptional cases to you. Then you run in to the legacy issues, and how the old system they used in the eighties stored time in 27ths of a second and for that reason you have if not store at least present data that way because those of the numbers the desk workers are used to seeing and it has the tie out with the data wharehouse which has always be loaded that way.

Oh and payroll is something you can't get wrong. Quite possibly more so then any other business function has to be right the first time. Fixing mistakes is hard and extreemly costly, and that is before any legal exposure is considered. You will also find your self working with the group of business people who are the least trusting, and first to loose confidence, for very good reasons.

If you think ERP is anything like a database and some spread sheets you have never been close to ERP. I admint its not climate modeling, or interstellar navigation but its not simple.

Re:Par for the course (1)

Hawke666 (260367) | about 7 years ago | (#20891533)

Obviously payroll is something you can get wrong. Did you not read the original article?

Re:Par for the course (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 7 years ago | (#20890279)

You have never dealt with payroll trying to model global weather systems is easy compared to payroll. Payroll isn't bound by the laws of physics or logic. It is instead bound by the rules of accounting.
Not only that when you model weather if you are off by one or two percent nobody gets too upset. With payroll it is a very different story.

Re:Par for the course (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#20890871)

SAP is really nothing more than a big fat database/spreadsheet.

Since those are Turing Complete, anything can be a db/spreadsheet and visa versa (if we put speed issues aside). That does not tell us anything usable. Spreadsheets and DB's can be clean or they can be messy. They are one of many methods to implement and store business rules.
     

Re:Par for the course (1)

ouphie (1049832) | about 7 years ago | (#20889489)

SAP is one of the worst programs I have ever tried to use. Our company switched over to SAP and it has cost us more in paid time trying to get it functional than the darn licensing. Thankfully we do not use it for payroll... yet.

Re:Par for the course (1)

Sique (173459) | about 7 years ago | (#20889751)

Tell me news.

It's conventional wisdom that licensing is 10% of the total cost of the introduction of an ERP.

What people seem to forget is the realisation why you have ERPs in the first place: They are there to replace the old business processes. So introduction of an ERP is equivalent to a complete reorganisation of the company, or it is wasted money.

Imagine the introduction of a CNC machine in a handcraft metal shop. And then project the picture to an organisation which switches to an ERP.

Re:Par for the course (1)

turbidostato (878842) | about 7 years ago | (#20890977)

"What people seem to forget is the realisation why you have ERPs in the first place: They are there to replace the old business processes"

What people seem to forget, specially ERP consultors, is the realisation why you have ERPs in the first place: They are sure there *NOT* to replace the old bussiness processes. Think it that way and the project is DOOMED. ERP is there to make your *current* bussiness process faster, cheaper and more controllable. Nothing more (but nothing less). Gold rule in IT: never change two things at a time.

"So introduction of an ERP is equivalent to a complete reorganisation of the company, or it is wasted money."

When introduction of an ERP is equivalent to a complete reorganisation of the company *is* wasted money. 100 times out of 100. And yes, I'm completly aware that to be the case just so many times. No wonder how many times ERP implantations are such big fiascos.

It's always the "evil" unions that are to blame. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20889509)

I get so tired of this lame meme.

Re:It's always the "evil" unions that are to blame (0, Flamebait)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#20890301)

Rush Limbough's influence on society's perceptions is amazing. He may be a manipulative ahole, but he is a clever salesmen of political philosophy unmatched by the other side.

Re:It's always the "evil" unions that are to blame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20892133)

What do unions provide anymore? Are Americans still subjected to sweatshop labor practices anymore? There are PLENTY of laws protecting the worker.

I'd argue that (4, Interesting)

HangingChad (677530) | about 7 years ago | (#20889513)

Neither SAP nor Peoplesoft suck.

Suck is sort of a generic term but when it comes to specific customer installations go I've never seen one go smoothly...ever. Never seen one come in on budget, either. The best thing I can say for either one of them is they're better than Seibel.

I have seen the reps leapfrog over the technical department to pitch the executives, glossing over the implementation and cost issues. Seen them give out customer testimonials that didn't hold up to investigation, low ball hardware requirements and suggest that the IT people were well-meaning but out of their depth.

I also disagree that it's something that couldn't be custom built for less money and deliver longer and more reliable service. Now if you mean having EDS or Dell Consulting build it for you then, yes, you're completely correct in that context.

Complexity Tax bites man (2, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#20890177)

This brings up an important point: organizations don't bother to try to simplify their business rules. Complex business rules make life harder even IF the computer does work because people still have to verify the results and answer questions from users (paycheck receivers). Beurocrats build up layers of messy rules like a desk or fridge that nobody ever cleans. Until real AI is invented, it may be unrealistic for a computer to magically fix it all. If such a system is too complex for regular payroll clerks to understand and navigate, then it is probably beyond automation also.

Re:Complexity Tax bites man (1)

mikael (484) | about 7 years ago | (#20890309)

Maybe they evolve because the sales team or the marketing team feel that there is a price-point that isn't being matched by existing products, or that staff aren't being properly renumerated the effort that they are putting in. For example, working at a clients site, attending a trade show or conference - these allow sales leads to be created. There was even a category of work created: display stand duty.

Re:Par for the course (2, Informative)

JimBobJoe (2758) | about 7 years ago | (#20891565)

This is especially true in the public sector

I got to watch a Peoplesoft HR implementation at a large public university in the late 90s. It was really the first time that Peoplesoft was being deployed for university HR purposes.

It was a painful, ugly and almost absurdly expensive transition (we're talking an initial budget of $10-12 million, but a final cost more in the $100-120 million range.) Over and over again I heard complaints that there was no particular way of doing X in the Peoplesoft software--the unique payroll setup of a public university wasn't taken into account.

This wasn't helped by the odd client access method--running the Peoplesoft software on NT 3.51 servers, and then having users access it via Citrix Winframe. At the time that probably seemed like a good idea--and perhaps today it would be a lot more stable and fast, but back then it was a slow as molasses.

Re:Par for the course (1)

DuncanE (35734) | about 7 years ago | (#20888991)

We are talking about SAP/Peoplesoft? ... surely this stuff if just off the shelf payroll software? Shouldn't cost more than the average family car yeah?

Oh hang on... theres "consulting costs" involved... Thats where SAP/PS "certified" consultants come in to "customise" the software... In that case its probably 100 family cars worth.

They probably should of gone with Microsoft Access HR database template and hired a couple of VBA programmers. And at this point, you think Im joking....

Re:Par for the course (5, Interesting)

antarctican (301636) | about 7 years ago | (#20889141)

Oh hang on... theres "consulting costs" involved... Thats where SAP/PS "certified" consultants come in to "customise" the software... In that case its probably 100 family cars worth.

Oh don't get me started.... I have experience with both PeopleSoft and SAP, and I am not impressed by either.

My employer has implemented PeopleSoft and it's been nothing but a nightmare. Inaccurate accounts, never quote being sure how much money you have in an account, and the web interface.... It's like something out of 1997! This is 2007, and if Google and other companies can make sleek AJAX interfaces, you'd think on a multi-million dollar system like PeopleSoft they could at least build one that looks as though it's from this decade!

As for SAP, I administer a SAP system for a friend's company, we're talking a company of about $1-2 million in sales a year. And as I learn more about this system, I shake my head more in disbelief. I've spent weekends having to rebuild new laptops they've bought with XP because the software simply doesn't work under Vista, and the estimated compatibility date we keep getting is 1 year+. You might say that's Vista's fault, and to a degree it is, however when I learn about how their authentication works, and how it depends on Vista's authentication for their client-server model, plus their own internal authentication I wonder how these people ever got their CS degrees. The clients access MS SQL DIRECTLY, not through a nice integrity maintaining server process. That is such a huge no-no if you want good audit trails and data integrity, you do not let the clients directly access the database!

I often wonder, if I knew more about accounting, I bet I could put together a startup and make a piece of software which cleans their clocks. It is complex, but doable, without interfaces out of last century and authentication protocols which depend upon the eccentricities of different versions of an operating system. If someone took on this challenge they could be very, very, very rich just by building a usable system that doesn't require millions in consulting fees.

And yes, those SAP consultants, I can see my friend's blood pressure go up whenever I tell him he have to call them for assistance on some arcane matter which is far overly complex for what is trying to be accomplished. I guess the easier way to become very rich is to be a SAP/PeopleSoft consultant, if you can swallow your morals.

SAP is one of the better ones (1)

sheldon (2322) | about 7 years ago | (#20891223)

Now imagine if you had to work with the crap systems from Peoplesoft, Lawson, etc?

I once worked for a consulting firm that though there was going to be big bucks with Siebel. Nearly became a Siebel consultant. Fortunately the company went under before I got into that too deep.

Re:Par for the course (4, Insightful)

ari{Dal} (68669) | about 7 years ago | (#20889055)

The price has nothing to do with it. Here's why software implementations fail:

- failure to scope the project correctly.
- scope creep, as everyone rushes to get their own stamp on the project.
- on the other side, scope reduction, once some pinhead in accounting realises how much the scope creep is costing.
- implementing for IT instead of the end user.
- allowing either IT or business sole authority in software purchase decisions. Either way it's a guaranteed disaster.
- instead of improving current processes, projects attempt to replace/revamp said processes completely, with little to no impact from the people who actually use them.
- lack of training. Nine times out of ten when a project runs over budget, the first area cut is the end user training.
- cheaping out on the implementation. I've watched companies spend millions on software licenses, then shortchange on the implementation.
- rushed implementation. Instead of planning and implementing on a schedule, the project managers fix a timeline and say "get it done in this timeframe", completely ignoring how long it SHOULD take.

I could add more, but this is just part of it.

Re:Par for the course (4, Insightful)

_Sharp'r_ (649297) | about 7 years ago | (#20889437)

Typical government/large corporate software project steps:
1. Have a manager in a government bureacracy or at a director-level that the vendor takes out for "business" golf make the decision.
2. Ensure that manager has no repercussions for his decision and probably isn't even in the same position when the project is supposed to go live.
3. Have the vendor, with no knowledge of the existing system, come up with a timeline to replace it with their stuff, but "customized".
4. Pay vendor millions in licensing fees. Golf has a very good ROI for big vendors.
5. Pay vendor millions more to supply a few brand new employees who took the vendor's "class" on his product to "customize" it for you, thus making those employees valuable enough to get something of a real job working for someone else later.
6. When the first few milestones are missed, have the vendor add a couple of people to the project that know even less than the original consultants.
7. When things start go even slower, begin to blame the "extra" work that wasn't ever planned for to start with, but is critical to the project.
8. To make up time, cut out any originally required user training.
9. To make up more time, cut out all documentation efforts.
10. To make up more time, cut out all quality assurance efforts and related paperwork.
11. To save time, skip development and testing environments and deploy everything straight to production servers.
12. Switch over to the new system, even though it's not done, hasn't been tested, and no one knows how to use it.
13. Sign a long-term consulting contract with the vendor to pay them for keeping the original consultants on doing "maintenance" for the forseeable future, hoping something will eventually work.
14. Ignore your own staff's original predictions and recommendations and complain about how no one could have predicted that this project could possibbly fail, since the vendor is the "industry leader".
15. ????
16. If you're the vendor, "Profit!!!!" . If you're the original manager, put "Successfully led a $50,000,000 software project" on your resume.

Re:Par for the course (1)

BobandMax (95054) | about 7 years ago | (#20889659)

Amen, brother. We have just finished a first-stage PLM rollout and were fortunate enough to have a mandate for quality. We had an approximate and flexible timeframe and were able to devote adequate resources to testing and validation. Additionally, we took the opportunity to examine our business processes and streamline them when politically feasible.
To date, we have had no serious issues and users are generally pleased with the result.

Re:Par for the course (1)

sohp (22984) | about 7 years ago | (#20889057)

SAP and PeopleSoft == ENTERPRISEY!!

Re:Par for the course (1)

Splab (574204) | about 7 years ago | (#20889219)

This is often because its the lowest bidder who bags the contract.

Re:Par for the course (1)

Troy (3118) | about 7 years ago | (#20889267)

In every (Ohio) public school district that I've worked in, teacher pay was determined by a very simple grid of years experience vs education. The district had a base salary, and every cell on the grid was merely a percentage (over 100%) of the base salary. Stipends for coaching/advising were also percentages (albeit much smaller) of the base salary.

I'm not sure how salaried pay could be MORE simple. Starting this school year, I knew exactly how much I was going to be paid (gross) and was able to calculate by hand (within $20) how much my net would be.

Re:Par for the course (1)

nathangarrett (803087) | about 7 years ago | (#20889273)

Very true... Even in higher education, most of the software is difficult to use & clunky.

Re:Par for the course (1)

GrEp (89884) | about 7 years ago | (#20889329)

They shouldn't have rolled it out until it was fully tested. Run it on last years payroll and make sure it is 100% the same. Once the ERP firm has customized it properly, THEN buy the license. Why any organization would pay up front for a large software system without taking into consideration the fact that it has to be customized is beyond me.

Software vendors need to be straight with their customers and describe how much time/money their systems take to customize and customization issues should be spelled out in the contract. Contracts go both ways. If the ERP firm knowingly hid the customization costs then the buyer should withhold payment to cover them.

Re:Par for the course (1)

RogerWilco (99615) | about 7 years ago | (#20889551)

I think part of the problem is that for these large projects they usually bring in a group of outside developers that do not know the processes at the organisation well enough, lack "domain knowledge" so to speak. In the worst cases I know of the developers are actually then barred from talking to people in the organisation, preferably future users, and are required only to work on some incomplete and often incorrect spec that was written as part of the tender.

Also people are commenting here that the automated process should mimic the earlier (non-automated?) one. Often this ends up as the old procedures begin implemented, not the general process, which might lead to very sub-optimal procedures as a lot do not translate well to another system.

Re:Par for the course (3, Interesting)

tompaulco (629533) | about 7 years ago | (#20889791)

Yes, they suck. And what they suck is a pretty hefty amount of money. This is because they are built to handle just about any custom configuration with a bit of customization. The customization is also expensive. This is why SAP, PeopleSoft, DBS, etc. are good systems for Enterprises which have large numbers of billions of dollars going through them, and can afford to spend years paralleling the system to make sure that it works. I worked in companies that used these systems, and they often had close to 100 full time very smart IT personnel making sure things ran seamlessly. It cost the company millions per year, but the amount was eclipsed by the billions saved in the automation of the accounting system.
I am quite convinced that the Chicago Public School system does not have the expertise to run such a system, nor the cash flowing through the system to justify having purchased it.
The software is not wrong, it is just being used in the wrong environment. Probably some salesman needs to be fired (out of a cannon; into the sun). The salesman's creed is: "The right customer is everyone, and the right product is the one I'm selling." This is absolute bullocks.

Re:Par for the course (1)

OriginalArlen (726444) | about 7 years ago | (#20890475)

Murgatroyd's Second Law of IT Procurement: Never Buy Anything With The Word "Enterprise" In The Product Name

Par for course all over in education (2, Insightful)

falcon5768 (629591) | about 7 years ago | (#20888813)

As a IT Technician one of the things that annoys me to no end is how terrible our payroll setup is. We run software designed for 98 not because it is good (its terrible) but because our business admin refuses to upgrade and had threatened to quit if we did.

Considering we pay her half what a BA in the business world would make because she works in education.. her quitting is not a option for my district.

Re:Par for course all over in education (1)

fermion (181285) | about 7 years ago | (#20889473)

I think it is a matter of support. When I worked in industry, and we put in a enterprise system, it wa made clear that there would be costs, and those costs were budgeted. When it was clear that the budgeted costs were low, more money was added until it worked. If something wasted a lot of time, it was fixed, as employee time had real and opportunity costs.

In the schools, it is so much different. So many of the costs are externalized, usually by making teachers and administrators work off the clock. Therefore so many task that should take a minute, often can take 10 times as much time. In another example, there may be a single person supporting hundreds of abused computes. And education is on of the last examples of web developers hiding behind arbitrary minimum requirements rather than resorting to rational design. In one example, only 50% of a 15" inch screen may be available for content, the rest used for branding and menus. Wy does a school district need branding on an internal web site?

The argument that there is no money for adequate tech is silly. There are dozens of people in any district that have no real work to do. All they do is walk around, observe, and send in redundant reports. Or conduct training on who to use a notebook. These people are well paid, and the money would be better used to improve tech. If a district has 1000 teachers, and a ill designed process wastes 10 minutes a day, that is on the order or a teacherweek a year. In the grand scheme of things, it is not that much, but when one figures that some of the things can be fixed in a day of development time, one wonders why they are not. One wonders why paying a person to walk around is more important than provides teachers extra minutes to teach.

Educational I/T Problems (1)

canuck57 (662392) | about 7 years ago | (#20890053)

Considering we pay her half what a BA in the business world would make because she works in education.. her quitting is not a option for my district.

Yep. But why don't we say it like it really is. Gross management incompetence. I have consulted for a major college and could not believe the lack of depth in the head of I/T. Totally freaking clueless to to I/T and industry best practices. Not one molecule in his head was into I/T and being irrational and political type no hope too either. A freshman in CompSci in the same institution would be better qualified to run the department.

For they are political institutions run by politicians that set aside all the money for pet projects, or slush it to "more important needs". The head of I/T is often just a "yes" man/woman patronage appointment that never says what should be done because they don't know. I/T has no representation to the heads of the institution, as if they would care even if they had. I could crack a joke about sex and I/T "yes" but it is exemplified in government and educational institutions.

Since then I have talked to others. And similar experiences can be told from almost every educational institution around. A personification of Dilbert at best.

But they care once they have been hacked an payroll is down.

Happening elsewhere too (4, Informative)

mrbill1234 (715607) | about 7 years ago | (#20888823)

http://csueu9.blogspot.com/2007/08/peoplesoft-no-pay-for-arizona-state.html [blogspot.com]

"The move to PeopleSoft at Arizona State has left hundreds of employees high and dry with smaller or empty paychecks. Employees are bouncing checks and having to scramble for loans to pay bills."

Re:Happening elsewhere too (1)

Titoxd (1116095) | about 7 years ago | (#20889775)

The link you provided is a few months old, so you'd think they would have had the chance to fix it. Sadly, that is not the case, as it is still happening right now [statepress.com] . ~~~~

Too much modularity! (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20888827)

One of the main problems facing these ERP systems is that they try to be far too generic. Site-specific functionality is jammed into the overall framework in the form of modules. Unfortunately, business logic is often very complex, and so it doesn't always fit well into these modules. This can lead directly to hackish attempts to circumvent the limitations imposed by the ERP modules system, which often leads directly to faulty software.

Another problem affecting lower-end ERP solutions is the use of data abstraction layers like Hibernate. These layers separate the application developers from the databases that are actually storing the data being manipulated by the ERP system. Since the developers tend to now avoid writing SQL statements, they lose sight of the real relationships between the data stored within the database tables. Losing sight of these relationships means that the developers often take obtuse, roundabout ways to getting to data through the data abstraction layer, when the same data could be obtained in a few lines of SQL.

Re:Too much modularity! (1)

Zangief (461457) | about 7 years ago | (#20889839)

Hibernate allows you to use raw SQL when you need it.

Re:Too much modularity! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#20889967)

Hibernate allows you to use raw SQL when you need it.

Yes, but that's defeating the purpose of it. It is claimed that it "hides SQL" from OOP programmers. The parent's assertion is that hiding from the SQL prevents an understanding of the data and schemas, meaning the app developers are programming in the dark, using trial and error and wasteful client-side loops.
     

Re:Too much modularity! (2, Insightful)

nuzak (959558) | about 7 years ago | (#20891257)

Having seen the typical quality of PL/SQL procedures written by database code-grinders on the cheap, replete with twisted logic and redundant queries and storage of huge resultsets in variables, I would MUCH rather trust Hibernate's caching and consistency algorithms. These people "understand the schema" about as well as they understand fluid dynamics, neurosurgery, or basic English writing and composition.

The district should contract Nintendo... (1)

dws90 (1063948) | about 7 years ago | (#20888831)

Underpaid Teachers want to fight!

Underpaid Teachers sent out Empty Wallet!

Go! Meowth!

Foe's Empty Wallet used Debit Card!

Foe's Debit Card is overdrawn!

Meowth used Payday!

Picked up $$$!

Foe's Empty Wallet's Absorb Taxes absorbed the money!

Giovanni: The teachers have been paid. Now, I shall take over the world!

Re:The district should contract Nintendo... (1)

Smordnys s'regrepsA (1160895) | about 7 years ago | (#20890539)

I want to think this was an attempt at humor, but I'm glad that I don't know either way

PeopleSoft (1)

The Hobo (783784) | about 7 years ago | (#20888835)

PeopleSoft 'implementations' have been making life miserable for those of us at UW (University of Waterloo) for years now. I'm guessing it's mostly due to vendor lock-in. It's not surprising to me that they're doing poorly elsewhere. Their systems are used for our co-op job system [uwaterloo.ca] and our student information system [uwaterloo.ca] (choose classes, view grades/transcripts, etc). Finally, as I'm about to graduate, they are using the talent we have at Waterloo [wikipedia.org] to hire some co-op students to write our own system, at least for the job portion of it. Sigh.

Re:PeopleSoft (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | about 7 years ago | (#20888899)

UWO (University of Western Ontario) used to have the same problems, too, before ITS switched over to something slightly more usable. Of course, now we've got a pile of shit named WebCT bungling up student/instructor communications in the name of e-learning and other buzzwords. The mere sight of the Peoplesoft name made me groan.

Re:PeopleSoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20888937)

Finally, as I'm about to graduate, they are using the talent we have at Waterloo to hire some co-op students to write our own system, at least for the job portion of it.
That must suck for the co-op students - they must spend most of their time writing system documentation and bringing their replacements up to speed with the code base.

That's the problem with co-ops - they only stick around for a few months. When a feed changes or a batch job fails on a Sunday morning at 4:35 AM in July 2010, it seems unlikely that a co-op will be there to look at the dump, diagnose the problem, implement a fix, test it, and release it into production.

Re:PeopleSoft (1)

salmon_stinks (1169033) | about 7 years ago | (#20890229)

I was at UW when they switched from the old terminal based system to the new peoplesoft one.

IMO the terminal system was MUCH better and more reliable. Simply switching back would probably be better than sticking with the Peoplesoft pile of crap.

Whoa for Deloitte (1)

lancejjj (924211) | about 7 years ago | (#20888857)

About $95 million was allocated for the BTS ERP implementation project, with $55 million earmarked for Deloitte Consulting
Perhaps a big piece of the $55 million is to cover the expenses of good lawyers, who could be used to protect Deloitte from the financial burdens of a massive implementation failure. Technology consultants may no longer be a good project investment.

GIGO! (1)

HexaByte (817350) | about 7 years ago | (#20888905)

Yes, there are problems with not enough hardware for peak usage, trying to make a one-size-fits-all piece of software, etc. However we must realize that if a teacher (or anyone) is supposed to be paid X dollars per week, and the check is written wrong, it's probably because someone making $12/hr keypunched in the wrong salary.

The OSFA software model is a problem, too, I'm sure, because it often can't be configured to do exactly what's needed for your industry. I have a customer on QuickBooks that still has to manually figure time cards because of weird union rules that it can't handle. The cost of custom software, however, makes it impractical to have something written for him.

Re:GIGO! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20889025)

Wow. You must have very limited experience with big ERP implementations to make such naive statements. Any mid-large organization could spend $5-10M and produce something technically better than what a $100-200M installation of SAP, Oracle, Peoplesoft, etc. would buy. Unfortunately big $ decisions are mostly based on politics and cover-your-ass thinking rather than business or techincal merits.

Re:GIGO! (1)

wanna_be_a_developer (941117) | about 7 years ago | (#20892223)

yep... "Nobody ever got fired for recommending IBM."

Not just in education (3, Insightful)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | about 7 years ago | (#20888917)

It's common to think that ERP or some other big software is going to be the silver bullet for all of your company's problems. In fact, that is just throwing money at the issue.

ERP implementations are meant to mirror existing business processes. If your business processes are ass to begin with, and there is no change before an ERP roll-out, your business will still experience the same issues.

All this "blame the ERP vendor" stuff is crap. I blame the people who are running the system and poorly implemented it.

It's even worse than that. (2, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | about 7 years ago | (#20888983)

ERP implementations are meant to mirror existing business processes. If your business processes are ass to begin with, and there is no change before an ERP roll-out, your business will still experience the same issues.

But it is VERY difficult to "mirror existing business processes" because of TWO things:

#1. Duplicating a human decision process is difficult in software - the human may have 50+ years of experience that s/he cannot articulate to the analyst. Which leads to ...

#2. The process and business logic that is actually implemented is what the ANALYST believes should be implemented and how it should be implemented. (and then how it is written by the coder and whether it passes the test cases (and whether any test cases were written and tested)).

It's all about the edge cases. Depending upon your market, your "edge cases" could be almost all of your business (and profits).

Re:It's even worse than that. (0)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | about 7 years ago | (#20889125)

It's been my experience that those people who have 30+ (a more realistic number than 50) years of experience are too heavily relied upon at work and are looking for change in order to relieve them of some burden.

Case and point: I assisted with an ERP implementation at an educational institution a while back. Most of the business processes were still being done on paper. The people who have been doing purchasing and payroll for 30+ years were actually the ones who wanted to change the business processes so that they would have less work to do such that they might have a half hour in the middle of the day to take a lunch break.

Ah, yes... Peoplesoft (4, Informative)

starseeker (141897) | about 7 years ago | (#20888919)

My undergrad college rolled out a Peoplesoft based system with (IIRC) the objective of avoiding having to deal with fixing the old mainframe based setup. After a very large amount of money (which included fixing the old system anyway since the new system wasn't ready in time) we got a new system that (at least from the student side) was less attractive than the old one. I don't know all that much about the admin/teaching sides of things, but from what I saw Postgresql + PHP + better initial design considerations + a few good coders would have done wonders for a fraction of the $$. At that time we also had wind of other schools having similar trouble with Peoplesoft.

Perhaps the system got better over time, but I can't help wondering why Peoplesoft is so dominant in such situations - do people have better experiences with them they can report? My experience with it was admittedly very light (in the form of rather useless and highly non-intuitive grade reports) but if that was a sample of their standard work quality the market should be begging for competition.

Re:Ah, yes... Peoplesoft (2, Informative)

hey! (33014) | about 7 years ago | (#20889071)

Why is any vendor of proprietary software more successful than its competitors?

Because it has the longest punch list. It's very hard to select software which offers "less" for the same price.

And once you've handed the vendor a pile of dough, you can never afford to admit defeat. Spending a ton of money on a system like this is like getting married, with the hidden proviso that if divorce follows, your erstwhile partner gets to keep your penis. The result is nobody is going to be candid; they just keep the denial rolling long enough to retire or move on.

The truth is, the most important thing in any IT shop is the selection and management of the staff. If you have enough good people in the right places, things tend to work. Massive "enterprise" systems seem like a shortcut to success, embodying all kinds of know-how that you (as a short sighted skinfint manager) are not willing to pay for. But there aren't any shortcuts. Bringing in a system like this probably also means spending more on staffing, at least in the short run. Software or no, takes years to make things work better and cheaper, at least if you don't want to have embarassing failures along the way.

Back in the 70s through the early 90s, the view of the software business was that it was like owning a printing press that printed money: you just cranked the duplicator, and value came out for a little more than the cost of the media. Now that the era of exponential computer adoption is past, software is a service business, with typical service business margins. Caveat emptor, then: when you buy software, you are entering into a long term relationship with the vendor.

Re:Ah, yes... Peoplesoft (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#20890237)

And once you've handed the vendor a pile of dough, you can never afford to admit defeat. Spending a ton of money on a system like this is like getting married, with the hidden proviso that if divorce follows, your erstwhile partner gets to keep your penis. The result is nobody is going to be candid; they just keep the denial rolling long enough to retire or move on.

I wonder if the Iraq war runs on Peoplesoft? ;-)
         

Re:Ah, yes... Peoplesoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20889115)

I don't know all that much about the admin/teaching sides of things, but from what I saw Postgresql + PHP + better initial design considerations + a few good coders would have done wonders for a fraction of the $$. At that time we also had wind of other schools having similar trouble with Peoplesoft.
Whoa, I think you're ignoring all the complexities of such a system. Payroll, changing tax laws across several states, deductions, healthcare, security, privacy.

Oh, and even higher ed administration: matriculation, equivalency of like courses over years, departmental requirements, substitutions, transfer grade equivalencies, ferpa, room capacities, inter-institutional registration, instructor availability. Oh, throw in HIPAA if you deal with any student health care issues.

These are just a few of the many high level concepts in these systems. Peoplesoft may suck rocks, and it may be bloated and a waste of money. But please don't imagine that you and your friends can put together a comprehensive system in a few weeks. If that were the case, people would be dropping PeopleSoft like rocks, and they'd be downloading and installing ApachePeopleSystems or something.

Regardless of the technology (PHP, PeopleSoft code, COBOL, whatever), these systems are very large, very difficult to implement, and tricky to maintain because they address very complex problems.

Re:Ah, yes... Peoplesoft (1)

Doctor Faustus (127273) | about 7 years ago | (#20889465)

I think you're ignoring all the complexities of such a system. Payroll, changing tax laws across several states, deductions, healthcare, security, privacy.
I think you're ignoring that a lot of those don't apply because these are local systems handling people doing a fairly small list of jobs. Granted, PeopleSoft has to support all the regional differences, but something custom wouldn't. On the technical side, portability becomes a non-issue, so you could actually lean on the particular strengths of the database system you pick (being realistic, it would probably be Oracle, SQL Server or DB2).

But please don't imagine that you and your friends can put together a comprehensive system in a few weeks.
Nobody said a few weeks. That Chicago system was $17 million. For maybe half that, you could put together good production and QA database servers, a good backup system, a few web servers, a permanent administrator, a permanent support programmer, a team of 10 or so programmers/DBAs and their tools for the project duration (say, two years to do a good, careful job, maybe with fewer people at the beginning while doing requirements and database design) and overtime for the business/admin people to talk to the IT staff as necessary.

Re:Ah, yes... Peoplesoft (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#20890273)

Perhaps the system got better over time, but I can't help wondering why Peoplesoft is so dominant in such situations...but if that was a sample of their standard work quality the market should be begging for competition.

Big software projects are always risky. It may be that the risk of Peoplesoft, that is the failure rate, is generally known. If you go with an new vendor or write your own, you don't know what the failure rate is. Unpredictability is scarier to most business planners than high cost. Thus, Peoplesoft may simply be the devil you know.
       

I've always said (2, Informative)

rpillala (583965) | about 7 years ago | (#20888951)

Payroll won't pay you if they have a choice.

Our school system recently made a transition from individual electronic gradebook servers per school to centralized gradebook servers serving the district. The troubles they didn't foresee in testing came from not having actual teachers around to place a realistic load on the system. Not just in the number of concurrent users, but the varying operating systems in place at schools, the varying age of equipment from room-to-room, and other factors have popped up. I'm responsible at my school site for handling people's issues with the system, but I had no part in the decision to move to a centralized server. It makes sense though, I just wish it had been set up in parallel for a while last year so that we wouldn't have all this failure to deal with that could have been anticipated.

The worst case with our gradebooks is that we get a little behind putting scores into the computer. No one's livelihood is at stake. I would hope that with something like payroll they could have tried it in parallel for a while to catch issues like the ones they're having now.

Re:I've always said (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20889041)

I've worked with Navision software in the past (related to SAP and PeopleSoft), for a small company doing POS terminals.

I don't know how it exactly compares to payroll, but those systems are a nightmare to program and maintain. I could probably be making 6 figure amount now if I had stuck with it. But, you know, it's so mindblowingly boring to work with, and horrible systems on top of that. So a guess would be that the people doing SAP/PeopleSoft/Navision in general are not that bright, but are mainly in it for the money.

I've heard the same thing from IT-executives related to especially SAP systems. They'll have people programming these systems for a year, pouring huge amounts of money into it, and not really getting anywhere.

Back then I toyed with the idea of making a POS system and putting the other players out of a job (they were also incompetent on top of the crappy Navision software), but decided that I'd hate working with it so much, that even if I made it, the payout wouldn't make up for several years of misery.

Re:I've always said (1)

jb_02_98 (636753) | about 7 years ago | (#20890673)

I saw that happening quite a bit. I don't want to sound like I"m trying to fix the worlds problems, but I've recently forked a project and am looking for developers. This project is a SIS (student information system) that aims to provide that to schools with little to no cost. The project is called OASIS. We are currently in the early planning stages, but I've already been backed by a lot of companies in this area (SouthEast Idaho) and it looks like this can be a success. Anyone interested in helping should go to http://oa-sis.org/ [oa-sis.org] . It is going to be written in php and use postgresql as the backend.

IT Failed Project (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20889015)

Chalk this up as yet another failed project by the IT folks. IT is more than just blindly installing software and pulling cable, and installing server. It's about load testing, performance analysis, and finding out just what your requirements are.

But then again, that's real work, and doesn't involve pulling cables, or configuring servers. IT people just don't have the discipline or training to solve these problems.

Re:IT Failed Project (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20889475)

But then again, that's real work, and doesn't involve pulling cables, or configuring servers. IT people just don't have the discipline or training to solve these problems.


And management that sees a trained IT pro poring over logs and graphs and doing capacity planning rather than doing physical busywork tends to gets upset. It's voodoo to most people. Management drones don't want to pay for it, and don't want to hear about it.

If, after go-live, something starts going wrong at 9:05 every morning, and you're an obvious wreck by 10 with all the demands and disasters, management tends to like that. Yes, I know, I know, now is the time for the glibertarians to all chime in: Get a new job! Sign a new contract! Puppies! Flowers! Free market!

PeopleSoft? (3, Informative)

CompMD (522020) | about 7 years ago | (#20889053)

PeopleShaft not working right? Thats unpossible!

Seriously, PeopleSoft sucks fiercely unless you have an army of people spending thousands of manhours on it to make it work right. At the university I attended, when they rolled out PeopleSoft to do EVERYTHING (including tuition, enrollment, etc.) all kinds of random errors would screw up what you were trying to do, and the university's stance was "oops, sorry." This was their stance even if it meant you couldn't enroll in a class (or couldn't drop a class), or pay your tuition on time.

Suckers (2, Insightful)

g-san (93038) | about 7 years ago | (#20889075)

This is one the biggest scam in business history. You get some company to buy into a huge software package, hire armies of consultants, schedule months of meetings, and they end up with something worse than what they had before, only poorer.

Vice President of Communications! (1)

Chappster (1169005) | about 7 years ago | (#20889167)

From what I can tell, peoplesoft is an unorganized pile of crap. Because of peoplesoft, I'm listed in my company's payroll as the "Vice President of Communications". Hefty title, eh? They can't find where the problem is, though. For four weeks, they were giving me a full-time paycheck instead of the part-time that I was doing. It took them about a week to find and fix that problem. It's always a nice conversation starter, though.

Search for "PeopleSoft" and "failure" (1)

Animats (122034) | about 7 years ago | (#20889225)

Results ... of about 387,000 for: peoplesoft failure.

Some of those hits are irrelevant, but many lead to Peoplesoft horror stories.

Peoplesoft is a steaming pile of crap (5, Informative)

myc (105406) | about 7 years ago | (#20889519)

I don't know much about the innards of Peoplesoft, but speaking as a faculty end user, it is a steaming pile of crap. The current implementation of Peoplesoft running across all 23 campuses of the California State University system is estimated to have cost over $700 million at this point.

Just as one example, this fall students were being booted out of classes they legitimately enrolled in, because the financial aid module could not talk to the enrollment module properly, leading the system to think that these students did not pay tuition. Our department office spent the better part of the last 3 weeks manually re-enrolling everyone.

There is a state auditor's report on the CSU selection and implementation of Peoplesoft, which began back in 1997 (too lazy to link to it but Google will find you the .pdf). After skimming through it, I couldn't believe that no CSU executives were not indicted on insider trading and corruption charges.

ERP? WTF is ERP??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20889547)

great fucking summary...

The headline is cool. You (are supposed to!) explain the fucking abbreviation in the first sentence. Or at fucking least somewhere in the summary...

this is fucking 101 stuff!

BURN IN HELL!

Re:ERP? WTF is ERP??? (1)

ahaning (108463) | about 7 years ago | (#20890349)

I was wondering, too. It would have been nice if it had been in the summary.

ERP = Enterprise Resource Planning.

Now, your job is to tell me what that means!

Re:ERP? WTF is ERP??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20891235)

ERP is a class of large business systems that manage the operation of the business itself. Generally speaking, this entails a financial side, some degree of hr management (with the appropriate overlap to financials), and a supply chain management system (again, with overlap to financials).

The value proposition is that, by having everything in the same system, it's infinately easier to track the bulk currency flows through your organization, and thus you can easily answer questions like "am I making money in Malaysia or not". Without a central repository of all this data, it might well take a small army of accountants months of collecting data and crunching numbers to answer that.

The risk of implementation is usually that all these systems are designed around a "model" business where currency and data flows around in certain ways. Since no *actual* business ever matches the model business, you always end up customizing them. Given that they're complex and highly interdependent systems, this customization is a highly, highly, non trivial affair that takes true experts months, and is often completely impossible for less knowledgeable consultants.

Re:ERP? WTF is ERP??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20891383)

You're not a nerd if you don't know what is ERP.

LAUSD problems (5, Informative)

msaavedra (29918) | about 7 years ago | (#20889603)

My wife is a teacher in LAUSD. Her paycheck has been screwed up on a number of occasions. She no longer knows how much she is supposed to be paid, because her salary is now different every month. The worst case was when the district deposited her check (direct deposit into the checking account), then withdrew every penny of it the next day with no warning. Why did they do this? No one has been able to explain it. The following day, they deposited the exact same amount back into the account. Even when we have the money in the account now, we feel like we can't touch it.

Since this has affected us personally, and since I'm an I.T. professional, I've been following this pretty closely. Here is some more information that wasn't talked about in the article:

  • David Brewer, the LAUSD superintendent, has no experience in education. As far as I can tell, he has little experience in business too. He was a career military man, and probably is used to things like the fabled $600 toilet seat, $300 screw drivers, etc. To be fair, the problems started before he took office, but he has been woefully unable to deal with this situation. To make matters worse, despite his inexperience, he makes even more money than the last superintendent.
  • There is suspicion of corruption in the contracting process. Deloitte, the company who got the job, were not able to get this contract legally, because they were too expensive. Someone in the district hired a lobbyist who got our state legislature to pass a law changing this. The day after the law changed, Deloitte was hired. Through an amazing coincidence, the aformentioned lobbyist is also employed by Deloitte. I think that as things progress, we'll find people in the district with other ties to Deloitte.
  • The last contract negotiations between the teachers union and the district was very ugly. The union hired a real firebrand to negotiotiate, there was nearly a strike, lots of inflammatory stuff was said in the media, and lots of bad blood was created. Eventually the district was forced to give in to most of the union demands. I wouldn't be surprised if the district is dragging their heels on getting this fixed simply out of spite.
  • Aside from that, the slowness also seems due to everyone going into CYA mode, probably because there is plenty of blame to assign to all parties involved. I suspect that when everything comes out, we'll see that not only was Deloitte incompetent in managing this project, but also that the district did not give proper specifications of what they needed. After all, the important part for Deloitte and their cronies in the district (the part that needed lots of thought, effort, and creativity) was figuring out how extract as much money from the taxpayers as possible. As for the actual project, who cares?

Re:LAUSD problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20889807)

Fuck, your wife shouldn't get that fucking check to begin with.

She doesn't deserve any money nor do 90% of teachers in this country.

Fucking mafia.

Re:LAUSD problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20889841)

Not that he might not be a great person and professional, but David Brewer was hired because he was black. Villaraigosa wants to take over the schools, so the board hired someone he wouldn't dare try to get rid of for fear of seeming racist.

As for $300 hammers, someone connected to the California school system, or married to someone who is, should SHUT THE FUCK UP when is comes to criticizing government waste.

The California school system couldn't teach a bee how to buzz.

Project Management & SAP Integrator (2, Insightful)

blue_teeth (83171) | about 7 years ago | (#20889611)

I am a SAP Integrator (not on the functional side, but on technology - SAP Basis).

1. There is nothing wrong with the software or architecture design.
2. SAP is highly customizable to customer's requirements.
3. Projects are normally rushed thru without proper planning.
4. Lack of quality SAP specialists. These days, SAP consultants are commodotized.
It is difficult to identify a good consultant. It appears consultants without relevant
industry experience were deployed (SAP+Government+Education+HR background)
5. Testing, testing and testing !! I think corners were cut here.

Go identify the culprits.

Minimum Wage Change?? (1)

Isaac-1 (233099) | about 7 years ago | (#20889675)

I wonder how much of these pay mistakes may be directly related to the recent increase in minimum wage. It has been nearly a decade since U.S. Federal mimimum wage has increased, an eternitiy in software design. How many of these pay mistakes were for people whose pay rate is in some way tied to minimum wage ($X over minimum, etc.) I work for a small business with less than 100 employees, we use a simple comercial payroll software product, and generaly get quaterly software upgrades to deal with changing tax rates, min wage, etc. Often the update CD's will arrive only a couple of days before the end of each quarter causing a rush to install before the next pay period. Are the big players any better, and what about when IT is backlogged installing other updates.

Ike

The real problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20889763)

No one in the LAUSD speaks English anymore, and the company forgot to code in a Spanish language option. Viva La Rasa! Return California to Mexico.

Thinking? (1)

sjames (1099) | about 7 years ago | (#20889911)

Some of these problems have little to do with the software itself. Rather, the process was a load of crap from day one with a zillion stupid little rules. Naturally, such rules can turn a fundamentally dead simple process into a giant hairball in an instant.

The give and take in business software should be at the boundary the old process and the new software. That is, developers should have input into the business process side of things. After all, most business programming uses procedural languages, so it's developers just might have a clue or two about the appropriate design of procedures. That doesn't mean making people work for the computer, it just means things like recognizing that a set of 20 rules can be compressed down to 3 if you don't mind the result being up to a penny off (meanwhile, the cost of implementing all the rules will cost way more than those pennys over the life of the system).

Then, of course, rather than implementing reasonable simple systems that preform related functions, they try to implement one big swiss army knife that performs all functions badly instead.

Now, add in the PHBs who want to specify languages, toolkits and technologies to be used because they heard they're magic bullets that let 4th rate code monkeys build perfect systems for petty cash and you're almost certain to have a failed project.

As for people not getting paid, that's just a beureaucratic disgrace. If you know a person should be paid, surely it's better to pay them what they got last month and adjust later than to pay them nothing. Considering that problems with a new payroll system are hardly surprising, they should be prepared for that when they cut over.

Change the approach (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#20890095)

I think the approach to complex systems with lots of site-specific business logic is to provide kits and modules to write semi-custom code instead of take an existing package and bend it with extensions and attribute settings. Custom code tends to fit better, but requires a lot of nitty-gritty stuff to be written from scratch. In other words, we need kits to surround and help the custom code process, not nail custom extensions onto a somewhat rigid framework.

One could use a given framework's or library's parts for a given task, but modify them or ignore them if they're not a good fit. The framework should be a helper, not a dictator. The problem is that it is hard to sell something like this because it is hard to measure and bill for ownership of a given piece of code.

More money spent externally then internally? (1)

JoeCommodore (567479) | about 7 years ago | (#20890311)

I suspect they tried solving their problems with lots of cash, relied on outside consultation, didn't consult with internal key staff, and got hit with reality.

I wonder how many meetings were made with the schools' operational staff to analyze the payroll system that was in place to take care of all the factors and how much was planning was done to make sure the transition was smooth?

Two Parallel Systems (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#20890693)

With something as complex as payroll, it may make sense to create two parallel systems, one with simplified rules. Then you do a trial period run on each, and sort by the size of the differences between them and inspect the biggest deviants. After finding the reason for the differences, make adjustments and run a trial again. Repeat this until the differences are either documented (legitimate reason found) or below the threshold. This will not eliminate all problems, but can reduce the bigger ones.

Pretty soon it all adds up to real money... (2, Informative)

jwiegley (520444) | about 7 years ago | (#20891055)

PFFFFFT! $132M... $17M... $60M... Bah! Nickels and dimes! Come see me and bitch when your school system's people soft implementation has cost you $800M+.

[wikipedia]The California State University system adopted PeopleSoft in the early 2000s. The university spent $500 million on this system in a process so deficient that it resulted in an investigation and a rebuke by the state legislature. The Report of the California State Auditor criticised the University, amongst other things, for not having a business case for the implementation. When asked why it never conducted a formal return-on investment analysis on the CMS project, the university explained that the magnitude of potential savings estimated by its consultants, IBM and Pacific Partners Consulting Group (Pacific Partners), led them to believe that such a formal analysis was unnecessary.

And yes we bitch that the state doesn't fund our university well enough. That we should be given more funding. When, in fact, we are given enough money. Our administrators, chancellors and trustees just choose to waste it in the most inefficient ways possible.

And don't get me started on the lack of business case. That's just S.O.P.

I'm a teacher in the LAUSD (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | about 7 years ago | (#20891507)

I've been overpaid, not sure how much. Could be 900, could be twice that. Either way, the money is spent. I did spend almost 4 hours one day at the district offices only to be told they had no answer and couldn't help me. Lame! I was also told that if I was overpaid they will request it back. However I got mixed answers to how and when I'd have to repay them. SOme say they will deduct it from one full paycheck. Others say it will be taken out in smaller increments. We'll see what happens. What really sucks is those of us who have been overpaid have also paid taxes on that money.

Re:I'm a teacher in the LAUSD (1)

zippthorne (748122) | about 7 years ago | (#20891965)

What really sucks is those of us who have been overpaid have also paid taxes on that money.


No, you've had a portion of that money withheld for taxes. At the end of the year, you'll get it all squared away when you actually file and you'll only end up having to pay taxes on the money you've received.

You'll only have paid too much taxes if the discrepancy is not corrected until after january 1, and then only if the extra falls in a higher tax bracket than you usually fall. You can mediate this as well, buy upping your charitable giving for the year and lowering it the following year, but you'd have to anticipate it.

PeopleSoft and SAP... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#20892483)

They both SUCK! I have used both and implemented both at 2 fortune 500 companies. Both were multi-million dollar efforts.

Did I mention they both SUCK? They are both so bloated and slow. The PeopleSoft HR and portal systems I worked on were just crap. They took _millions_ in hardware just to run OK. Oh, and then there is this "watchdog" service for PS that has one purpose (not according to PS), to restart the crappy processes that keep dieing in PS or.. even worse, the processes that just go crazy and start to suck up memory. We had to write our own watchdog that just killed the whole PS process tree and restarted everything. Oh, and talk about sloooow. To startup the PS portal/HR systems was just a bitch. start them, go get some coffee, get lunch, take a dump if you want, it is real slow.

To everyone out there, save your money and use some other system(s). SAP and PS just suck. PS has this crappy, bastardized VB-script-like language. It just sucks. SAP, yeah, not any better.

Brrr... bad memories... bad times....
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