By Tony Kontzer
No one wants to restart a major IT deployment. Doing so brings all sorts of potential consequences, from product or service rollout delays to unexpected costs and a decline in staff morale. But there are times when it’s the best choice for moving forward.
Executives at Bord Gáis found themselves at this juncture, partway through their large-scale deployment of the Oracle Utilities customer care and billing solution. Problems with the quality of the company’s database surfaced months into the effort, forcing executives to face a key decision: scrap the deployment and start over with a clean database, or move forward as planned and pay the consequences later. They chose the former.
“That Friday is commonly referred to as ‘Black Friday’ at Bord Gáis,” says CIO Ashling Cunningham, who as deputy CIO at the time was called in to assume IT oversight of the project. “One of the toughest but most rewarding decisions our executives ever made was to call a halt to the initial project. That took courage, but, wow, did it ever pay off.”
Project leaders met every morning at 8 a.m. for months to ensure constant communication about the state of the effort. Employees would show up in large numbers—as many as 50—on just a few hours’ notice to work on an important detail over a weekend.
This effort was not lost on CEO John Mullins, who took over the reins of the company in December 2007, just as the project was hitting full speed. Once he was briefed about the circumstances that led to the reinstall, he knew how important all the extra work was.
“We had to back out of the cul-de-sac and actually start looking at the open road again,” says Mullins.
But Cunningham, along with her counterparts at Oracle, believed that getting the project done right was more important than just getting it done. “To actually pull the product was quite a courageous move, both on the Oracle side and on the Bord Gáis side,” she says. “At that point, a lot of time, energy, and money had been invested, but it was the right call because it didn’t matter what we were doing going forward. What we were building on was fundamentally flawed.”
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