Taking Out the Trash: Waste Management Sues SAP

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Many of you may have already heard about this one – Waste Management is suing SAP over a recent implementation that went sour. The lawsuit is for $100 million, and if you want to read the whole complaint, you can find it here. It looks like there are a few things going on in this case. According to the complaint, SAP over-sold the capabilities of the software. What is really interesting is the lawyer’s language around “fake software” when describing the prototypes and mock-ups.

Good requirements practices cannot fix everything, but I believe using them in this case would have saved Waste Management (and SAP) a lot of money. Here are a few things to consider when implementing a packaged solution.

  1. Have a well-defined selection criteria/process. I’ve been around enough of these large package deals to know that a lot of politics goes into the selection process, but there needs to be an objective team that analyzes the potential suppliers against the business objectives and required features. Check out this post for more information.
  2. A good Product Manager will help the business understand the implementation process. Is it just the lawyers speaking, or did Waste Management truly not understand that they were seeing prototypes/mock-ups?
  3. A good Product Manager will also perform sanity checks with the implementation team. Are the prototypes standard functionality, or do they represent a lot of customization? If there is customization involved, how much? Can standard functionality be utilized and still achieve what the business needs?
  4. Don’t forget that requirements analysis is just as important in packaged solutions as it is in custom implementations. No enterprise solution is ever implemented “out of the box”, so don’t neglect the process of identifying what business value you are trying to capture, what processes you need to support, and the specifics of what you need the package to do.

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