Last year I wrote about the problem with the billing system that Johannesburg City Council had implemented. The project, a SAP-based implementation internally called Project Phakama, is in the news again for all the wrong reasons. According to one report, the project has cost the City over R800 million (over $100 million). The situation has reached such a bad state again that there was a report that central government was considering stepping in.
This is obviously a highly strategic and visible project, and it’s not uncommon for these kind of ‘heroic’ projects to have very public bugs. As I mentioned in my previous blog about this project, SAP had won a quality award for it, but has readers of Michael Krigsman’s Project Failure blog will know, the software is only one part of the issue.
In the ‘Billing Crisis’ news report, an opposition spokesman says the problem is that it is a complex system
“…and people have not been properly trained for the system”.
‘The city’s head of finance, Parks Tau, said implementation of the IT project had been completed and that problems with it were “interface-related”.’
So here we have two issues which need to be addressed – people-related, and external systems.
On the one hand, the project owners (City officials) seem to be saying that the project is nearly done. On the other, they don’t appear to have the complex IT project experience to know “What ‘Done’ Looks Like”, to use Glen Alleman’s phrase.
SAP is fortunate that it is not their name that is being publicly criticised, as has happened in other municipal projects.
One thing I am glad about – that I am not the vendor or implementation partner project manager on that project.
Update #1: SAP have distanced themselves from the project – ‘Don’t blame us‘
Update #2: The story behind the project chaos is revealed – The connections that disconnected Joburg