Righting the Ship

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2006-10-06 Print this article Print

Staffing firm Hudson is trying to fix what it says was a poorly designed financial system—a snafu that led to millions of dollars in accounting errors.

Righting the Ship

Whitmer's hiring as CIO was a key step for the company to get things back on the right course. The CIO position for Hudson's North American group was newly created. Parent company Hudson Highland did have a CIO, Richard A. Harris, who left the company in the second quarter of 2006. Harris, reached at a U.K. phone number, declined to comment.

Meanwhile, an Aug. 3 job listing on Hudson's Web site said the company needed a "Senior PeopleSoft Project Manager" for its Pittsburgh shared services division, which manages the central I.T. systems for the company. Hudson spokeswoman Kafenstok says Whitmer has been filling the role of PeopleSoft project manager and that the company may not fill the position.

Hudson declined Baseline's requests to interview Whitmer or other company executives to discuss the PeopleSoft project. A spokeswoman for Oracle said the company had no comment on the Hudson project.

Originally, the PeopleSoft accounting system was designed and implemented for Hudson by an outside consultant, says Chip Jackson, director of the Oracle/PeopleSoft practice at Rapidigm, a Pittsburgh consulting firm recently acquired by Fujitsu. In October 2005, Jackson reviewed the project when Hudson contacted Rapidigm to "build a triage plan." Hudson ultimately did not engage the firm, he says. Jackson would not name the original implementation partner, citing a confidentiality agreement.

John L. Moser, managing director at Atlanta-based Answerthink, another I.T. consulting firm, says he doesn't have first-hand knowledge of Hudson's project. But in general, he notes, fundamental problems arise when companies don't properly account for business processes in an application.

"People think, 'I'm going to install this software and I'm going to have best practices,'" he says. "But that's not how it works. The question is, Are you using the features and functions of the technology?"

Hudson Highland CEO Jon Chait was asked on the Aug. 3 call by a financial analyst: Might the company decide to scrap the PeopleSoft system? He replied that some pieces may be replaced. "It is entirely possible that we may decide that the shortest distance from point A to point B is to take out a module and simply start over," he said.

But Chait added that Hudson has learned some lessons from the experience. "There were a number of decisions made in terms of the architecture," he said, "that in hindsight were decisions that we would not make again."

How to Avoid Deployment Snafus 1. Institute project management principles.
2. Communicate with business partners to ensure a system meets their needs.
3. Standardize the way data and processes are handled.
4. Automate processes wherever possible.


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