No Measurement Means No Management

In 2004, Symantec, a powerhouse in the security software market, merged with Veritas, a leader in enterprise storage management software. The $13.5 billion deal—the largest in the IT industry to date—promised to unify data security with data storage, creating a series of holistic products that ensured the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data critical to business operations.

Numerous technical and operational challenges confronted the two companies as they came together, but perhaps none greater than unifying their product ordering system.

Veritas grew up as an enterprise-oriented company, while Symantec was born out of the consumer market. Their respective pedigrees meant that their ordering and product processing systems were built with different assumptions and expectations.

Given that both companies were heavily dependent upon third-party resellers and distributors for sales, the ordering system was critical to ensure the success of the merger. Symantec dubbed the new ERP implementation “Project Oasis.” It consulted hundreds of partners in designing and implementing the system, and created a project management team led directly by the chief information officer.

When the system went live in November 2006, Symantec encountered the usual hiccups with any new software deployment. However, the hiccups quickly escalated to a full-blown crisis as users couldn’t figure out how to navigate the new system and the system failed to correctly process orders. Making matters worse, the company’s support network of help desk and technology call centers was overwhelmed by cries for assistance. The situation was so bad that it threw off Symantec’s earnings for two quarters and took more than a year of dedicated support to fix.

In the postmortem, Symantec discovered that a perfect storm of errors and poor management assumptions led to the Project Oasis crisis. The company didn’t know it was exposing its ERP system to users who had never used it previously, and had a different set of expectations. It didn’t coordinate the software roll-out with product units and operations, which were simultaneously launching new products and initiatives that contributed to swamping Symantec’s support network. And system designers end up over-engineering the ERP system, providing users with features and information that they had little use for and only confused them.