Participating in user groups and talking directly to customers are still the best ways for prospective IT customers to get the real story on vendor performance.
News of eight US JD Edwards customers seeking recompense for trouble with early software releases led one local JD Edwards site to ask why it hadn’t heard of the problems before choosing the ERP suite.
The customer, which wasn’t willing to be named, said when it entered negotiations with the vendor it was asked to sign a contract which included a clause forbidding it from telling anyone else it was even talking to the vendor. When another JDE customer, Glengarry Wines, reached a settlement with the company over its failed OneWorld implementation, it signed a document agreeing not to talk about the matter.
Computerworld was told of a vendor which would only provide reference sites on condition that it was in attendance during the prospective customer’s site visit.
ITANZ executive director Jim O’Neill, whose organisation represents IT suppliers, says it’s natural to expect vendors to supply successful reference sites.
“Of course the vendor won’t give the name of someone whose project has been dodgy. The only way to find out about those would be to do a bit of research. Find out what announcements have been made over the past two years on contracts that the vendor has won and chase them up. Even if the client says they’re not at liberty to say anything, that should ring an alarm bell.”
New New Zealand Oracle Users Group president Michelle Teirney isn’t aware of any attempt by Oracle to vet or screen any visits or contacts that are made.
“They will obviously usually put forward their best referees for that module or product, as any company would reasonably do.”
Neither is she aware of confidentiality clauses in Oracle IT contracts.
Problems did occur in early implementations of Oracle 11i in 2000 and early 2001, she says. Customers became aware of them by talking to each other.
“Even if confidentiality agreements exist, a disgruntled user who has no personal financial obligation at stake is very hard to hush up. A strong user group with a good network of companies and users who regularly get together is very important to ensure open communication of these issues. If an implementation has not gone well it will soon become common knowledge within the user community.”
Hyperion Systems IT consultant Pat Rossiter thinks certain vendors, which he wouldn’t name, are overly restrictive.
“From that perspective their level of care indicates to me that they have something that they’re not proud to have known in the market.”