Late last week, news reports surfaced that a UN enterprise resource project, dubbed "Umoja" (Swahili for "unity') and which "presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to equip the organization with twenty-first century techniques, tools, training and technology" apparently is both slipping and overrunning its budget 18 months after it had been approved.
According to the original Fox News story, Umoja was supposed to cost $286 million. However, according to a UN draft project plan titled "Draft Report of the Secretary-General on the Enterprise Resourcing Planning (ERP) Project (Umoja)", it is now around $337 million.
Some of the costs outlined in the document include (quoting here a summary by PC World):
"- $76 million for '2,597 work months' of system build and implementation services.
- $14 million for travel, which presumes 1,285 trips will be taken by 'ERP team members, subject-matter experts and corporate consultants' at an average air ticket cost of $6,000. Each trip will also get $202 for "'erminal expenses' and $5,000 for 20 days worth of per diems, for a total cost of about $11,000 per trip.
- $1.8 million for office furnishings to support 234 workers, including 80 core staff, 66 subject matter experts, eight consultants and 80 system integrators, or about $7,700 per person.
- $6.7 million for office rental, based on an annual rate of $14,300 per person
- $564,200 for long distance telephone calls, teleconferencing and videoconferencing
- $18 million for hiring "limited replacements" for subject matter experts involved in the project
- $16 million for software licenses and maintenance fees."
The document also claims that benefits delivered by the system will be anywhere from $470 million to $770 million in value.
Those benefits, however, the UN planning document says, are conditioned on several things, including:
"- Full and adequate funding
- Continued senior executive support, and
- Known good practices are followed such as;
- early and effective communications to create a shared understanding by the entire organization of the change process and all the support staff,
- involvement of managers and staff to participate in and review the design, building and testing activities,
- strict quality assurance of all deliverables,
- timely provision of decisions by the UN project Steering Committee,
- transfer of technical and systems knowledge from project specialists to UN staff, and, most importantly
- effective and ongoing education and training in both the new system but also all the new processes and standards that are going to be required."
The lack of the latter condition is blamed for the ERP problems in the US state of Tennessee.
The UN says that the final project details are being finalized and it would discuss the project in more detail after that.
I would like to see the report estimate the likelihood of each of those six conditions above being met, since some, if you read the report closely, already appear to be violated.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.