It reviews cisco system approach to implement oracle’s enterprise
resource planning (ERP) software product.
It studies diverse, critical factors and obstacles faced by cisco
during its implementation.
Deterioration of cisco’s legacy environment in functional areas led
to implementation of ERP.
Cisco System, Inc., was founded by two Stanford Computer
Scientists in 1984.
The company’s primary product is the “router”.
It soon began to dominate the markets with the rise of Internet
By 1997, its first year on the Fortune 500 Cisco ranked among the
top five companies in return on revenues and return on assets.
Cisco’s market capitalization passed the $100 billion mark just 14
years after being founded.
In 1988 don valentine, vice chairman of the board of cisco hired
john Morgridge as chief executive officer (CEO).
Morgridge maintained a centralized functional organization.
While product marketing and R&D were decentralized into three
“lines of business”.
The manufacturing, customer support, finance, human
resource, information technology (it) and sales organizations
History of IT at Cisco
Pete Solvik joined cisco in January 1993 as the company’s CIO.
Cisco was running a Unix-based software package its core transaction processing.
The functional areas supported by the package included:
o Order entry system
Solvik let each functional area make its own decision regarding the application and
timing of its move as he avoided the implementation of ERP solution
What factors led to implementation of ERP ?
Failure of cisco’s legacy environment showed the short comings in existing
An unauthorized method for accessing the core application database
malfunctioned, corrupting cisco’s central database.
The company was largely shutdown for two days, this major shutdown made
the company realize that its systems were on the brink of total failure.
It would take too long to get applications in place by making decision and
implementation separately within group.
Selecting an ERP Product
Cisco realized implementing ERP will require very strong team to work for the
project and would also need strong partners.
Cisco required a partner with great technical skills and business knowledge, so
they selected KPMG as their integration partner.
Team of 20 people were formed to identify the best software packages.
The team’s strategy was to build as much knowledge as possible by leveraging
experience of others.
By tapping research sources such as the Gartner group, cisco narrowed the field to
five packages within two days.
After week of evaluating the packages at a high level, the team decided on
two prime candidates: oracle and another major player in the ERP market.
After cisco’s analysis of the request for the proposals (rfp) responses, each
vendor was invited for three-day software demonstration.
The selection of oracle was based on the three major decision points:
The project was being driven pretty strongly by manufacturing and oracle had better
manufacturing capability than other vendor.
Oracle made number of promises regarding long term developments in the functionality in the
Flexibility offered by the oracle as the headquarters of both were 20 miles away from each
Seeking Board Approval
Before going to the board for approval, the team needed to answer two important
How much would it cost?
How long would it take?
The total cost for the project was expected to be $15 million and the time duration
for completing the implementation process was 9 months.
This project was single largest capital project approved by the cisco.
Implementing the ERP project was the priority for the cisco and it emerged as one of
the company’s top seven goals for the year.
Building The Implementation Team
With board approval, the ERP team started setting up a structure for the implementation.
KPMG’s performance through the software selection process and its commitment to staff led
to extended relationship between cisco and KPMG.
The team had to expand from its core 20 members to about 100 members
Team members from were placed onto one of five tracks.
Each track had the following :
• Cisco information system
• Cisco business leader
• Business and IT consultants
All the tracks were managed from a “project management office” which included
Cisco’s business project manager, Tom Herbert.
The KPMG project manager, Mark Lee.
All these were controlled by executive steering committee composed of :
Vice President of manufacturing
Vice President of Customer advocacy
Oracle’s senior VP of applications
Partners in-charge of West Coast consulting for KPMG
The committee’s role was to provide:
High-level sponsorship for the project
Motivate the team
The team’s implementation strategy employed a development technique
referred to as rapid iterative prototyping.
Using this approach the members broke the implementation into a series of
phases called “conference room pilots.”(CRPs)
Each CRP’s purpose was to build on previous work to develop a deeper
understanding of the software and how it functioned within the business
It began with training and implementation team and setting up the
It focused on getting the team trained in Oracle applications.
Tried to getting up the application and running.
Team members from all areas of company were “locked” in an off-site
To discuss appropriate setting for hundreds of parameters within
Team members were joined by specialist from Oracle and KPMG
Team’s experience during the first phase of project indicated that without
significant number of changes software will not support effectively.
The goal of this phase of the project was for each track to make the system
work within its specific area.
Emphasis was on getting the system to accommodate cisco processes
Team members generated detailed scripts that documented the purpose for
and procedures used to complete a process.
To ensure all contingencies were accounted for, business process prototype
tracking sheets were developed.
Team members carefully documented issues while
modelling, which were addressed in weekly three-hour meetings
held by program management office.
there were huge number of business processes that the software
The team’s response to gaps was to develop a means for categorizing
and evaluating each gap individually.
Need to modify oracle led to unplanned changes in the project plan
Implementation team determined oracle package would not
adequately support after sales support needs of the company.
So, team embarked on a concurrent effort to evaluate and select a
service support package.
In the CRP2, the implementation team found itself in the most difficult part
of the implementation.
The project scope had expanded to include major modifications and new
after sales support packages.
A new approach was employed by the team in which all data
communication took place via “data warehouse”.
Utilization of a data warehouse allowed all of cisco’s applications to access a
single source for their information needs.
It group started moving from their other projects and spent time on the core
project in the company which was changing and needed more energy and
The implementation team continued to deepen its understanding of the
oracle and service packages and determined how to best make them work
The final goal of crp2 was to begin testing the system to see how well it
would stand up to the processing load.
Its focus was on testing the full system and assessing the company’s
readiness to “go live”
A final test was conducted to see how the system would perform with a full
At the end of crp3 each one of the functional leads presented its piece of the
process results and later the system was put into action.
Cutting Over to the Oracle
The initial success of the oracle system was something less than expected.
On an average, the system went down nearly once a day.
The Primary Problem :
Hardware architecture and sizing.
Correcting the deficiency required additional hardware purchase which would
increase the total expenditure.
Cisco had purchased the equipment on the basis of promised capability as a
result the responsibility for fixing the hardware problems fell on the hardware
The Second Problem :
Ability of the software to handle the transaction volume required in the Cisco.
The company had gone wrong in its final testing of the system.
Cisco had run individual processes sequentially rather than at the same time.
After cutover, when processes were running together sytem lacked the
capacity to process the required load.
Overcoming Of The Problem :
ERP project status became the number one agenda item for weekly
executive staff meetings.
Strong vendor commitment from oracle, the hardware vendor and
KPMG led to an eventual stabilization of the software and improved
Problems associated with implementation of oracle was short-lived.
Over the next three month on its implementation cisco and its vendors
together stabilized and added capacity to the system.
Thus successful implementation of the system was concluded with a
celebration party for the team and the company management.