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Accenture dares to enter site of US Air Force mega ERP-project disaster

The incentive? $89.5m to build a 'cloud-based common infrastructure' for existing ERP systems

Not many companies would be willing to walk into a house haunted by one of the world’s biggest ERP disasters, but Accenture is happy to give it a go for a thick wodge of greenbacks.

The global consultancy and outsourcing outfit has been awarded an $89.5m five-year contract to build a new cloud-based common infrastructure for the US Air Force's enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

Seemingly unaware that he is straying into the abode once inhabited by an Oracle-based ERP project which between 2004 and 2010 may have wasted $5.2 billion and never really worked, Vince Vlasho, leader of Accenture Federal Services’ Defense Sector portfolio, seemed happy at the news.

“We will leverage our significant experience migrating ERP systems to the cloud to help the Air Force achieve greater value,” he said in a pre-canned statement.

Accenture was, he insisted, “excited to work with the Air Force to deliver new capabilities in the cloud” and looking forward to “future adoption of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies”.

The company said it has had “experience with complex ERP systems integration”, such as the Air Force Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System programme and a new personnel payroll system.

Susan Lawrence, deputy director of Accenture Federal Services’ Defense Sector portfolio said the contract would “modernize Air Force business practices and provide enhanced support for today’s service members and their families”, suggesting, perhaps the Air Force was looking for new applications as well as infrastructure.

Neither Accenture or US Air Force has answered The Register’s request for more detail.

According to a report by the Centre for Public Impact, Air Force personnel reverted to using legacy systems that the Expeditionary Combat Support System (ECSS) programme was supposed to replace before it was finally cancelled in 2012.

The Air Force said it was still unable to confirm how many legacy systems would have been phased out by implementing ECSS, the joint Orace/CSC system at the centre of the force’s ERP fiasco.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found in 2010 that the estimated cost of the ECSS as had increased from $3.0 billion in 2008 to $5.2 billion.

In 2014, the US Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation found the project violated many crucial guidelines and best practices for information technology acquisition.

"[The Airforce] lacked a clear objective and the organisational will to implement changes to its internal business processes vital to integrating ECSS into the organisation," it said.

Yet who is to say Accenture will not succeed where others have failed?

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