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Brit builders merchant Travis Perkins opts for Oracle after ERP disaster with Infor

'Technology has been a source of pain,' CIO admits to investors

UK construction supplier Travis Perkins has picked Oracle Fusion Cloud's Financials solution for its core corporate system of record following the failed implementation of Infor ERP.

Speaking during a capital markets presentation last week, Phil Tenney, chief information and technology officer, said: "I… think it's important for me to recognise that technology has been a source of pain for investors in recent years."

The entry for understatement of the year masked the fact that the £6bn-revenue company, which owns Tool Station and drainage company Keyline as well as the Travis Perkins retail operation, disclosed a £108m impairment in 2019 relating to the halting of the ERP replacement programme based around software from Infor.

In September 2020, the US enterprise software firm agreed to pay Travis Perkins £4.2m for the failed replacement of its legacy finance system which a former chief executive had said was "held together by Sellotape and elastic bands."

Tenney, appointed a little more than a year ago, told investors: "What I'm going to share with you today is what we're doing. Most importantly how we're doing it differently," before offering little in the way of lessons learned from the disastrous ERP project.

He said that the new approach would be "one where we're integrating a number of new predominantly third-party products to create a new end-to-end proposition that's enabling us to elevate our relationship with another subset of customers in the back office.

"We've recently launched the finance transformation program where we're deploying an industry-standard third-party solution, working with a proven implementation partner that will enable us to standardise and optimise many of our finance processes to drive operational efficiencies across our business."

Although he did not disclose the winning vendor, job ads on Travis Perkins' website ask for candidates who can "develop and deliver the Change Management Strategy for the programme to achieve a successful implementation of the Oracle cloud finance solution" as well as "work closely with each business unit across the group to ensure that we arrive at the right Operating Model for finance and achieve a successful implementation of the Oracle cloud finance solution."

Travis Perkins has been contacted for comment, as has Oracle. Neither has yet revealed the name of the service partner set to help with the rollout of the new finance system.

Whoever it is will need to tread carefully in an organisation at risk of transformation fatigue.

The failed Infor ERP implementation was announced with a great deal of fanfare back in 2016, when at Infor's New York conference then CEO John Carter revealed plans for the 24,000-user implementation of the CloudSuite version of Infor's core M3 ERP product in a deal expected to be worth $200m to the software vendor over 15 years.

Carter said with some bravado that the systems Infor was set to replace were "being held together by Sellotape and elastic bands," according to reports.

They must have been patched up for a few more years. Half-year results [PDF], published in June 2019, said the programme "continued to face significant challenges."

"The Group is considering whether to implement the various elements of an ERP system as separate items, after modernising the Group's core IT architecture," the report said, adding that £111m in assets would be written off.

But by the end of 2019 it was all over, with the group ending the relationship with Infor, and facing a maximum possible contractual exposure to about £65m, which it hoped to avoid.

Left waiting for the Oracle project to go live, the retailer is set to run its main enterprise systems in green-screen mainframe environments dating back to the 1980s – according to sources – for a little longer. ®

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