Back to the drawing board

Two years ago Carmine Bello chose a new software solution to run his successful mid-size company and drive it further along the path of e-commerce. Bello is founder and president of Permacharts Inc. of Concord, Ont. The company makes and sells laminated cheat sheets, knowledge charts and related

products for a variety of vertical markets, students and consumers.

Bello deliberately chose mainstream products — financial software from Great Plains Software Inc., which at the time was in the process of being acquired by Microsoft, and customer relationship management (CRM) software from market leader and Great Plains integration partner Siebel Systems Inc. of San Mateo, Calif.

A year later, frustrated at the inability of his reseller and the two vendors — by now estranged — to integrate the two programs to do what he wanted, Bello pulled the plug on the project and bought a competing solution from Accpac International Inc. and Dublin, Ireland-based CRM developer eWare Ltd.

“”The cost (of dumping Great Plains) was huge,”” Bello admits. “”We’re talking multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars in soft costs. Just in terms of hard costs, it was over $100,000.””

And yet he is inclined to let bygones be bygones. The new solution works. There are still headaches, but says he’s “”70-to-80 per cent”” satisfied. He’s philosophical about the bad experience with Great Plains (now Microsoft) and Siebel, and surprisingly generous to both the reseller involved, Toronto-based Rimrock Corp., and the two software vendors.

He attributes the problems mainly to the dissolution of the Great Plains-Siebel partnership after Microsoft acquired Great Plains. Microsoft was developing its own CRM software and didn’t need Siebel. While previous versions of the two products had been successfully integrated, changes in the latest versions, the ones Permacharts purchased, required a fresh integration effort. But there was little incentive by then for the two vendors to co-operate closely.

“”Stuff happens,”” Bello says. “”We got caught in the cross fire. There were big forces in play.””

Maybe. But was Bello really just a victim of circumstance? Or could this debacle have been avoided? Hindsight is 20-20, of course, but perhaps Permacharts made some fundamental errors — in the way it chose the initial solution, in not foreseeing the problems with Great Plains and Siebel and possibly in giving up on the original solution too soon.

Chartered accountant and computer consultant Richard Morochove, president of Toronto-based Morochove & Associates, is inclined to agree. And even Permacharts’ Accpac reseller, Tim Wilson, managing consultant at Computer Literacy Inc. of Toronto, wonders if more could have been done to make the Great Plains-Siebel solution work.

Morochove concedes that there probably were serious disconnects between Great Plains and Siebel and they would contribute to the Pe

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