The main purpose was to assist CooperVision by acting as interim IT director in Japan, while performing project management for various IT projects including the ERP rollout. (http://www.coopervision.com/)

Some details on the CooperVision Japan ERP and Interim IT Management & Systems Setup project:

When I started at CooperVision, it was actually Ocular Sciences before they were acquired. I was asked to initially perform some investigative consulting by local CFO Yoshihiro Kamikura and global CIO Ken Hurley, relating to some unexplained project investments for a logistics center. That is an interesting story in and of itself, but suffice to say, the investigation was the launching point for a few years of consulting work in an organization with an established local IT department, working to do multiple challenging projects on top of an ERP rollout (and all the drama that goes with). Or actually, a couple of ERP rollouts.

After we established exactly how much investment into the logistics center had already been made, we moved on to establishing that operation, while we began to plan out an ERP system for Japan. Ocular Sciences had aquired some entities in Japan, and this included the baggage of an antiquated, undocumented, home-rolled business system running on AS/400. This system was far removed from being able to be connected with any central US systems (or any domestic ones for that matter), so to give the US executive team their required visibility into Japan operations, US IT was trying to replace the Japan AS/400 with something flexible and modern. There were larger plans than just Japan though, so we kicked off the many steps needed to implement an ERP system.

Ken Hurley hired experienced top ERP project director Jack Czajowski to take the reins of the global ERP rollout and establish a Program Management Office, and it was through their skillful leadership that we chose an ERP platform, and a vendor to deploy the system globally. The difference in the nature of the platforms we considered, mainly SAP and Oracle, was as interesting as the differences between the potential roll-out vendors. SAP was all about an almost paternalistic pre-built modularity, while Oracle was all about not assuming what is required, and building a bespoke system. The extensive vendor presentations we observed ranged from an arrogant "how dare you ask us questions" to a very new-age, almost comically kumbahyah meditative approach.

Folks, I have an announcement...

At our first global meeting for the project and actually for Ocular Sciences IT in general, we were psyched to really get the project rolling. IT people from all corners of the globe had descended upon San Francisco, and we were waiting to start a session when Ken Hurley came into the room. He told us he had an important announcement, that Ocular Sciences was being acquired by CooperVision, and that there were a lot of uncertainties, not least of which with the global ERP project we'd really just got started. And just like that, we were in a kind of limbo, with no certainties whatsoever; a very stressful time for the employees of Ocular who had put so much into the place, severance or no severance.

We went back to our respective countries, and switched into wait-and-see mode, until CooperVision management decided and communicated our next steps, which involved implementing their heavily customized version of BaaN, instead of our previously selected SAP R/3. Luckily there was still plenty to do, so we got started again.

In a long project, it's not "if" but "when" things go south. One of many challenges we overcame, was that the consulting firm we hired for the second project decided they'd rather side with local management, than follow our directives. We estimated I recovered 600,000 USD over this part of the project, simply by reviewing invoices every month to check for unauthorized expenses and hours. Such is a normal PM activity, but discovering so many "mistakes" certainly is not. The primary reason? The consultants were having "after meetings" to essentially countermand what the PM team had decided in meetings during the working day. And they were charging us for the privilege.

They don't even have a Gantt.

In the end we had to bite the bullet and replace them (truly a big deal in the middle of an ERP rollout), and an anecdote will serve to illustrate the depth of the duplicity of this consulting firm. That Jack had successfully led 6 or so large ERP rollouts before this one, qualifies him as "very experienced" in anyone's book, so when he gave the mandate to the PMO that we were to keep things efficiently Lean, we just did it. One PM staple we threw out right away, was the detailed Gantt chart. We were not going to use MS Project or similar software, to create an unwieldy 5000-line Gantt chart, that would then of course have to be maintained by expensive consultants. Instead, we kept a high-level Gantt with perhaps 10 major activities that were proceeding in parallel with simple green-yellow-red statuses, produced weekly detail plans to give to consultants, and kept reports as simple and Lean (i.e. single-page) as was humanly possible. There's quite an art to distilling a message in a large project, down to a single page.

The consulting company fought us tooth and nail on these methods, calling us what amounted to "Gantt-less amateurs" behind our backs in their meetings with the client, while smiling and nodding their collective heads at us when we met. They infected the CooperVision staffers as well, so we had key users asking us the "why don't we have a Gantt" question regularly. Of course, consultants love to create documents, so it was particularly ironic that this firm was arguing against Lean methods, while it was Japan the project was being executed in. All this culminated in a smear campaign published in a major Japanese magazine, weeks before go-live.

Success, in the end.

In the end, besides all the drama, we successfully went live in a very cramped Japan office, with a peak of about 40 team members there at the end. There were indeed the usual growing pains after go-live, but all in all, the go-live was a rousing success. Such large endeavors are never done by an individual, and I must give a hat-tip and a deep bow to many, including Ken and Jack, but also the CooperVision (and formerly Ocular Sciences) executive, IT and logistics departments, including in no particular order, Lorrie Watson, Joan Martt, Chris Lahey, John Weber, Seth Halio, Chris Petit, Channa Gunawardena, Neil van Barneveldt, Jason Schoonderwoerd, Rama Anamalamuri, Keith Monckton-Smith, Frank Cortez, Gary Baron, Frank Manzo, Randy Davis, James Dolence, John Mottershead, Steve Ferguson, Jennifer Miller, Leslie Virgilio, Krissy Papke, Cesar Picone, Francesco Loiero, Mary O'Reilly, Helen Ridley, Mike Shanley, Arisa Yokoyama, Yuji Yamashita, and last but not least Takiko Kumagai and Steven Jeffery.

That ends a long description for a longer set of projects. Ask me some time about the smear incident, and the "great Osaka coup incident" and many other choice stories. I have a barrel full.

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Testimonials for CooperVision Japan ERP and Interim IT Management & Systems Setup:

I am happy to have had the pleasure of working with Rick in 2005 and 2006. We were deploying an ERP solution in our CooperVision Japan office, and Rick was assigned the role of onsite Project Manager. The initial phase of the project consisted of process gap analysis, hiring of consultants and documentation of market specific requirements. As the project advanced, team members and consultants were brought onsite to support the final project phase and go-live. In addition to his project management, Rick helped others integrate into the CVJ culture, which made for a most enjoyable and successful project. May 16, 2010 Joan Martt, VP Global Business Solutions