Journal Article Critique- Cisco Systems, Inc.: Implementing ERP

The article provides a historical overview of IT management at Cisco and its transition from a disciplined management structure with a centralized functional organisation which refused to compromise on control, to a gradual change in company policy focused at fulfilling growth requirements to become a multi billion dollar company. According to the article, the change in management policy came after the failure of attempts to maintain the prevalent culture through an autonomous approach to system replacement.

The article identifies the major shutdown of 1994 as the key incident for Cisco top brass to realise that it had become a severely deteriorated legacy system. The realisation being centred around a critical view of the redundant MRP system in which people sought the system to follow their method of operation instead of following the system. Out of this criticism stemmed the need to implement a universal achievable schedule throughout the organisation.

Subsequently, as the article correctly identifies, Cisco chose a thorough System replacement with one ERP solution and came up with an impossible commitment to do it in nine months for $15 million. The article does highlight some of the key points that lead to the success of the venture such as choosing the right partner in the form of KGMP and staffing the project team with seasoned professionals. However the article would have done good to explain the process in slightly more detail so as to reveal the exact  challenges and managerial strategies that kept the team afloat, especially the role of the steering committee.

Further, as highlighted in the article, the proposal stage was particularly crucial and the project could have been shelved there and then, however the top management did not approach the proposal from a justification perspective. Instead of cost avoidance, they looked at it as an opportunity to institutionalize a business model for the organization. Additionally, the project was made a top priority for the company.

It needs to be pointed out that Oracle’s desperation for securing the system replacement  project with cisco had a major role to play and can nit be underestimated. For instance, when the system crashed several times after the implementation of the oracle hardware, the only reason Cisco avoided a major loss was because Oracle in its desperation had taken the onus of making fixes to the hardware upon itself. It would be interesting to know how the project would take a different turn hadn’t that been the case.

Further, in addition to the Cisco perspective to the major breakthrough systems change, there is a need to explore the Oracle perspective of the management of the project. For instance how did Oracle manage to overcome all the major

Further, in addition to the Cisco perspective to the major breakthrough systems change, there is a need to explore the Oracle perspective of the management of the project. For instance, how did Oracle manage to overcome all the major  obstacles that were in their path in the form of compromises they had made to secure the deal, more particularly, how did the company deal with the wide scale fixing of the hardware they had provided to Cisco? In fact, the project management perspective that KGMP will have to offer about the venture also needs to be fully explored.

The excessive use of anecdotes in substitution for hard facts does leave more data to be desired in order for the article to be truly beneficial from a research perspective. Also important is to explore how the management structure, especially, the placement of the steering committee to head the process, drastically affected the progress of the whole team through a very challenging phase.

Overall, the article is very cohesive and depicts a logical progression from one  idea to another through the presentation of historical data and anecdotes.  It manages to pinpoint the metamorphosis of Cisco from a legacy based MRP system to an ERP system and how that transformation was logical and inevitable from a management perspective. However written in a more casual tone, it relies more on a narrative voice and lacks the essential elements of a ground breaking research paper such as a literature review, discussion and research model.


Austin, R. D., Nolan, R. J., & Cotteleer, M. J. (2002). Cisco Systems, Inc.: Implementing ERP. Harvard Business School.

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