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'In the 1980s, consultancies hired you if you could spell SAP'

Cliff Saran
SAP R/3 has brought more than its fair share of cheers and tears to the IT industry - and even the odd laugh.

Consultants were quick to offer advice on R/3 installations, but they rapidly became synonymous with broken deadlines and escalating costs. "In the mid to late 1980s, consultancies hired you if you could spell SAP," said Gary Morris, principal consultant at outsourcing firm Morgan Chambers.

Even those who could spell SAP had a sharp learning curve. "I am good at computer languages and new packages, but all the databases in the R/3 system were in German and that had me stumped," one consultant admitted.

R/3 has always been an aspirational purchase, never more so than at the height of the dotcom boom. Originally designed for large enterprises, SAP has continually reshaped its products in a bid to win business from smaller organisations. The question for the sales team was, how small?

Shortly into 2000, one SAP sales team could not believe its luck when the managing director of an aspiring dotcom was convinced his five-man business would need to grow quickly and opted for a full-blown SAP R/3 system, just like that used by many of the world's multinationals. Sadly, the company never did grow beyond five employees.

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