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Child Support: Page 5 of 15

Several Children's executives refer to "artificial" deadlines imposed by the CFO to meet the April 22 go-live date, which itself was produced under pressure from the hospital's executive committee, which approved the $16 million budget and wanted to see returns fast. (About $2 million is budgeted for Phase 2 of the project, which will add benefits administration, employee self-service and some module customization.)

"We were almost implementing the software before we had finalized the contracts with both PeopleSoft and Andersen," Nigrin says. "That was not a good negotiating position. Before you get people working, it's probably a good idea to decide what you're going to pay them."

Indeed, Hancox grew angry when, just a few weeks before the go-live date, she says PeopleSoft refused to sign a guarantee that its software would work as advertised. She says Children's was in no position to force the issue: "They were willing to walk away."

Jamie Wyatt, PeopleSoft's vice president of health-care solutions, says the vendor's policy is to "warrant to our published documentation." But PeopleSoft won't guarantee statements made in a demo or discussion during the sales process, he says, because "that's difficult to manage."

In a way, Children's ended up deferring to PeopleSoft and Andersen so internal stakeholders wouldn't have to take the blame if things went wrong, Ogawa says. As a result, the IT staff was left in the dark about a range of requirements, from helpdesk training to hardware sizing (see "Triage, IT Style").