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Child Support: Page 8 of 15

Patricia Heller, a vice president in Cap Gemini's health-care practice, says she provided Children's with ROI models but that Children's used its own dollar and head-count data to generate the ROI worksheets.

Shortcomings of the ROI model aside, Children's executives say they're already seeing positive results from the ERP project. Directors don't have to wait as long for reports, and the data is more reliable because it's entered into the system only once. Some hard-dollar returns haven't panned out, including $150,000 per year Children's hoped to save in licensing fees for the decommissioned legacy systems (it's more like $75,000, Hancox says). But in all, Hancox expects that by year five of implementation, Children's will cut $2.5 million per year in operating expenses. By then, she also expects the costs associated with the ERP project to exceed $20 million.

Hancox points out that, in some areas, those dollars cut will be replaced by new spending. For instance, Children's figures it will save at least $1 million per year by paying vendors early, but because the money remains in the budget, it will likely be spent. "The practicality of applying the ROI is a huge piece that was never addressed," she says.

Still, Hancox downplays the importance of hard ROI. The cultural gains will be far more pronounced as the software forces employees in different departments to work together. "There's less bureaucracy," she says. "One of our mistakes was that we used ROI as our selling point to get funding, and that should really be a 'by-the-way' because you're doing this for other reasons. It's not going to carry itself on a financial ROI but rather on a qualitative ROI."

Pains and Gains