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Child Support: Page 10 of 15

700: Residents and fellows

800: Patient-services staffers

240: IT personnel

13: Consecutive years Children's has been rated the No. 1 pediatric hospital in the nation by U.S. News & World Report

Because she doesn't quite trust the system yet, Johnson maintains most of her paper processes in addition to the new online ones. For example, she asks Ogawa to approve requisitions not only online but also on a paper form. Requisitions for accounts payable are also entered into a Microsoft Access database that the IT department maintains for its own records, says Sheila Mortali, IT business development manager.

"It's certainly not paperless," Mortali says. "It's a lot more work on the input side, but the information is cleaner." Like Johnson's Refresh tactic, Mortali finds her own ways to work around the user-interface limitations. Often she keeps two browser screens running to view financial data, rather than repeatedly pressing the Back and Forward buttons.

The user-interface problems will be resolved over time through vendor upgrades and some custom programming, officials say. Children's experience proved the "never buy version 1.0" maxim because, even though the package is called PeopleSoft 8.0, it's the vendor's first ERP version based strictly on a Web client.

All that said, Hancox describes PeopleSoft's software as "world class" and says she would recommend the consultants without qualification. It's the cozy, nontransparent relationship between software vendor and consultant that she doesn't like.

"Everyone who knows the most information about the project has a vested interest not to share it completely with you," she says. "You're in a cave with a scout. If you want to get out of that cave, you need the scout. It's why none of us trusts them."