Brendan Moylan has overseen two computer-system upgrades at sports-apparel mail-order operation Sports Endeavors. Neither has been successful, according to chief operating officer Moylan. The second one began in July 1994, when the $25-million Hillsborough, N.C., company changed its mail-order-system processing software.

"We switched from Quick Order Processor by Nashbar & Associates, in Youngstown, Ohio, to Zircon by Zircon Co., in Wakefield, Mass. We didn't have the expertise to understand the goings-on of the conversion and had to rely on the two companies to work together to come up with reasonable solutions. It didn't happen. We had inventory, but the system wouldn't print out the order to be filled, and orders got trapped. Because we didn't have a grasp of our inventory, we overbought. We couldn't ship orders and couldn't guarantee that we had items in stock. We came to a screeching halt -- and summer is our busiest time.

"We hired a consultant to force the implementation. We hired more information-management people, and some in-house people went through training to handle MIS. By mid-October we had the bulk of the upgrade straightened out, but we had lost from $2.5 million to $3 million in sales.

"The most important lesson: have somebody on your team who understands the upgrade completely. We relied on third parties to do what was best for our company, but they were more concerned with their own best interests."

-- Robina A. Gangemi

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