Ashursts axes £1m IT system

ASHURST Morris Crisp has wasted an estimated £1m by scrapping a practice management system which it purchased less than two years ago.

The firm decided last month to abandon its project to install Keystone Systems' practice management system – originally due to be up and running a year ago.

Two weeks ago Ashursts signed a deal with US suppliers CMS Data to implement its CMS Open system instead at an undisclosed price.

Ashursts is refusing to comment on the reasons behind the scrapping of the New Zealand-made Keystone system, and will not say how much it cost. However, it is understood it was concerned that the system, which it originally said would cost £1m, would not not be up and running by the year 2000. Although the Keystone system is millennium compliant, the firm's existing JHC Forum accounting package on which it currently relies is not.

Another factor will have been the departure of several senior backroom managers involved with the Keystone project following Ian Nisse's appointment as managing partner last May.

Their replacements are understood to have been unhappy with the length of time the project was taking.

One source – who said the atmosphere after Nisse's appointment was “very uncomfortable” – said there had been a “power struggle” between Nisse and certain backroom managers after his appointment as managing partner last May.

Since Nisse's appointment, head of finance Duncan Price – who was originally behind Ashursts' decision to purchase Keystone – has moved to accountancy firm Buchler Phillips, assistant head of finance Paul Robins has moved to head Clyde & Co's finance department and IT director David Lumsden has moved to IT services supply company TIKIT to be support manager. Administration manager Andrew Nichol is retiring in July.

A Keystone spokesman said Keystone and Ashursts had “irreconcilable differences over implementation expectations” and that it was a “sophisticated product”.

Ashursts became the first firm in the UK to implement the Keystone system after conducting extensive research into the market, including an expedition to New Zealand by a team of senior IT and finance management, to view the system.

Keystone has yet to “go live” anywhere in the UK although DJ Freeman expects to complete its implementation of the system in July and Stephenson Harwood by the end of this year.

One IT director said the system dealt excellently with multiple currencies, but the fact that UK rules regarding client accounts are more flexible in the UK than New Zealand had caused delays in the implementation process.