Eighteen month ago Avon Products stopped its global SAP implementation, a.k.a., the “Service Model Transformation” or SMT project. In its 8-K regulatory filing, Avon stated that it planned to write off the $125 million investment in SMT. The Canadian SMT pilot failed to produce the results Avon was looking for, and the CEO decided to nix the rest of the global rollout. On the day of the 8-K filing, Avon shares closed at $16.82. Today the stock sells for $6.75, down 60% from the filing date. The Dow is up 12% in the same period. If Avon tracked the rise in the Dow, it’s market cap would be more than $8 billion, versus today’s actual market cap of $3 billion.
Is an IT Project worth $5 billion? According to Information Week, “the technology worked, but it was so hard to use that Avon salespeople — many of them part timers who network among friends and hold in-home parties — left the company in droves.” This tells us that the Avon sales force didn’t want to use a system that made their lives more difficult! We hear the same complaint from doctors about their Electronic Medical Records systems.
A company’s worth can pivot considerably based on whether it invests in IT wisely. Perhaps Avon should have spent its IT dollars toward giving its salespeople the tools to make more money, more easily, and in less time!