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What went wrong with Jungle's new computer system

And why it was sadly unavoidable

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Jungle.com has got back to us to explain exactly what went wrong with its new management computer system and why customers have faced significant delays in getting their orders in the past few weeks.

Marketing director Andy Singleton was at pains to point out that Jungle is sorry about what has happened and that the company will keep all customers in touch with what's going on. It's not a money issue and all orders are fine, just that a backlog has built up that has to be worked through.

So, what happened? Basically Jungle grew out of mail-order computer business Software Warehouse, formed in 1992, and used the same proprietary software. Singleton said it reached the point where scalability became a big problem and a new computer system was needed. Hence a new £5 million Retek system.

Elements of it were run for weeks before but on 24 September, the final parts went live. It soon became clear that orders weren't getting from the computer system to the warehouse. Some orders were not coming through at all, and other times bursts of orders would appear.

This backlog had the secondary affect that suddenly the company would have to order huge amounts of stock in one go, which put back delivery dates even further. However, Jungle says it has now sorted out the problem and is working through the backlog - things should be back to normal within three weeks.

The problem for the first week was significant - 25 per cent of orders, which is between 2,000 and 3,000 people, were affected.

Such a business process may not be sexy but does have a heavy and instant affect on business. The same thing happened with one of Jungle's competitors, Dabs.com when it put in a very similar new system a few months back.

Dave Atherton, the MD of Dabs, told us he had exactly the same warehousing problem when a new automated system was installed. "It wasn't as bad as Jungle's has been, but it was still five per cent of the orders [going awry] for the first week or so." That's computer systems for you. "It worked ninety nine per cent of the time very early on but you need a checking system. It was no longer just warehouse blokes picking orders - you can't knock up a new order to the top or do a duplicate - it's all run by the computer."

This is why Dabs has been quiet when it could have stuck the boot into Jungle. "You can't blame people for process problems," Mr Atherton told us. "If it had been relationship problems, that's different."

The reason why such online ordering companies need these systems is because they are far cheaper (less staff) and faster. This makes the company that much more efficient and also makes the company more attractive as a going concern. ®

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