“If the software functionality does not do what we need it to do, nothing else really matters.”
Back in the 1980’s, IT department preferences or mandates to use specific proprietary mainframe technologies drove many ERP software decisions. This was about the technologies the IT department could (or would) support not the mainframe software that best satisfied business needs.
Later in the 1990’s the mainframe vs. “open system” (client/server) wars caused many to take a blind leap of faith into open systems only to find out later the ERP software functionality in this arena was not as mature as their mainframe counterparts. Though open systems eventually won, many jumped head first into this brave new world simply at the wrong time.
Today “open source ERP”, upstart internet based application services (SaaS), “cloud computing” and other paradigms represent the same fork in the road. It is guaranteed tomorrow there will be a new one. The point is not to generalize regarding any particular direction; but the lessons of the past must not be ignored…. If the software functionality does not do what we need it to do, nothing else really matters.
When this occurs everyone will forget all the seemingly valid reasons a package was selected in the first place (cheaper, newer technology or everyone else is starting to do it). They will focus on the lousy functionality and lack of project benefits.
In the real world budgets are not unlimited, technology can be a strategic enabler, and there are other important trade-offs. However, nine times out of ten if the software functionality is a bad fit, eventually the project is deemed a failure. This means software decisions that do not weigh functionality the most can defeat the purpose of a new ERP system.
The Future of ERP?
The message above seems simple enough (and almost elementary), but many smart people allow themselves to get caught up in the industry hype. Let the academics and consultants who really care debate the future of ERP because in the meantime you have a business to run. Unless you are interested in becoming a guinea pig. Believe me, a lot of software vendors are looking for them.
The Right Side of ERP History
Selecting software is not just a quantitative process. It ultimately boils down to a business decision and you want to be on the right side of history. As long as the cost of ownership is affordable, the technology stable, the package is supported, and many other companies are using it; go with the software that best meets business needs.
If the organization cannot find a package that satisfies at least 85% of the overall software requirements (and almost all of the important ones), it is time to either look at higher-end packages or redesign your business processes.
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