Workday vs. ERP, Peach vs. Nectarine?

It's a slow week here, and so I decided to do a little research Workday Financial Management.  From what I've read, this financial system is based on a series of operational events from which accounting is created and uses Web 2.0 tagging principles that allow users to define elements (or attributes) to attach to the transactions and events.  According to ZDNet blogger Dennis Howlett's Workday financials: accounting isn't real post, users can use these Worktags to "create taxonomies that are directly relevant to them."  According to Workday, this event-based accounting along with Worktags is superior to existing ERP accounting systems.

I agree that this sounds pretty impressive....but just how different is it?  Indulge me for a minute as I investigate event-based accounting & tagging.

In Release 12 of the E-Business Suite, we introduced subledger accounting architecture (SLA).  SLA was designed and developed based on the same principle - the accounting and operational transactions should be separate.  SLA is an event-based & rules-driven architecture that can take accounting out of the hands of users and allows users to focus on their priorities, processing transactions.  The accounting rules can be based on virtually any attribute of the operational transaction like salesperson, item, or transaction type.   Different? Yes, but in my mind, it's a lot more like the difference between a peach and a nectarine than a peach and a fruit salad.

As for tagging, certainly, few ERP systems have tagging, and tagging is a Web 2.0 hot-topic, so there must be something there, right?  User-descriptive flexfields have long existed in EBS.   When all of this tagging hoopla arose, my first question was "How is this different than user-descriptive flexfields?"  The best answer that I have received is that tagging is free-form which allows users to enter anything that they want.  Free-form text concerns me when it comes to transactional information.  If it were my ERP, I would want some control over this free-form text.  To Workday's credit it does seem like their tagging does have controls built-in, but again, peach or nectarine?

One final thought on tagging....SLA has a feature called "Supporting References" that allows you to track subledger account balances by nearly any attribute in the system, like supplier or customer.  These references are derived from the transaction and require no user interaction to maintain.  I think this functionality might just exceed standard tagging functionality.

Call me old-school, but I'm just not yet convinced that ERP and accounting systems are ready for a revolution or that they even need one.  I'm keeping an open mind, so try to convince me, and I'll help lead the revolution.

Comments:

Joe, Interesting thoughts and I agree about tagging in the financial transaction world. Why would I want a person entering my invoices or a supplier submitting it as XML directly to my web site to enter free form tags that drive how I am going to account it and report it to wall street the IRS etc and have my CEO sign off and with SOX and the like risk jail time if it is not accurate.

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