As an avid reader of Panorama Consulting's 360° ERP News and Information, I was immediately drawn to the March 16th article, Forget About Technology: ERP Systems are All About Business
. I figured this was just another one of their great hooks only to read on and find out that they were serious. With all due respect, the statement that "Technology doesn't matter," is not as much anathema as it is absurd.
Imagine a thorough definition of ERP
without using the word technology or at least qualifying with technology industry terms like software or database. The fact is that in the genesis and evolution of ERP
, business goals and technology are inextricably linked. Without technology and technological advance, there would be no meaningful ERP. Still the 360° article seems to imply that ERP is more a product of Peter Drucker
than the Gartner Group
Take two identical, competing $200M manufacturing companies and give one (a) paper, pencil and an abacus and the other (b) a modern ERP system. Which one runs the greater likelihood of controlling purchasing and inventory levels, shipping on time, closing its books faster? Is this a silly rhetorical exercise or fatalistic scenario for company (a)?
So why react this way? Well besides the point that I currently run the Oracle JD Edwards development organization (full disclosure
), I have been intrigued lately by this sort of unbalanced argument in the ERP community that seeks to create a type of divisive techno-phobia. This fear of technology's influence on ERP runs counter to the role that technology plays in our day to day lives and the true three legged stool spirit of ERP (Systems, People & Process).
It is exactly statements like "Technology doesn't matter," that relegates IT to a, "not of the business, but only in support of" status. In my experience in talking to hundreds of customers, this often leads to technically ill-informed point decision making where business purchasers are susceptible to Sea- Monkey
sales and marketing tactics. Ultimately such a road is paved with non-rationalized and sub-optimal systems that act as friction on the business. In the last organization chart I looked at IT was part of the business.
I am not saying that technology should be the only consideration or that IT has the only say. However, in today's market the business must embrace IT and technical expertise in a true dialog so that together we can create sustainable business growth and innovation.
The 360° article also featured a few "fun facts" gleaned, I imagine, from what in the past has been very thought provoking research. In summary, the idea was that vendors and products don't really matter. Any ERP system will do, just pull a name from a hat. In my mind these "facts" deserve more analysis. Still, I feel safe in saying that this is at least a trivialization of the exercise of software selection and implementation. More aggressively it is a complete denial of the lack of universal standards when it comes to definitions for company, success, time required and deployment budget. One system does not fit all in ERP. While there are some similarities in the business level functions across software packages there are also big differences. At the end of the day, company size, industry, growth targets, skills - business and technical, supply chain sophistication, process maturity and yes technical maturity (see the works of Geoffrey Moore
) - all matter.
To say you can pull any software solution out of a hat and run the same chance of success in a given ERP deployment is like saying it doesn't matter what car you should buy. Take a 1978 Ford Pinto, 1998 Hyundai Elantra, 2011 BMW 5 Series, a Chevy Volt and a S10 pick up and put them all in a hat? Blind draw, why not? They all help you get from point A to B.
One can highlight business importance and key drivers in ERP deployment without denigrating technology or putting IT in a second order. This is not a zero sum system. In today's market, CFO's and CIO's, together you either grow or fail. And depending on your journey, make sure you pick the right car.
Group Vice President and General Manager Oracle JD Edwards