In recent years, users have been barraged with talk about “business process”, and it is touted in ways that suggest that it is the most important thing in ERP implementations. Many years ago the systems users now call “ERP” were called “management information systems”, yet today that is not a frequently used term, writes Dr James Robertson.
Well firstly, because management information frequently does not happen. A survey by Gartner a few years ago suggested that “most organisations are not making better decisions than they did five years ago”.
In Robertson’s experience, executives are frustrated because they cannot get the management information they need from their massively costly investments in ERP, BI and so on.
Recently the CEO of a very large corporation in Johannesburg rated his executive information systems at three out of 10 (zero being non-existent), and told Robertson he would rate them at one out of 10 if it were not for the fact that he had excellent staff who provided him with the information he needed.
Examination of his big brand ERP revealed that it was configured in such a way that electronic summarisation of key measurements was technically impossible, and that human intervention was unavoidable.
His dilemma is widespread, and was summed up by the Financial Mail some years ago when they reported “19 out of 20 ERP implementations do not deliver what was promised”.
Then, of course, there is the dilemma of other surveys that report high levels of satisfaction with ERP – why?
The bottom line is simple – if users put in an ERP expecting it to improve management, executive information and decision support, they will almost certainly be frustrated and disappointed. If they put it in to manage workflows, they may well be reasonably satisfied, even if it has cost much more than expected.
There is a challenge here
Some years ago, Robertson was taken to task by a client who insisted on putting process before executive information, and who insisted on speaking about “the strategic process”. When Robertson tried to point out the points above, it was to no avail.
If users take the word “process” to be synonymous with “workflow”, then there is no such thing as the “strategic process” – unless discussions and decisions are to be classed as workflow.
The real problem facing business today is to get value out of their massive ERP and BI investments, in a way that supports high value decision making.
This is entirely achievable, using a method that Robertson terms “strategic engineered precision taxonomies” (SEPT), leading to “precision configuration”, which opens the door to major overhauls of ERP, data warehouse or BI investment, in order to support high value information delivery. This is by far the biggest opportunity facing business today in the information technology space.