Eric Kimberling shared with me his post Top ERP Systems for 2019. His top 5 are Microsoft Dynamics 365, SAP S/4HANA, NetSuite, Workday and Salesforce (more its partners like FinancialForce).
The post made me wonder what my application analyst colleagues at Gartner in the 90s would say about the state of ERP today. These were studs like Erik Keller, Chris Jones, Art Mesher, Bruce Bond and others. You can credit us or blame us for a large percent of ERP decisions in the runup to Y2K. Without sounding too boastful, we helped tens of thousands of enterprises with their ERP selections, many of which are still running.
In turn, we were also demanding on vendors. Yes we argued architecture – thin v fat client, 2 v 3 tier deployments, but we also demanded functional depth. We challenged their claim of “best practices” and reengineering platforms. We saw vendors were not doing enough on the shop floor, in logistics, customer facing areas and created new categories of markets like MES, SCM and CRM. We pointed out that ERP vendors had little in way of books of record for insurance, oil and gas, retail, utilities and many other sectors. As a result, vendors like SAP introduced their Industry Solutions, most after the Y2K deadline had passed.
We also pointed out that the payback from ERP was showing low because customers were implementing financials, hr and other back office modules but not operational or customer facing ones. Many were so guided by SIs, especially those with accounting heritages who had never set foot in a factory or warehouse or R&D lab.
Since then, there has been plenty of moronic talk about how manufacturing is dead and supply chains were optimized long ago. The US is still the second largest manufacturer in the world and the modern shop floor is dotted with wearables, 3D printers and robots. Supply chains are being redefined with modern distribution centers and last mile delivery options. Utilities are into net metering and predictive maintenance. Insurance companies are being challenged to rethink business models. Banking is being reshaped by a swarm of fintech vendors. Every process in every industry is being reimagined with automation – drones, AI, autonomous vehicles, kiosks, RPA. There is no industry whose books of records have not been reshaped. It’s time for ERP vendors to wake up from their Rip Van Winkle 20-year slumber and show they have customer citations with these modern capabilities.
Looking at Eric’s list I get deja vu. Most on his list are fine in the back office but not do not have robust capabilities (as yet) in operational areas. They certainly do not have industry functionality (most do around services and PSA, but not in other big chunks of the economy) . Those are the areas that need modernization. Instead we risk making the same mistakes we did in the 90s, helped by a younger generation of the same SIs.
Don’t get me wrong – I was trained as a CPA. I understand the need for robust financials and analytics
But let’s call them that – accounting and hcm in the cloud. Let’s not call them ERP. And like my colleagues did in the 90s let’s push vendors to deliver contemporary and deep functionality, not just talk “cloud” architectures.
And let’s challenge SIs when they talk digital transformation around these narrow footprints. That is today’s codeword for reengineering. The biggest bang comes from smart products, omni-channel commerce and related logistics, modern shop floors not just from modernizing the back office as we did the last time.