Now let's be honest: Do ERP projects have to be so complicated?
2 may

Let's be honest: Do ERP projects have to be so complicated?

After years of arguing about function and technology, SAP has been moving in a new direction on the marketing side for some time. Simple is the keyword at the top of the list. Access to business IT should become simple. Applies "Simple" this also automatically for ERP projects?

Even if it is not quite clear how simple is meant by "simple", a trend is being followed here. This refers to the user's world of experience. In the last 10 years, we have experienced the revolution of UIs in mobile technology. Every day, users of smartphones and tablets experience that they can quickly access the data they want with a swipe and a tap. They take this experience with them into the working world. There, they have to experience that they first have to Manuals and training to put a project into practice. Every day, it seems that sticks are thrown between the legs, due to missing authorisations, unknown workflows or inadequate basic data.

Usability from the cloud

But even business applications already seem to have better usability to be able to offer. While SAP still has a 40-year reputation for complexity, web applications like SalesForce promise to be much less demanding. Not least against these pioneers of the Saas Software SAP sends new cloud products into the race. For example, C4C (SAP Cloud for Customer) has also been positioned for sales.

So why should this not also be the case for a ERP software should be possible: a quasi-self-explanatory operation after an uncomplicated installation and introduction. Why months of ERP projects with prior precise analysis of all processes and participants? Why all the experts whose expertise cannot be assessed at first glance?

ERP projects: Complex or complicated

Perhaps one comes a little closer to answering these questions if one first tries to use precise language. Some here throw two adjectives in the same breath, but they actually have fundamentally different meanings: complicated and complex. Full integrated systems are usually complex. This is in the nature of things. If you have to coordinate and control many parallel and/or successive processes through a system, then this structure is based on a certain complexity. It will not help much to try to simplify the approach, the processes and their interaction. This is tantamount to the method of ancient Alexander, who simply cut the wretched Gordian knot.

The process makes the music

What makes this muddle unravelable is to understand it. Once you understand it, you can build tools, rules and methods that can control the complex structure. And that can be complicated, i.e. costly. All these questions have to be answered:

  • Is there a process?
  • Is the process closed?
  • Is this how the process is supposed to work in the future?
  • What are the preconditions for the process to take place?
  • Who is affected by the process?
  • Who should participate in the process and who should not?
  • Which processes are influenced by the process?
  • Are there exceptions and if so, which ones?

and and and...

You can see that the complexity is based on the networked character of such a business solution. Why all this?

  • To create controllable standards in the first place.
  • So that you can automate as much as possible on the basis of these standards.
  • Generate data that provides transparency.

The end of simple concepts

But if networking, or integration (as they say in ERP German), is the root of complexity, it is also clear that you cannot simply take concepts from the beautiful, colourful mobile world and make them uncomplicated to use. What do all those beautiful icons on an iPhone mean? An app for every task! And it is already celebrated when one or two of them allow the transfer to the internal calendar or the address book. Secondly, we are dealing with one user. Not several, who are supposed to work on the same process in the right order.

CRM is not ERP

What "classic" web applications like SalesForce It is noteworthy that they are not only CRM (Sugar CRM) - successfully. The reasons for this are to be found on the one hand in the high standardisation of CRM processes. In small companies these processes are often very narrow, in larger ones they are based on a very broad consensus model - from establishing contact to the step-by-step processing of opportunities. And to be honest: You have to make an effort to complicate things. But that only applies if you don't have to take subsequent processes into account. But this is exactly how work is often done - the CRM is an interest data management tool and breaks off with its data storage when the order is written. The fact that CRM was once thought of differently is a topic in itself.

But as soon as you think of all the other departments in a company, such as just the additional recording of a master date, it is a difficult task. Who should fill it with what content, when and where? Who learns about it and how? Where should the data be displayed or interpreted and how? And and and.

From that point on, it only matters if I have the tools to deal with it.

Higher standardisation of cloud ERP

What then drives ERP manufacturers to promise things that seem to miss ERP reality? On the one hand, they certainly want to establish SaaS (Software as a Service) in the ERP world. But this presupposes that everyone is committed to a much higher standardisation of processes. The desire SaaS to ERP customers may also have to do with a different distribution of margins in this context. If at least 50 per cent of the budget does not have to be invested in consulting, more remains with the software manufacturer.

Flexibility required

On the other hand, it is certainly the customer's wish. They are facing an ever faster moving business world. This forces them to make their processes increasingly flexible. This contradicts the complex modelling and implementation in the ERP system described above. However, if one forgoes extensive integration of the processes, one can profit badly from precisely this.

However, the way out of the dilemma is not necessarily to be found in the software, but is simply called common sense. One should consider very carefully which processes are cemented in an ERP and which ones are only partially mapped and which ones are left out altogether.

This is exactly what a modern ERP must offer. The second characteristic that must be demanded of a modern ERP software is its Integration capability with other software systems. This openness allows tasks to be delegated to other specialised applications at short notice without having to rebuild everything in the ERP. It is precisely here that short-term SaaS solutions can be used, which can then be docked to the ERP. The fast and flexible integration capability of third party applications is likely to be one of the most important factors of a modern ERP solution and is becoming more and more so. SAP Business One with its SAP Integration Server offers an ideal toolbox for this.


It would be nice if the ERP world were as simple as a mobile app. But as long as companies are not, we will have to accept that we are getting better and better at grasping complex structures in an uncomplicated way. For the time being, we need people and suitable software. And still more or less complex ERP projects.

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