ERP systems have taken a hit of late in my blog. I've reported on a a failed ERP implementation that led to a $100 million lawsuit against SAP and on SAP's struggles to deliver an ERP solution in a software-as-a-service model.
In the blog about the lawsuit, I referenced a 2006 MIT Sloan Management Review article by Cynthia Rettig in which she refers to the "millions of lines of code, thousands of installation options and countless interrelated pieces" typically involved in ERP and notes that many ERP systems "introduced new levels of complexity, often without eliminating the older systems (known as 'legacy' systems) they were designed to replace."
Last June I wrote about a guy named Keith Meyer, who suggested on the EvolvingExcellence blog that many smaller companies -- and perhaps some larger ones, as well -- could substitute a simple system involving a whiteboard, markers, eraser, Webcam and copy of QuickBooks for ERP.
Yet not all companies experience major problems with ERP. CIO Insight recently highlighted several stories of companies that are happy with their ERP systems. Quaker Chemical has employed an EnterpriseOne XE system from JD Edwards (now part of Oracle) since 2001, using it for design-to-manufacture, order-to-cash, order entry, accounting, purchasing, research and development, and procurement applications. The company has outgrown the system, however, and is preparing to upgrade to the latest version, EnterpriseOne 8.12. With the upgrade, Quaker hopes to gain increased stability as well as features like e-commerce and customer self-service capabilities.
Looking for a system that would allow for lots of customization, chemical distributor ChemPoint.com decided to use Microsoft's BizTalk Server and Dynamics GP software (once known as Great Plains) to configure exactly what it needed. One of the biggest advantages to this approach, says ChemPoint's VP of technology, is that the company can upgrade selected applications rather than undertaking a larger system upgrade. Its "extreme flexibility" is preferable to "more mature but rigid ERP systems."
The final company featured in the article is Novartis Consumer Health. Its SAP system has been a "backbone" for growth, says its CIO. Although the company traditionally has used ERP to allow its regional commercial divisions to work as self-contained units, Novartis is shifting to a more global approach in order to more easily share customer and product data. Though the company frequently evaluates best-of-breed solutions, thus far it has opted to stay with the SAP suite. Total cost of ownership is lower and data integration is easier with SAP, says the CIO.