ERP Survey: Users Aren't Happy - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Comments
ERP Survey: Users Aren't Happy
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
D. Henschen
50%
50%
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
9/9/2014 | 11:07:56 AM
Simplicity is another theme...
As for that "simplicity for all users" wish, that's another area where most vendors are moving away from creaky old interfaces. SAP has long had a poor reputation on ease of use, so over the last two years it has developed modern (frequently mobile) "Fiori" user interfaces. It tried to charge extra for Fiori before customer protests led to a policy change and SAP announced Fiori would be free to existing customers. Infor came out with slick "Soho" user interfaces a couple of years ago. Microsoft has been infusing its Dynamics ERP and CRM apps with the Microsoft Office/ribbon look for several years. Oracle Fusion Apps have modern user interfaces while old apps like E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, and JD Edwards have had a bit of nipping and tucking here and there. Epicor has done a pretty thorough makeover with Epicor 10, introduced earlier this year, and Epicor 9 before it was also evolutionary.
TerryB
50%
50%
TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
9/9/2014 | 1:51:57 PM
Re: Simplicity is another theme...
You can take a generic piece of software written to support a thousand different businesses doing things a thousand different ways if you are willing, and that means get your checkbook out, to customize it.

That's where I started back in 80's. ERP meant you had source code, so you tailored it to fit exactly what you do. The only cost was paying me to do it. I could also wite new apps to fill in gaps, linking new data files and the files in the ERP system. And do it without ERP license cost because it was my code.

Now? You have to pry source code out of the vendors cold, dead hands. And if you get it, probably in some programming language unique to them (SAP, AX) that anybody coming from school is not going to know. So now you are paying the ERP vendors "business partners" $250-$300 an hour to make these customizations. And they have little motivation to customize in a way that minimizes work on next upgrade you do.

And lastly, you can't even leverage you custom code to reduce licenses. They package database/file access thru code based "adapters", so your code still needs a client license to use the adapter. It's almost criminal what these ERP vendors have gotten away with. But they have, the game is over now and they won, with no tangible benefit to business users that I see. 
Laurianne
50%
50%
Laurianne,
User Rank: Author
9/9/2014 | 1:52:15 PM
tablets and ERP
I find only 25% having access to ERP software via tablet surprising, given how many sales people now use a tablet as the preferred daily device.
D. Henschen
0%
100%
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
9/9/2014 | 2:24:19 PM
Re: Simplicity is another theme...
All the talk from ERP vendors today is about delivering configuration (not customization) capabilities that didn't exist in those days. The idea is that you configure instead of customize so that everything doesn't break when it comes time to install the new version of the software. Configuration is absolutely the way it's done by newer, cloud-based ERP vendors because there's little to no opportunity to customize the cloud-based services. Whether in the cloud our not, I talk to lots of customers these days who absolutely want to keep their ERP as "plain vanilla" as possible so they're not maintaining and fixing customizations over time.

What's you're experience with current ERP deployments and do you agree that some of these suites are so fleshed out with bells, whistles, and industry functionality that configuration rather than customization is the way to go? PeopleSoft, for one, was founded, way back when, on the principle of being customizable, but Workday, founded eight years ago by some of the same people, switched to the configuration approach.

And just so I understand where you're coming from, were you an end-user ERP customer back in those days or a VAR/consultant who made a living building and maintaining customizations?
TerryB
50%
50%
TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
9/9/2014 | 3:04:18 PM
Re: Simplicity is another theme...
I've always worked for manufacturing company, hired from school in 1985 to write IBM Mainframe CICS applications and support the American Software ERP system they used. That company went to IBM AS400 (now i5 POWER system) in 1988 still running American Software. I ported my CICS apps to custom AS400 apps. I've been on that platform since. That first company went belly up in 1998, I worked for consulting firm during the big Y2K ERP push for 3 years, where I gained experience with JD Edwards, BPCS and a couple of smaller players. Since 2002, I've worked for another manufacturer who used Infor's BPCS (now called ERP LX) for it's core.

My work usually extended outside scope of what the ERP was good at. The shop floor especially, which is where the license cost was normally saved. I'd write what is typically called a MES now and integrate it into the ERP doing MRP, Inventory Control and other core back office stuff. Most of my new apps now are written using Sencha Ext JS on clients and good old RPG/SQL on the i5 back end. We no longer have source code for BPCS but it does not use adapters, so at least my applications can read/write data from their files without needing a client license. A lot of other systems like SAP and AX use adapters, what I'm doing is impossible with them.

Our Corp chose AX as it's strategic ERP for any unit needing business system replacement. So I have had chance to learn quite a bit about that system. All work is outsourced thru 3rd party business partner, which is what MS does with AX.

You are correct they have more configuration options now than they used to. Certain systems, like General Ledger, you rarely have to modify any source code. But when you try and extend to full scope, over places like shop floor and lab (quality testing), you can not configure your way into that.

We cast copper based alloys (50+ flavors) and process them into all sizes of wire for customers who make everything from batteries to brakes to ammo. All make to order (actually make to engineer better term). Our system is so integrated now that I can block Inside Sales from printing shipping paperwork unless the lab has approved the wire for quality testing. I then take the tests and customer specification and print a Certificate of Analysis for every shipment, then optionally automatically fax/email it along with other shipping paperwork to the customer.

You don't configure your way into that, whether you are SAP or AX or anyone else. If you are a vanilla type processing company, you can use vanilla ERP and you don't need someone like me. But for companies like this one, you need me or you need 10 more data entry clerks all over the place. Which do you suppose is more cost effective?

But no question I'm a dying breed. I'd be so bored in the type of IT going on today, which your article talks about very nicely. But I don't really buy into ERP needing to be on phones idea, very few jobs require that. You may need ERP DATA to display on dashboard on phone, but that is just a glorified paperless report, not transactional ERP. That is problem with adapters, that takes a license now. If you use Named User license, no extra cost for any device. If you use Concurrent or Device based licensing, then it becomes a cost issue to extend to devices like phones.

Now do you see why the ERP guys want to build all that in, instead of someone like me? All about the license cost. And you don't really get rid of my salary, I just become a business analyst making same money who now can't write any code for you. That sure seems like a bad deal for business to me.
D. Henschen
50%
50%
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
9/9/2014 | 3:29:24 PM
Re: A good warning here for customers looking to spread access to ERP
There's a good head-up warning to ERP customers here from TerryB on watching out for potentially higher licensings costs depending on how vendors support this idea of broader access to ERP through tablets and smartphones. Hopefully these mobile options give you handy and needed remote transactional/exception-handling capabilities, not just a flashier version of a static report, as Terry hints at.

In the pendulum swings of IT trends, I'm sorry to hear that IT pros like Terry are "a dying breed." But just like Cobal programmers, I'm sure that he and others like him will remain in demand.

 
MahiC846
50%
50%
MahiC846,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/23/2015 | 4:53:29 PM
Re: Simplicity is another theme...
Thank you Mr. Henschen,

This article was really helpful for me. Currently I'm working on my thesis on topic "ERP Usability study as part of it I'm conducting survey with ERP customers so far I conducted around 40 ERP partnering vendors and some of their customers to particiapte in my survey.

I can take few points from your article.

 


State of the Cloud
State of the Cloud
Cloud has drastically changed how IT organizations consume and deploy services in the digital age. This research report will delve into public, private and hybrid cloud adoption trends, with a special focus on infrastructure as a service and its role in the enterprise. Find out the challenges organizations are experiencing, and the technologies and strategies they are using to manage and mitigate those challenges today.
Commentary
IT Salary Report 2020: Get Paid What You Are Worth
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  2/12/2020
Slideshows
10 Analytics and AI Startups You Should Know About
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  2/19/2020
News
Fighting the Coronavirus with Analytics and GIS
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  2/3/2020
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
IT Careers: Tech Drives Constant Change
Advances in information technology and management concepts mean that IT professionals must update their skill sets, even their career goals on an almost yearly basis. In this IT Trend Report, experts share advice on how IT pros can keep up with this every-changing job market. Read it today!
White Papers
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll