Enterprise resource planning software--despite a long record of achievement in business process improvement--suffers from a lingering image problem. It's that ERP projects have a tendency to become resource hogs that waddle over budget and past deadline. New software in development by SAP, Oracle, and Microsoft promises to overcome the drawbacks of the past. But will ERP really get easier to deploy and manage? Or are ERP vendors merely putting lipstick on a pig?This week's cover story
editor at large Rick Whiting explores those questions in detail. The cover image itself--an illustration of a swine applying lipstick, by Toronto artist Mick Coulas
--struck a note with many readers. Letters have come in to our Letters To The Editor box, as well as directly to Senior Art Director Mary Ellen Forte, who commissioned the work, and to Mick Coulas directly. Responses range from "that is one UGLY cover!" to "best cover I've ever seen!"
Several people asked for a clean copy of our pig illo to frame and put on the wall. Check it out and decide for yourself.
To be fair, ERP projects aren't as ugly as they were five years ago, though we still hear of the occasional dive into the mud. Just two months ago, North Dakota University named an interim deputy CIO to clean up a PeopleSoft rollout that turned into a stinker.
SAP executive Shai Agassi says it's possible for R/3 customers to upgrade to the newer mySAP 2005 in 60 days. But when Rick Whiting asked to talk to customers who have actually done it, SAP didn't come up with any references to share. What this tells us is that ERP, while moving in the right direction, can still be a bear--or a boor.
What do you think? Will companies be able to complete ERP projects on time and on budget using next-gen applications? Or will it be the same old sow in ruby-red gloss?