ERP and EA

Some councils have chosen to implement ERP systems such as SAP or Oracle e-Business suite to consolidate a number of their core systems.  It is argued that, by installing a “vanilla” out of the box ERP system and by forcing changes to business processes to align with the ERP system, big savings can be made in the business processes themselves as they become more streamlined: and that consolidating systems such as finance, HR, payroll, procurement, project management, CRM and supply chain management can yield efficiencies through more integrated working and improve management information.

As an EA, however, I think I have to look at this the other way around: assuming the business wants process standardisation, better integration, and better management information, what’s the architecture that will deliver that?

I don’t know for sure, but wouldn’t integration be better delivered by an SOA implementation? Shouldn’t we implement BPM to improve and standardise our processes? Don’t we want data warehousing and BI tools to give management information?

And culturally, if we are going to implement an IT system to force through structural and process changes that we want to see, isn’t that the kind of thinking that got us into a mess in the first place?

I don’t know for sure and it is almost certain that the best practices inherent in some out of the box ERP systems will improve and streamline operations and save money. But when a business makes an investment decision on an ERP type of scale, what’s the opportunity cost?

Interested to know what others think about this, especially those working in a council that has implemented such a system.

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3 Responses to ERP and EA

  1. Dave Briggs says:

    Sorry to be dim, but what’s ERP?

  2. Sue Tylcoat says:

    ERP stands for Enterprise Resource Planning – usually refers to something like SAP or Oracle suites of software. These products have a base of finance, HR and procurement, but lots and lots of bolt-on’s that basically give you the opportunity to run the organisation from a single product.

  3. Carl Haggerty says:

    The key aspect of this is to not assume what the business wants BUT for us to actually tease it out of them. ERP solutions can be seen by many as the answer, but i’d really like to know what question is?

    As you suggest, is it: integration, process standardisation etc.

    Surely our role is about understanding where the organisation wants to be and consider that within the conexts of the viewpoints within Enterprise Architecture (Business, information and Technology) to enable us to define the most appropriate solution architecture.

    Is moving to a single vendor going to give us the flexibility to diversify and adapt quickly to change.

    I can see the benefits of an SOA approach, defining services and functions at an atomic level to then be reused to deliver bigger and more complex services.

    But i can also see the benefit in implementing the “out of the box” processes which will inevitably deliver efficiency savings.

    But to do either we need a culture that understands the reasons and benefits of taking such action and strong leadership which will support and drive the vision forward.

    Exciting times to be an EA in Devon

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