Time to look at the evolved form of ERP

Updated: Jul 31 2006, 05:30am hrs
Over the past several years, there has been debate over the payback of enterprise-level information technologies like ERP systems. Some reports suggested that there is no payback for these investments; that they represent infrastructure investments and are strategic in nature. Performance-oriented managers typically recoil at such logic.

At SAS, we look at the issue from a different perspective. The no payback argument is an inappropriate response to the issue. There must be a return, or the firm would not invest.

So from a long-term value perspective, companies needs to look at the evolved form of ERP keeping in mind the need for time to intelligence. But the challenge that most companies face with ERPs is the accessibility and quality of data. Most ERP systems are designed to take data in, but not deliver it out.

Business users often complain about the time it takes to get information, inhibiting their ability to make timely decisions. Todays business users expect immediate response to queries.

Yet in many cases involving ERP data, the IT department must receive a request, pull the information from many sources and then ask business users to review it, modify it and review it again to see if it will suffice.

What one needs today is an integrated, open and extensible integrated platform approach that serves as the foundation for creating and delivering accurate, in-depth intelligence. No matter where your organisation is on the path toward evolving its information capabilities one can adapt to the situation and drive intelligence evolution to the next level, while leveraging and extending the value of existing IT investments.

Indians companies today face the challenge of what we call the assembled IT environment from best-of-breed components that is a deceptively simple and often lower-priced alternative (initially) to purchasing a single integrated architecture. This approach has lead to the following challenges:

The additional cost of adding analytics and reporting to the ERP solutions compounds the cost/value issue

In-depth knowledge and custom coding is required to retrieve information from ERP systems

Upper management questions the usefulness of operational systems

Issues arising from the quality of data

Integrated platform with embedded data quality ensures credibility of reports and analyses. Integrated platform can run on virtually any hardware and access data from any platform, so information can be fed back into operational systems.

To make critical IT business decisions, todays executives need the ability to react quickly to business needs and leverage all existing data without creating a patchwork of solutions. The existing ERP systems coupled with business intelligence and analytics make a perfect combination.

Decision makers gain access to historical information and indicators of where they should go next enabling them to react quickly to changing market conditions and anticipate opportunities more effectively using knowledge of customers, products and risks. The result Decision makers can spend their time analysing reliable information instead of finding ways to locate and access data from ERP applications.

The writer is managing director and CEO, SAS Institute (India)