Some years ago I was involved in promoting an ERP integration with vertical solutions for the ready-mix concrete and aggregate industry at the World of Concrete exhibition and trade show in Las Vegas, Nevada. (It has one of the few convention centers large enough to host all of the heavy equipment displayed at this event.)
As one gentleman was making his way by our booth, I stepped up an inquired if his company might be interested in a new ERP system that offered distinct advantages for his specific industry.
His reply intrigued me.
It’s got to work
He said to me, “No, sir! We are just wrapping up an implementation of SAP now.”
My reply was a little sarcastic—I confess: “Well, I’d like to shake your hand! I haven’t met folks from many companies that have actually ‘wrapped up’ an SAP implementation.”
He smiled knowingly, clearly recognizing the significance of what I had just said, then replied with, “Well, some things still aren’t working the way we’d like.”
But, it was his next line that really stuck with me.
He continued, “But, we’ve spent so much money now that it’s got to work.”
Here the implication is clear: if a solution is big enough, complex enough, and costly enough “it’s got to work.” (Even if that means, I fear in some cases, that management will declare “it’s working,” although the rank-and-file users may not actually view it the same way.)
I’d like to juxtapose that in your minds with another incident out of my past.
Working in the ERP systems and systems integration marketplace for nearly three decades has been interesting. We have, not infrequently, found ourselves head-to-head in competition with the so-called tier-one ERP systems like SAP, J.D. Edwards, and Oracle.
And, while I am confident that this sense went unspoken on several occasions, I recall one “selection committee” member at a prospect once articulating this amazing statement:
“Your software only costs $X ?!? Then it can’t possibly be capable of handling the kinds of complexity we will be throwing at it.”
Here, again, the implication is that, a key indicator in whether a solution will be a real and effective solution is somehow determined by whether it is big enough, complex enough, and costly enough.
Ignoring the full picture
What may be even more amazing is the fact that these statements were being made at a time when the mainstream news outlets, plus accounting and information technology literature, were chock-full of stories of hugely expensive and untimely failures in ERP implementations being done with tier-one software such as SAP and others.
Today, despite the valiant and effective efforts of the Demand Driven Institute (DDI), there are still far too many supply chain executives and managers that, I fear, still fall into this trap. They, too, turn a blind eye toward excellent and effective solutions merely because they are offered by companies without tier-one status, and the solutions, at first glance, seem to be “too simple” to handle the perceived complexity of the challenges.
Of course, these perceptions are wrong.
Tier-one software companies have provided the management world with ample examples of big, complex and costly failures. We don’t really need more of those.
The concept of inherent simplicity tells us that the more complex a challenge appears to be, the simpler the effective solution must be. The principles within the demand-driven operating model (DDOM), and the hundreds of successes achieved by companies that have conscientiously applied these principles, have proved this to be true.
Don’t ignore the real picture. Don’t confuse costly or complex with effective.
What are you doing? It is costly and complex, or simple and effective?
What is working for you, and what is not?
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