Zen and the Art of ERP Maintenance
When discussing software, businesses often like to use car analogies or a turnkey approach. That works to a limited degree, but only if you also want to include routine maintenance, wear and tear, accidents, insurance, fluid levels, driving conditions, and driver impairment (DUI or texting) in the discussion. I cringe when I hear software descriptions such as, “It’s just like Excel on steroids.” Yikes. Is it also going to have some of the bad side effects as well, like mood swings or possibly dying early of kidney failure? It’s too easy to consider software in a vacuum and not as a dynamic, integral part of a larger system of people and interactions.
Where I part ways with the car analogy is that Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software can have 5-500 concurrent users and multiple customizations. Even if everyone used the exact same software, like a cell phone or Microsoft Office, there would still be multiple factors to consider such as platform, bandwidth, infrastructure, user experience and training, not to mention purpose and function.
The idea of trying to make something like ERP software very finite when it can extend across oceans, hold terabytes of data, and allow access from hundreds of users while simultaneously performing multiple tasks, personalizations and customizations to fit exact business and user needs is all too limiting. Vehicles on the information superhighway roll a bit differently, can crash, hit traffic jams, and stall, but can also travel at light-speed velocity, perform detailed compilation and analysis of big data hitherto unknown.
Then you have time: Nothing stays the same forever. Software is not static and requires maintenance due to all of its dynamic interactions or moving parts, massive amounts of data being stored or transacted, new business and user requirements to survive the ever-changing landscape in which it operates.
If something is wrong with your car, you can drive it into the service bay, a technician can run some diagnostics and prescribe a solution. With ERP software, that may or may not be the case. Maybe certain conditions have to be met in order to trigger the error or issue. And this only works in the case when something is wrong. What if the software works as advertised but you need it to do something new or different (requirements change)? That would be like driving your old car into the shop and telling the mechanic that you need it to fly and by the way can it get up to 900 MPH and run on fuel cell technology? It would probably look silly if he added wings and soldered a couple rocket engines to it.
While it may require maintenance, upgrades, changes, new versions, training, testing and issue resolution, try not to limit the way you think about your ERP system by conventional standards. Open your mind to the idea that technology is rapidly evolving and dynamically interacting with the macrocosm of the world around us. Remember, it’s all fun and games until the computers become self-aware.