The "more evolved" thinking, Say suggests, is this: Companies can achieve consistencies and efficiencies in their business processes without having to use one singular system that manages the entire landscape.
Accenture's Hayes says that for many -- but not all -- companies, the pursuit of the single instance is a dream that hasn't come true. "The homogenous dream was a great dream, and I think the industry has helped clients move toward the dream," he says. "But like a lot of things you dreamed, it didn't turn out all that you had hoped, and therefore you modify your dream." (He notes, though, that it's not impossible for companies to get to a global, single instance; Accenture has done so with its ERP system, he points out.) Hayes is emphatic, however, that companies not return to the days of "crazy spaghetti code, heterogeneous systems, unsynchronized data and all that came along with it."
So what's the future fix? A "happy middle," Hayes offers, which takes advantage of new advances in middleware offerings, tools from the big vendors that allow easy integration between core databases and infrastructure, and SaaS apps where appropriate. He calls it harmonization.
All these capabilities become even more critical in the future. First, many companies are soon to be facing "to upgrade or not" questions as time continues to run out on their antiquated ERP systems: Do they stick with their PeopleSoft, R/3, eBusiness Suite, JDE or other aged ERP versions inching closer to losing support from the vendors (and, conceivably go off that vendor's maintenance and support services, moving to a third party), or take the plunge on a new and different ERP package, such as a cloud-based or open source suite? Second, M&As are going to be on the rise as credit starts flowing again, and the ERP systems of those companies making the deals and those being dealt must be "nimble and responsive to change in business conditions," Hayes points out.
Crispin Read, general manager of marketing for Microsoft Dynamics ERP, which targets midsize organizations, points to a trend he calls "hub and spoke" deployments: Companies use Oracle or SAP ERP suites as the central system of record, and off of that use smaller app packages like Dynamics in the subsidiaries, plants, and various operating units of the larger company. "It's not new," Read says, "but we're seeing a lot more companies doing this." The rationale: A smaller, tier 2 system is much cheaper and faster to deploy than force-feeding big ERP software down on the smaller properties of the company that most likely don't need the associated horsepower or headaches.
"With ERP, you can't do a one-size-fits-all," Read says. "The corporate office of a $10 billion organization just has different needs than the local operations in Australia. And if you try to deploy [SAP or Oracle] everywhere, you're effectively going to be deploying an enterprise solution in a midmarket company, and the costs are going to explode."