What's the future of ERP? What kind of a silly question is that, you may be asking yourself. First off, predicting the future -- especially in the technology world -- is a fool's errand, best handled by Ouija boards and IT analysts' dartboards. And isn't the future of ERP already here? Software as a service, on-demand apps, enterprise 2.0 collaboration, open source software, virtualization, cloud platforms: What more is there?
Right now, not much else. But the real future of enterprise software isn't exclusively based on wow-factor applications and functionality. It's about not only knowing which new applications and delivery models can immediately help the business, but also having the technological fleet of foot to take advantage of those new apps fast. That means not in 18 months or "next quarter," but whenever line-of-business managers truly need that functionality. Think days.
In addition, CIOs and IT staffs must be certain that the underlying architecture and systems decisions they have made (or are making right now) are guided by a roadmap that allows for flexibility -- an ability to adapt enterprise technology to disruptive business events as they occur.
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By that definition, then, it's readily apparent that the status quo with ERP, as poked and prodded in CIO.com's "Why Is ERP Still So Hard?" ain't going to cut it anymore. The deleterious global recession and a jobless recovery have made that quite clear.
When asked if the recession will ultimately prove to be a turning point in ERP's history, Jim Hayes, the global managing director of Accenture's Oracle practice, who's worked for decades with enterprise software, agrees. "I'm a believer that from disruption comes opportunity," Hayes says. "The kind of disruptions that we've seen have been painful, certainly on one level, but maybe therapeutic, on another level, because it makes us rethink things."
But change has never come easily or quickly to the ERP universe. MIT's Erik Brynjolfsson and the Wharton School's Adam Saunders note in their new book "Wired for Innovation" that it typically takes between five to seven years for major IT investments, like ERP systems, to deliver substantial returns. That's due to the multiyear period it usually takes today's organizations to make the enterprisewide changes needed to truly capitalize on the new IT applications and systems, contend Brynjolfsson and Saunders.
Do you have that kind of time anymore? Thought not.