On the other hand, only 23 percent of respondents say they are very satisfied with their ERP implementation, which suggests the absence of a viable alternative. Who wants to rip and replace core applications and relive the tremendous disruption and expense of another big bang? Actually, many of our readers might, if they could escape high ERP licensing fees. In answer to a question we asked out of curiosity, a stunning 53 percent of respondents say they would consider an open source alternative to their current ERP system. The catch: No such system exists.
Meanwhile, in the real world, when we asked readers which vendors they had chosen to supply their ERP software, Oracle, PeopleSoft, and SAP got the most mentions. Applications from SAP earned the most "functions well" ratings in all but the human resources category. A whopping 69 percent of survey respondents think SAP's core financials function well, awarding it nearly 20 points more than nearest competitor Oracle. SAP's manufacturing application also enjoys a similar lead (See results for additional modules).
PeopleSoft's customers seem just as pleased as SAP's; the company was in a statistical tie with SAP in readers' overall satisfaction with their ERP vendor. A year into a PeopleSoft implementation, Craig Hunter, director of information technology for the City of North Vancouver, British Columbia, offers this testimonial: "It's already gotten us payback. We've installed it in house, and we didn't need a ton of consultants." He also notes his IT group made a conscious decision to modify PeopleSoft as little a possible.
Buy Vs. Butcher
In eschewing customization, Hunter falls on one side of a chronic dilemma during ERP implementation. An anonymous survey respondent succinctly described it as "the decision to change business process to conform to the ERP or to change the ERP to conform to the business process." For anyone who has gotten his or her hands dirty with ERP, that decision sums up the implementation challenge.
Hunter offers a cautionary tale to illustrate the hazards of stretching an ERP system to fit existing business processes: "The City of Vancouver had a horrendous install when they tried to do SAP. They tried to make it like their old systems. Well, their old systems had been butchered and bastardized for 20-odd years." According to Hunter, those in charge didn't want employees to notice any changes in procedure, so they twisted the SAP software into submission, inviting disaster. "They issued a whole bunch of paychecks with zero dollars on them right before Christmas," he says. "And people noticed."