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Issue of June 2006 
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Tech Phoenix

The rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated
—Mark Twain

Back in 1999, the year which was celebrated by Prince in the vocally stunning party anthem of the same name, Fortune reported the demise of ERP. At that point billions of dollars had flowed into the tills of ERP software vendors but the users, mostly manufacturers, weren’t happy. It’s interesting to note that the upstart challengers who were supposed to knock the big boys (SAP, Oracle, et al) off their perch were eventually swallowed up—Great Plains by Microsoft, Siebel by Oracle—leaving a market where SAP and Oracle are duking it out with Microsoft and SSA-Global waiting to pounce.

It’s amazing how a technology that was born more than twenty years ago in the 1980s is still around. The antecedents of ERP are ancient, look to inventory control systems from the 1960s, COBOL program to wit. ERP has proved resilient, absorbing competing technologies such as CRM and SCM. That’s probably why ERP’s still among the top three technologies cited by Indian CIOs in our annual Infrastructure Strategies survey.

The great thing about ERP is that it is universal in its appeal. Every company needs an ERP system—be it a manufacturer or a bank, a retail chain or a public sector undertaking. The same cannot be said about CRM or SCM or SFA all of which have definite appeal to some verticals but are not for everybody.

One interesting facet about ERP in India is that you never hear about a company that had a bad experience. Problems are always overcome and the end result has the CIO smiling. That’s at odds with the international experience where many companies have cried bitter tears over failed ERP deployments.

Technology trends in ERP are dynamic, of late we’ve been hearing more and more about micro-verticalisation and the past couple of years have seen this and modules such as HR coming into vogue. That’s where ERP is today but where’s it headed? For that we must look at a TLA called SOA. SOA stands for service oriented architecture, a concept that’s got more buzz around it in IT circles than the latest superhero flick at the box-office. Put simply, SOA puts the focus on business processes rather than on software. The idea is that a business process determines the use of technology, and services come about as a combination of processes such as ‘loan approval’ or ‘account creation’. This should largely do away with the need to re-engineer business processes to fit an ERP system and ensure that systems from different vendors work together harmoniously—the Holy Grail of modern computing.

Prashant L Rao
Head of Editorial Operations

 
     
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