The rumours of my demise have been
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, werent happy. Its 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 upGreat Plains by Microsoft,
Siebel by Oracleleaving a market where SAP and Oracle are duking it out
with Microsoft and SSA-Global waiting to pounce.
Its 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. Thats probably why
ERPs 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 systembe 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. Thats 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 weve 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. Thats where ERP is today but
wheres it headed? For that we must look at a TLA called SOA. SOA stands
for service oriented architecture, a concept thats 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 harmoniouslythe Holy Grail of modern computing.
Prashant L Rao
Head of Editorial Operations