The value of an ERP system lies in the promises of better information, consistent systems, and reduced operational costs. With an ERP system, the ability to share data across applications and among different business units translated into more clearly defined business processes. The promise and the value depended on consultants who defined the current state of the business and who had a crystal ball made up of their vast experience to anticipate the future state. Companies counted on their ERP systems to accommodate growth and business changes.
Alas, those crystal balls seem to be a bit cloudy, and not even the best consultants could predict the substantial changes that a company undergoes over the life span of an ERP system.
As companies approach 5, 10, and even 20 years running the same systems (albeit with numerous upgrades and additional functionality), they are deriving less value from the system that was originally implemented. The number of spreadsheets has multiplied, many are considering a re-implementation, and there are hundreds, if not thousands of interfaces to systems that perform similar functions, consolidate the data, or translate it so that it is useful to the ever-changing business requirements. The promise of reduced operating costs and consistent systems has resulted in a very high cost of ownership and a loss of business value.
The character of ERP systems also changed from supporting a business’ requirements to supporting regulatory and control compliance. Of course, as those requirements changed, there was a need to invest more capital and add more resources to support the ERP systems.
Further exacerbating the problem of a changing business is the growing complexity of the ERP systems. As the following chart illustrates, complexity of Oracle E-Business Suite has escalated with each new version release, resulting in a system that is extremely difficult to maintain. For example, Oracle E-Business Suite R12.0.6 contains over 2.6 million columns (about a 25% increase over the number of columns in R18.104.22.168), each of which could be related to any other, or could be part of a check constraint, or part of a unique or primary key. There are about 36% more constraints in R12.06 than in R22.214.171.124. Even relatively “simple” changes such as finding the impact of a chart of accounts change now affects several hundred more columns in R12.06. Thus, the complexity of changing a chart of accounts went up by more than a third between releases.
Click to view larger image.
Obviously, the larger the ERP footprint, and the more complex those systems are, the greater the capital requirements for maintaining and changing them. The economics and the corresponding value of the ERP system has changed. To compensate for the higher costs, ERP systems must be able to be extensible and adaptable to changing requirements over a longer life span. ERPs must provide data consistency and process integrity in addition to system consistency across the enterprise, As Gartner states, ERP systems must support the “consistent and seamless capture, persistence, transformation and delivery of information throughout the enterprise. To create this infrastructure, enterprises must align their metadata, standards, information formats and technologies for persisting, accessing and delivering data. The demand for tools and approaches that manage data more effectively will grow.”
Transformation software that enables ERP systems to change rapidly can change the value of the ERP spend. Along with the need to manage the complexity of the business and the complexity of the ERP systems, the need to cut costs and realign IT strategies is driving successful companies to invest in changing their existing ERP resources.