ERP is certainly no model for simplicity, interface design, flexibility, (you get it, this list goes on and on). But could ERP be made better in the image of Facebook? Marc Benioff, the founder of Saleforce, seems to think so. In February he authored a post on Tech Crunch where he made this argument. The link is here.
I do agree with some aspects of what he is writing, so let’s start with those. Salesforce has been wildly successful due to the simplicity of its user interface in combination with reasonable implementation costs to name a few. I think that Salesforce actually provides a great model for what ERPs should be, but this is not the central point here. Facebook is, so let’s return there.
Marc posits that Facebook has redefined consumer computing – no arguments there, but what does this have to do with ERP? He goes on to talk about how Lotus Notes and Sharepoint are really deficient collaboration tools – again no argument from me, but last I checked, Sharepoint did not have a financials module. He goes on to suggest that social collaboration tools are real-time and the ERP is not. This is really not true. ERP is real-time if implemented this way. He then uses an illustration about deals being won and lost in real time. I guess the suggestion is that we could be posting about closing a deal in our Facebook status – not sure. In all seriousness, the problem with ERP is that the information is probably there, it is just nearly impossible to summarize it for the right decision maker at the right time. The last thing we need is more information bombarding people trying to get business done.
Marc does make a few points which suggest a broader analogy to the impact of social media on consumer computing. There are some really interesting paths that could be taken there which I believe are highly relevant for the next generation of ERP. This general discussion about the glory of “newsfeeds” is just not it though. Companies need to be far better at communicating goals, tracking progress, and providing employees with fast access to things they need to be successful. These areas can be fundamentally changed by social computing, but the technology and its application are just not there yet. The changes I envision will require fundamental changes in the way people manage people. This part is still a ways off, but we can start down that path right now.
As for ERP, most are still inflexible and hard to use. They have gone from being an amazing tool for integrating global companies to the status of a necessary evil. As someone who is now 40+ but has written lots of code in my day, I actually find Facebook fairly hard to use. Guess it might be generational, but it does not look like a usability model to me. If I had to pick a model for ERP right now, I would point to Marc’s core CRM product.
Thats all for me – time to get back to real work.
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