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Is the 'flexible' attitude of users hampering ERP success in India?


Success of ERP performance is directly proportional to the adherence to standard operating procedures. However, we find that very common complaint against ERP is its rigid structure and disciplined standard operating procedures. Often there are ridiculous demands and expectations from users, which are conflicting with standard operating procedures. Hence ERP is either blamed or made to fail. When the user says he wants flexibility in ERP, actually he wants the official allowance to deviate from standards set for value generation. The repercussions of such flexibility are tremendous, including the loss of value.

For example, here goes a typical style of customer negotiations. The sales people of a manufacturing company arbitrarily fixed unit price and raised sales orders against customers. After physical material dispatches, suddenly the customer started negotiating with sales and the rates were changed. The sales person then wanted to pass these entries in ERP. No good system will support such incongruous requirements. Here, the user wants flexibility in addressing these issues from ERP and also expected that everything should happen automatically. To settle and account for such changes, one has to pass a number of reverse entries in ERP.

Unfortunately, some consulting companies charge extra from clients for automating such absurd provisions. The same thing happened with the above company also and they landed up with 'auto reverse entry module' supporting the existing system. More ironically, this feature of ERP soon became so popular that the company asked a similar module for purchase transactions. The ultimate chaos is always observed in finance and costing modules where multiple figures of profits, inventory values, sales income, taxes, etc. linked to the same transaction are found. Nobody could really gather any meaningful information from such sets of data over a period of time. At the end the user gets flexibility and the organization gets punishment.

There are also some cases where flexibility going to the extent of unethical business practices and in such cases illegal transactions can also be carried out.

Here is one peculiar requirement that once observed from a user. He asked for various options of selecting report sizes (A3 or A4) to use with different printers for printing the same reports. ERP was expected to be flexible enough to accommodate multiple report sizes based on printer selection. The same user never used in his earlier tenure any computerized output and did not even know how to load paper into printer.

The major flexibility expected by Indian ERP users can be summarized as "I want to do transactions any way, later on it should get corrected." Hence we find demand of provisional entries, temporary databases, notional requirements, etc. The fundamental principle of ERP is doing right things right at first time is not understood and deviations are expected to be regularized. We find many of such cases, ultimately making ERP as unused ornament lying in the bank locker..

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