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For better business performance, replace ERP with RRP

June 27, 2017

Enterprise Resource Planning – or ERP – was designed during the era of the big, integrated enterprise. It streamlined internal business operations and drove efficiency through high levels of standardization. To a large extent, against that specific objective, it was successful. Now, it has become a constraint.

I recall being at the heart of one of the big ERP implementations. The people involved with sales contracting and negotiation were torn in their emotions. On one level, it was clearly necessary to eliminate the needless variations in policy, practice and process that had arisen in the typical multi-national, multi-divisional structure of most large corporations. But at the same time, the rigidity created by ERP systems was a source for concern. It seemed we were going from an inability to make commitments due to infinite variability, to an inability based on imposition of standards.

That fear was in many ways justified. Lack of flexibility arose in part due to the software and in part due to the eradication of human resources that resulted from automation. It meant that non-standard commitments became increasingly harder to manage and were therefore a source of risk.

The standardization of business processes also enabled large-scale outsourcing – so, ironically, a by-product of Enterprise Resource Planning has been the disaggregation of the enterprise. Today, business performance relies predominantly on the strength and efficiency of external relationships, with both customers and suppliers.

It is therefore surprising that many organizations continue to push ERP-related systems (such as ‘procure to pay’) ever deeper into their fabric. This fixation on internal control, rather than external enablement, is surely a mistake. The systems that businesses need today are very different. They must support collaborative working, sharing of information and data, not just on a one-to-one basis, but across value networks. Organizations must stop thinking about individual contracts and relationships and instead design around low cost, reliable delivery of customer commitments.

Putting it simply, we have entered an era where our focus should move away from the software that fuelled the integrated enterprise (ERP) and shift instead to solutions that support the virtual enterprise – what IACCM is terming ‘Relationship Resource Planning’, or RRP.

 

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