Following our recent discussion of the pros, cons and practicalities of hooking up your ERP system to the outside world, we thought it would be good to tap into the views of Reg readers on the topic. So we put up a poll with an open comment facility and, true to form, almost 50 readers came back with their own experiences at the …
Dealing with larger 'partners'
"The larger the 'partner', the less flexible and more unreasonable they will be."
Isn't that just so true. At my last job we were a relatively small manufacturer and wholesaler - really only "back of the sofa" cash to the larger retail chains. "discussion" regarding EDI went along the lines of "you will be doing X ... or we won't be dealing with you<period>"
I could see the benefits, but out ERP system didn't support them very well unless we spent a fairly large wedge of cash with the vendor on additional modules - and even then we would not be able to meet some requirements. Quite common was for a customer to require specific that effectively made our "common" EDI setup useless - at one point I think we ran no less that four "off the shelf but customised" installations of the same EDI package in order to trade with four different customers who all wanted something different. The end result was that the customers got all the benefits, not by any overall reduction in work, but by making us do their back office work for them.
On this last point, in all these cases, our staff had to effectively process everything twice - once on our systems to control our stock and finances, and once on the customers EDI systems to enter their backend data. A small number would send us orders, and accept invoices, in standard formats we could deal with - for them we could save effort overall, but others just insisted on customer specific extras that meant we couldn't use any existing system.
Maybe the future will be a cloudy setup where everybody does their business on SAPCLOUD and the software-as-service automagically provides for inter-company transactions.
In my opinion the current state of affairs in ERP is still mosty 1980s-style, where an IT system operates inside an intranet only. Probably a major reason for that is the rivalry of ERP vendors.
Opportunity for ERP vendors
I am not an expert on this, but I guess that they could differentiate themselves by providing an easy and standardized way of exchanging (standard) purchase orders, price quotes, inventory queries and so on between companies.
I guess billions are spent/lost each year by customer service people hacking sales orders into their respective ERP system from faxes and unstructured emails coming from their customers.
A full-scale automation is probably too costly, though. At least for the next ten years....
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