ERP and Catch 22

Many SMEs have implemented a vanilla ERP system, meaning that they have slightly (our heavily) modified their often crucial business processes to fit into the ERP system. In so doing they have pour digital concrete on their business processes, freezing them into a propriety software and leaving little room for organizational flexibility. The vanilla approach was greatly promoted by the big ERP vendors, with arguments of cost reduction. Indeed a bespoke application which used to be the alternative solution for SMEs, is time consuming, costly and above all a very risky endeavor not often leading to disputes between customer and vendor.

So vanilla or bespoke which one to choose?

This is a catch 22 situation that should be broken down by new business models. The vanilla approach was born out of the deficit of software engineering that does not seem to deliver the promised objectives of well documented and easy to maintain software applications. There is no theoretical evidence that an ERP implementation offers a valuable alternative for bespoke applications while delivering the same beneficial results. I am arguing that bespoke applications still contain a better ground for organizational flexibility, but software engineering should be taken away out of the hands of the IT people. What we need in software engineering is an add-on of ‘business engineering’. Instead of conducting fundamental discussions on what kind of programming language programmers should use, the discussion should focus on the business propositions. This requires a fundamental paradigm shift in our educational approach of the IT courses curriculum. For the moment computer sciences is still ruling the educational system of IT and even IS, leaving us with the catch 22.

jan devos


About jangdevos
I'm an IT/IS professor, a late Baby Boomer, married with Ann and father of Hélène and Willem, a Stones fan and interested in almost everything. I work at the UGent (campus Kortrijk), Belgium. My research domain are: IT Governance in SMEs, IT/IS Security, IT Management, IT Project Management, IT Trends and IT/IS failures.

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