ERP unusable? Depends on who is using it
I read with interest your article in the February edition highlighting the recent Forrester ERP research (Insider, Information Age, February 2003). ‘ERP is unusable’ is a very bold statement and seeks scrutiny.
First, it is very easy to sit someone in front of a computer, give them certain tasks and wait for them to under-perform. As with any software, for maximum benefits and results, it takes time, effort and some form of training. It is about understanding the system and its fit with the company strategy and critical processes, and about forcing it to deliver. Companies should be spending at least 15% of their IT investment every year on training and human capital.
Second, before investing in ERP systems, companies should ensure that their business strategy is clear and defined – a poor business strategy often leads to gaping holes in the fit between business processes and the technology. That may well mean taking your strategic head out of the sand and not locking yourself into the financials as a way of keeping track of your company and its strategic context. Have the strategy in place first, focus on the business processes that leverage your strategy and begin training.
Finally, the applications chosen for the tasks in Forrester’s research seemed more in line with system maintenance rather than end users’ day-to-day activities, such as building new reports, drafting sales invoices or tracking the status of an order based on a customer enquiry. The tasks tested were strictly the niceties of how the IT administrator maintains the database, not how users experience it in their effort to drive toward the strategic goals for the organisation.
Microsoft Business Solutions
No danger disposal
It’s great to see you addressing the issue of IT disposal (‘Junk management’, Information Age, February 2002). This has been a headache for organisations for many years now and the impending adoption of the European Union’s Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive will certainly exacerbate the situation.
However, I think the message that it is actually very easy to dispose of old PCs without compromising data security or the environment did not come across in your article.
Computer Aid International is a registered charity and the world’s largest refurbisher of PCs for re-use in schools and community organisations in developing countries. Not only do we take out-of-use PCs (Pentium 100 upwards) and ensure all data is rendered unrecoverable by repeatedly overwriting every disk sector, but we then distribute them throughout the developing world where 99% of children leave school without ever having touched a computer.
To make a donation, businesses just need to call 08707 636161.
Computer Aid International
I write in response to the article ‘Access denied’, (Information Age, February 2002).
True, employee education is vital, but accidents still happen. As your article pointed out, 19 out of 20 attacks take advantage of configuration errors. Why, then, aren’t more organisations addressing this massive vulnerability?
Changes to the configuration, whether made accidentally by employees or maliciously by a hacker, can create a ‘back door’ to the corporate network, giving unauthorised access to private business data. To this end, organisations need a proactive approach to security that instantly alerts them to any changes made. Only by taking such an approach can organisations pinpoint weaknesses and lock down vital systems before unwelcome visitors find a way in.
‘Portal Parade’, (Information Age, February 2003) provided a good overview of the state of the portal market. It’s my belief that portals undoubtedly have a place in the future strategy of most corporations, however, they are definitely not going to be the panacea that the industry implies.
Many large organisations have been moving towards a ‘collaborative’ way of working for a number of years, albeit not under the ‘portal’ banner. In most organisations, intranets and email are now essential tools.
Expecting users to change how they work – that is, moving away from an application-based model – is inevitably doomed to failure. Why build more process layers into a user’s day when it’s not necessary? Portals will provide benefits for some, but should this be at the expense of the many?
If we are searching for technical solutions to business issues, surely we should be looking at ways of trapping information with the minimum impact on end users.
Before spending substantial amounts on implementing portal technology, a review of existing technical infrastructure is essential. I believe most companies will be amazed by what can be achieved by strategically implementing what they already have, rather than investing in the latest ‘killer app’.