To switch ERP or upgrade ERP: that is the question

Regardless of scale, all businesses experience varying degrees of system change on a recurrent basis; whether these events are driven by external market or competitive pressures, or internal management concerns. These progressions become particularly critical when associated with ERP upgrades or system migrations, since resource-based systems tend to subsume operational processes that alter not only the way companies “work”, but how they “think” as well.

Consequently, when considering the need to either switch or upgrade ERP systems, there are several axes of decision making, ranging from the obvious to the arcane.

The obvious

Granted, there is no such thing as a perfect enterprise environment, but ERP systems often smooth out rough patches on a daily basis. Nevertheless, if an enterprise system begins to experience budget overruns or suddenly won't scale to meet projected growth, it’s likely that those elements will force a wholesale system switch rather than a simple upgrade.

Recommended reading: 50-step ERP software selection checklist

To make sure, here are several steps to help resolve the management conundrum:

  • Full system audit – in this case, use of the word “full” means auditing every module, end-to-end, followed by the production a comprehensive set of reports for comparison and decision-making purposes.

  • Acceptance of results - once the aforementioned reports are on the table, take a no nonsense approach toward crisply accepting or denying the final results. Part of this exercise has to do with the legitimacy of one’s own management culture; if a group of professionals who are allegedly on the same business team cannot utilize the information to create consensus, the comparatively simple systems decision will be nothing compared to what other problems that might be lurking under the company’s hood.

The arcane

Beyond the obvious, there is a more esoteric and equally vexing management issue that will have to be judged and weighed accordingly.

  • Enterprise capability – while the premise of ERP system “capability” may appear to be a fairly empirical proposition driven by bits, bytes and metrics; in the case of a fully operational ERP system, workforce commitment and culture, rather than technology only, tends to win the day.

    Consequently, if an enterprise operates nominally, while only seeing little irregularities from time to time, it's usually okay to stick with an ERP upgrade, since as the old axiom states; “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.” However, if a system is balky to deal with on a recurrent basis, offering slow response, and even worse reporting accuracies, a more complex systems switch is typically required.

The aim here is to drive an early-stage step toward long-term stability, by initiating numerous change management discussions extending from the executive all the way down to the shop floor. Unless an entire enterprise signs on early enough to keep the upgrade or switch momentum moving forward through the long process, even the best product research, prudent vendor selection, and efficient systems upgrade will still not provide for a successful outcome.

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Rick Carlton

About the author…

Rick Carlton dba PRRACEwire, has worked as a tech journalist, writer, researcher, editor and publisher for many years. In addition to his editorial work, Rick has also served as a C-Level executive/consultant for a wide-range of private and public sector U.S. and International companies.

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Rick Carlton