unERP: The Pinnacle of ERP Simplicity for System i
November 10, 2009 Ron Bunn
Simple I like because simple I understand. Does it have to be simple for me to understand? No, not necessarily. But simple definitely makes my life a whole lot easier. The simpler something is, the better I like it. Complexity makes me uneasy. In fact, more often than not, complexity tends to make my life a nightmare. But, like most people, I simply choose to ignore it in hopes that it just somehow goes away. But it doesn’t. It won’t. And, it never will. Not unless I do something about it.
Every day I find myself surrounded by dozens of complex issues that adversely contribute to my personal stress: traffic congestion, cell-phones ringing, an endless barrage of options blasted at me by every possible media source, TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, even pop-ups on my PC. Then there are the toys for big boys and all those things in both the house and garage that come with extended warranties. An absolute avalanche of unrelenting complexity! And that’s just my personal life! What about work?
Well, surprise! That’s where I go for relief. Life is simple there, a lot simpler. Surprisingly, life at work is an entirely different story than it is for most folks I know. Different in that we have chosen to do everything possible to help create a stress-free environment to live in. An environment we are willing to share.
And you say, “How could that be possible? What are you talking about? Business is complex. Isn’t business a never ending series of complex problems?”
To which I have to respond: “Sorry, but the answer really is simple. The solution is simple, simple because my business runs on a fully integrated database, a simple but powerful unERP system, on IBM System i.”
The truth is, on the surface, running a business really is a very simple process. In commerce, we buy something. We do something with whatever it is we buy. Then we sell it. As long as we bought it at the right price and sold it at the right price, we made a profit. Nothing could be simpler.
The alleged problem arises from the sheer volume of transactions. However, it is not really the volumes that present the problem; volumes are just the perceived problem. Selling 100 of something is really no different than selling one. The basic mathematics is exactly the same. The process may differ slightly from business to business, but the results are exactly the same. We just have to accumulate more numbers.
Where the real problem arises is from the choices we make in our selection of information tools. Business has a tendency to become awesomely complex, not because of our choice of products or services, or the volume of entries, but rather because of how data is handled.
When significantly large numbers of transactions are drawn in, especially when labor content is included in the mix, businesses tend to purchase and employ ERP systems made up of several modules to record the activities. But, unfortunately, ERP systems quickly become very complex creatures, and when complexity becomes the overpowering problem, the logical response is to throw more complexity into the mix. The application integrators dream!
So, while it is perceived that things are going to get better, in reality, what is really happening is that, module by module, integration tends to become very complex, and the act of simply controlling and policing the movement of data becomes the primary issue, not getting the job done. In many companies today, the central management issue is not core competencies, but whether computer systems are functioning properly or sometimes even functioning at all.
In many existing ERP systems, modular integration has become an endless treadmill fueled by a dire thirst for accurate information. Ironically, in spite of all the money spent, in spite of all the effort taken, information is becoming less and less accurate. Simultaneously, the need for accurate information becomes ever more acute and the unquenchable thirst continues.
But, ask yourself this: What if it was possible to have a system whereby simplicity fueled simplicity, information became highly accurate, and emphasis was actually on getting the job done, not on the information technology being employed to do it? What would happen then?
Thankfully, personal experience is a great teacher. Personal experience tells us that enterprise software would be radically simplified, was based on a single streamlined database. We call this an unERP.
In an unERP application, the information you need to make your decision becomes available at the time required, not hours or days later. Data entry errors are reduced to near zero. When they do occur, errors are quickly corrected with very simple, easy to use tools.
There are virtually no limitations in what one can obtain in terms of practical information analysis. Requirements for data de-duplication are non-existent because there is no duplication of data. All those duplicate Information silos disappear. All management works from the same database, and all are presumably on the same page. Diversification is easy, even encouraged when change presents new opportunities. Data report programs become multifunctional. Some data up-date programs become multifunctional. Dozens more are no longer required.
Workflow process becomes natural, not something to be engineered in at a later date. Data entry screens become “single-point entry,” not multiple pages per thought. User training is much easier and cross training virtually spontaneous. Returning to prior fiscal years to make adjustments is a snap. The stress normally associated with month ends and year ends almost totally disappears. Data that was created many years ago is just as quickly accessed as data created to-day. Data entry verifications are easily developed and consistently employed. Data relativity is easily tracked, vertically and horizontally–automatically without human intervention. Data mining routines are easily developed. Easy to maintain business rules define each company’s uniqueness. It is simplicity that makes all these things possible in the unERP.
Ironically, the simplicity of the unERP not only makes the lives of those who use it much simpler, but it is also its simplicity that inspires new ideas for future, rapid, highly effective software development. Our experience has been that when existing users have ideas, it is easy to accommodate their ideas without destroying the validity and structure of existing database data, database management or reporting tools. In many cases, program development may not even be required. If it is, it tends to be very minimal as compared to traditional ERP systems.
In traditional ERP systems, the nature of a module structure and the basic or intended purpose of the module have the tendency to limit the flexibility of these types of application enhancements. Conversely, in the unERP, there are few if any such restrictions. In the unERP, every transaction is considered unique unto itself, defined only by record characteristics and current status. Our experience has shown that, when data is consistently captured at its lowest possible level of simplicity, virtually nothing is impossible.
So, for those who choose to install the unERP, is stress going to completely disappear? Not likely. But there is a good possibility that the source of the stress will shift from system-related shortfalls to that of overall corporate productivity and profitability, where it should have been in the first place. Life, and particularly life at work, should become a lot more healthy and fun.
Ron Bunn is a principal at 3B Dataservices, an unERP software developer based in Saint John, New Brunswick. Bunn’s formal education is in cost accounting, and he got into software design and development in the late 1970s when there was little software available for IBM small and midrange products. He has had a hand in design, programming, training users, and providing support for just about everything IBM has brought to market, from the IBM system/34 and the IBM 5110, to the current Power 6 server. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.