Best Practices

think outside the box

There has been a debate in the ERP software community for decades concerning so-called best practices. ERP sales and marketing reps will tell you that their ERP system incorporates industry best practices that you can bring into your organization to improve performance. Consultants and pundits will tell you that best practices, by the time they make it into software packages, are no longer at the cutting edge and, in fact, may only represent common practice at best, and outdated practice at worst.

The truth lies somewhere in between these two extremes and actually incorporates a bit of both opinions. Best practices, conceptually, represent processes and procedures that industry leaders have developed and used to gain competitive advantage. Eventually, competitors notice the difference and figure out what the industry leaders are doing that gives them the edge. In this copycat manner, best practices become common practices—especially by the time they become embedded into enterprise software.

There’s no question that good practices can and should be included in ERP software functionality. The question seems to be whether they get there soon enough to be of value. And the real answer is that they are of value—even if they are not the latest and greatest thing out there. Best practices are, by definition, new and better ways of doing things. Most companies lag behind industry leaders and can benefit from improvements developed and proven in practice by their most successful competitors. If those successful competitors have moved on to even better practices, so be it. That’s no reason to skip over proven, winning techniques on their continuous improvement journey.

Perhaps the most unfortunate truth of all is that most companies do not make full use of the software functionality they have in place. Many companies using ERP software are not leveraging all of the modules they have installed, and often take great pains to work around embedded best practices.

Before adopting a best practice, or conversely, choosing to work around it, perhaps the best question to ask is, “How do I want to operate?”

Many companies have come to be leaders in their respective markets because of their unique way of doing things. Sure, your practices could be rooted in very old or even obsolete conditions and priorities, and it may be time for a change. Or, your practices could be the very reason your customers chose you as their partner. ERP software should not only reflect best practices, but also provide the tools necessary to automate highly unique business processes. Instead of a workaround, how about a way to exploit the “way you’ve always done things”?