It’s the Platform, Stupid

In 1992, a sign prominently posted in Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign headquarters read:

“It’s the economy, stupid.”

At the time, the voters were making all sorts of noise about other issues, and while the state of the economy was in there, looked at just from a decibel standpoint, it was simply one issue out of many.  But Clinton knew that that was the one issue that really mattered most, that really hit home, even if it wasn’t getting the most press.  He focused on it, and the rest, as they say, is history.

In the jungle of ERP choices out there today, there is one issue that is actually more critical than the standard features vs. function evaluation debate that gets the most attention: the platform.

diving platform 300x225The platform is actually what makes the application built upon it scalable or not, flexible or not, extensible or not.  The platform is what determines how quickly you can meet your business requirements and not have your growth stunted by a plodding ERP system.  In fact, as a general rule, when you first engage a traditional ERP system, you’re not actually getting the features and functions you need to grow until a year or more after you need them.  These systems simply aren’t capable of providing what you need NOW in any timely fashion or ongoing fashion.  You’re always behind the curve, unable to grow as far or as fast as you want and need because it takes so long for the makers of these software systems to build in improvements and fixes and respond to YOUR needs.  And that’s because they’re developed on old, complicated, almost Rube Goldbergian platforms.

In a just-released Mint Jutras 2015 Enterprise Solution Study, 400 companies surveyed indicated what mattered most to them in an enterprise solution:

  • Support for mobile development and mobile devices
  • Integration of social capabilities
  • Ease of configuration
  • Extensive ecosystem of developers and add-on products

These aren’t necessarily a function of the ERP software per se; rather, they’re a function of the underlying technology on which the ERP system is built.  What the companies are describing they want essentially is a technology that can always work with the latest applications, that can interact with people in the ways they themselves want, and that can keep up with change no matter the pace.

Each of the above items illustrates the point.

Mobile support – Whether it’s to approve an invoice, generate a report, or add a user, people want to to work when AND where they want.  A traditional ERP system would need to have this capability specially built; the right platform supports and connects with your desired mobile OS and policies.

Social capabilities – For example, to capture a conversation and attach it to an object, such as an invoice.  The platform should connect easily to a chat or social media technology.

Configuration — A good platform separates source code from the user interface layer, so business experts or IT staff can easily tailor what the users see and how they see it, without ever touching the underlying code.

Extensive ecosystem – A robust marketplace of third-party apps helps ensure you can take advantage of the latest, most innovative features on your platform.

Concludes the Mint Jutras report, “The right development platform can have a tremendous impact on how quickly software can be developed, enhanced, and extended.”

So if you’re going to dive into the deep end of the ERP pool – wouldn’t you want to stand on a great platform?

For more on this topic, see this column in Computer Technology Review.


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