To ERP or not to ERP? - Ratan Sharda

I realised in last few days that the question 'To ERP or not to ERP' was more serious dilemma than 'To be or Not to be' dilemma of Hamlet.

I had just crossed landmark 5 Cr turn over, that was big for a first generation entrepreneur. I also realized that I couldn't keep track of enquiries that had begun pouring in much faster now. How could I keep calling my suppliers for materials that seemed to be always at loading stage? I needed correct information so I could satisfy my new clients. All this was affecting peace of mind and sleep. I talked to friend and he suggested me a panacea for all ills. He asked me to go for an ERP. What was that please? Enterprise Resource Planning he explained to me patiently and gave me a short lecture how it would change my life.

I was mighty impressed with this 'sanjeevani booti' - a 'magical solution' that would see my business boom, help me enjoy my social life again! When I asked him from where to get this magic potion he advised me to 'shop around' for it to get 'Best of the Class'. "You know enough about Internet with all your socialising and knowledge gathering. Simply go to the Net and search." Hmm.. this seemed an interesting idea. Why not? It's my money, it's my business. Let me get 'bang for my bucks'.

Thus, began my journey for the search for 'The Ideal Solution'. Well, I am still treading new paths after 6 months for that best possible magical solution. Why? You may ask innocently.

Let me explain. I went on net and found more choices than you find in your next door Shopping Mall. Naturally, I felt like a King and decided to put all these guys to work to get educated and take an 'informed' decision. Thus, began the almost daily 'presentations' by all leading and not so leading ERP vendors. People tried getting a feel about my budget for this ERP project but being a businessman and having been on the other side of the table, I was clever. My typical answer was, "Budget is no constraint, your ERP should suit my requirements." Poor suckers, they fell for this line or showed that they had fallen for it and went ahead educating me.

Believe me, it was a huge learning. Now I know more about ERP than my own business!

Only downside is this exhausting exercise is that after seeing atleast 20 presentation, I am now more confused about the choice. I forget which ERP showed me what feature and what exactly it meant for me. I cannot make out whether a given feature is an enticing feature that I may never use, or is it really useful for me. I am not yet sure, if the vendor would actually be able to deliver my 'minor' and 'must have' requirements or I would prove to be a sucker at the end. So many friends have told me 'horror' stories that I draw back just when I am about to finalize my shortlisted ERP.

I am not still sure whether I should go for a 'Brand' or should I go for a well functioning 'Indian' ERP that seems to be more rooted to the ground or my friendly next-door vendor who has promised me almost anything under the Sun as per my requirement. I find people from any of the so called big 'Brand' so overbearing and so bent upon only selling brand than answering my questions. How can you question them? They have global brands, do as they tell seems to be the underlying message. On the other hand they may be right. What if that nice Indian vendor simply folded up? Oh God, what a confusion! In this confusion, whether to look at the vendor or the software? Match my requirements with the proposed ERP or match a 'brand' vs my 'self image'?

I have made reams of charts comparing this with that, feature by feature. But, doubts don't go. I may have asked more questions than the 'shishyas' of earlier era may have asked their 'Gurus' that resulted in profound Upanishads.

"At the end of the day"...Oh No! I have ended up using their clichés too! I mean, why every argument must end with 'end of the day'? Well, from doubting technology, I now doubt language too!

Let me sleep over it. Let me call over my friend and ask him a simple question? How to choose? Or is it really worth going through all this painful dilemma of "To ERP or not to ERP?" After all, people became billionaires without ERP in earlier ages too, isn't it? But, if thousands are going in for 'integrated business processes' they can't all be stupid. I see them boasting about their efficiencies and faster order turnarounds. Finally, it is words of 'believers' vs 'non-believers'.

Ok, ok. I promise, tomorrow morning I will take a call. I think, I will go for an ERP. But, I must stop trying to get more free gyan. Let me talk to that simple rooted to ground Indian vendor and have heart to heart talk. I promise you next time I will share my story about implementation of ERP in my organization.

Ratan Sharda -
Political Analyst, Writer, Editor, Social activist, also software consultant can be reached at @RatanSharda55