ERP systems are the life blood of a company as they touch and affect the daily lives of so many of your employees and business processes. Why then do so many companies today make their ERP system software choice based on the type of database or the technology platform? Putting this criteria before their business requirements is, to me, like the tail wagging the dog.
Database preference is typically based on hype or misconception of how the ERP provider utilizes the tools of the database or unawareness of newer advancements to the capabilities of the underlying technologies. Oracle, for instance, has an outdated reputation for being hard to administer and requiring an expensive, full-time database administrator. That may have been true back in the late 1990s but not today. With newer releases, increased scalability, self-tuning capabilities and advanced features this fallacy is just not the case. IQMS, for instance, also embeds the Oracle database within our system. That means we take care of all the Oracle programming so our customers do not have administrators or DBAs.
Similarly, many companies will only look at ERP systems based on the AS-400 platform because that is what they have today. They do this because their ERP system searches are most often headed up by IT departments that may have a comfort level with this platform based existing or past experience. This is a good platform for some applications but it is not what the majority of the top ERP systems today operate on. Companies today should include systems that run on Microsoft or Linux platforms as you will have more choices and more focus on finding a system that meets your business needs. The cost and performance of these other systems and the servers they run on will be just as robust as the AS-400 but more importantly they typically cost much less, as most can run in a lights out environment.
When selecting an ERP system companies should do formative needs analysis and determine fit and functionality irrespective of database or platform utilized. I say this because, in reality, 99% of the actual system users will have no clue as to what database or platform the system runs on. What really is going to matter to the end users of the system is whether they can quickly, easily and accurately execute their transactions in the system. The most important factors for a manufacturing company should be critical needs such as whether inventories are accurate, whether shipments go out on time, are inventory turns where they should be, etc... And none of these is going to really have much to do with the underlying database technology.
Now I would agree that if all things are equal regarding the capabilities of the ERP system to meet the business needs of the organization then the make or break decision could be the database technology or the platform. However, this is a decision that should be made at the end of the process not at the beginning.
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