Information and ERP

I’ve been thinking a good bit lately about the information value of the reporting that comes from ERP systems. Most of the ERP systems in the market now focus on operating data. An example of reports available in most systems will clarify what I mean: accounts receivable aging (how much do people owe me? how long have they owed it?), inventory status report (how much of what do I have? where is it?), reorder status report (how much do I need to order?), etc.
Now suppose that I want to ask the question, “How healthy is this business?” “What kind of a year am I having?” “What will sales look like next month?”
Where would I go to get that data in the average ERP system?
Well, for some of the sales data, I could go to the pipeline reporting in a CRM system. Your ERP does have CRM, right? But if I really wanted a clear and accurate answer, I might have trouble getting it from the CRM pipeline report. There’s nothing in that report (unless I built it into the process) to guarantee that the data I get is accurate. Furthermore, it is estimated. The estimate is based on an assessment of customer psychology by sales people whose jobs depend on their continuing ability to close sales. We might suspect that it is just a bit ambitious.
And none of this gives me an answer to the question, “How healthy…”
But the question most of the managers I know want to ask doesn’t start with the six honest serving men (Kipling):
I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.
The question most managers I know want to ask starts with the word, “If…”
And where shall we find the answer to that question? In the next post? Doubt it. But maybe.