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Salvaging Investments in the Wake of ERP's Demise

Ben Farrell
March 15, 2012

Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for...ERP. These monolithic, cumbersome and inflexible systems are not up to the challenges and requirements of the Mobile, Cloud and Social Age. If you have experience dealing with an ERP system - simply using one or, heaven help you, trying to extend one to fit the changing needs of your business and your customers - you already understand the problems. If you don't, Forrester Research and Forbes Magazine have two quick primers for you.

The question is this: What does the demise of ERP mean for companies that have sunk massive investments into these antiquated beasts? Must they either forsake those investments and even throw good money after bad through massive rip-and-replace efforts, or just continue to suffer and struggle? Thankfully, modern BPM software offers a third way.

The problems with ERP are numerous. To quote the Forbes article, ERP was "designed specifically for the 20th century manufacturing era rather than the 21st century services-based world." It takes years to implement. It is so rigid that companies often opt to conform their processes to the limitations of the system rather than fight through burdensome customizations. Those customizations are rarely supported by the vendor, making upgrades a nightmare.

But worst of all, in our world of mobile and social immediacy, ERP systems commit the cardinal sin of inhibiting real-time access to crucial data about the health of a business. Again from Forbes, "Try asking SAP or Oracle how many active customers you have at any one time. The concept simply doesn't exist...Ask your ERP how much up-sell business you've done, or how many customers have renewed in the past year ñ and you'll get a blank stare."

Due to all of the above, ERP systems do not match the fluidity of how work actually gets done today. That's why spreadsheets, manual work-arounds, and an accumulation of other specialized packaged applications abound. ERP can't cover end-to-end processes in the real world.

Enter modern BPM software. Appian has many clients using our platform to fill the "white space" between ERP and other packaged applications. Adding a process layer that can present data from underling systems, and enable action on that data across structured and unstructured business processes gives our customers the flexibility and visibility they need - while preserving value from their existing ERP investments.

For example, Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) was formed through the merger of two major companies, and the resulting tools landscape was a mish-mash of ERP, packaged apps and spreadsheets. NSN uses the Appian BPM Suite to manage virtually every aspect of their Sales, Delivery and Resources, and what they call their "BPM Universe" turbo-charges that underlying landscape to deliver the dynamic responsiveness the business requires. NSN has won several awards for its BPM program, which has been benchmarked to deliver more than $16M in annual ROI.

For NSN and others, Appian BPM provides both a platform for a multitude of core process applications, and a single environment for surfacing enterprise systems data, delivering it in real-time to the decision-makers who need it, and enabling both collaboration and business action - all through an intuitive Social BPM interface delivered on the desktop and through native Mobile BPM apps on all popular devices.

If you've had it with trying to make ERP fit modern business, don't rip it out. But don't give in, either. Remember the third way, and contact Appian so we can help you.

Ben Farrell

Vice President of Product Marketing

Ben Farrell