Definition of Perception: ‘a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something which can be real or imagined’
What is marketing in the ERP industry?
Promotion and Exposure
The more exposure, the more often the product will be considered
The more often the product is considered, the more often it will sell
Product GUI (look & feel) & Sales Demos
While evaluating ERP’s, many tend to place more emphasis on the sales demo, than any other step during a selection
Comparing the subtle differences in functionality between ERP’s is difficult, if not impossible
Therefore, the tendency is for ERP companies to emphasize more R&D towards the look & feel (and/or technology)
ERP functionality is so deep and complex, it is much easier to conclude ‘bite-sized’ concepts:
Which looks the prettiest
Which claims the latest technology
There are two directions ERP vendors invest in R&D.
Product functional development and product stability
Sales, Marketing & Technology (technology improvements are easier to notice than functionality improvements, therefore better for sales demos).
Traditional Marketing can include impressive websites, brochures, and many other creative methods such as SEO’s that capture key search words. There are many website titles crafted to attract the inquisitive, like ‘Top 10 ERP’s’, only to have your identity sold to countless ERP vendors. Kind of like the flight magazines in the pouch in front of you during a flight, with lists claiming, ‘Top 10 Steakhouses in America’. Are they really the top 10, or did they just pay for good marketing?
Excellent marketing can create or distort perception (real or imagined).
Another example of ERP marketing is claiming that “SQL is included in the price”. We immediately assume that means Microsoft SQL Server is included. However, the industry standard owned by Microsoft is not free and there are other databases which use the acronym ‘SQL’ in the name (trying to benefit from Microsoft’s coat tails) that are. Unless you demand the ERP vendor to be specific, you will not know if they are including MS SQL Server, are MS SQL Server compliant but rely on another database to port data from, or even worse, use some other less known database with only the SQL acronym in it name. Because most IT professionals are Microsoft-centric and have less experience with other technologies, the less common databases can cost more to support. If you implement a non-industry standard database, you could be unknowingly increasing your IT costs forever.
Many ERP’s originated in the 1980’s, and when they eventually converted to SQL Server they not only invested a great amount in R&D, many also invested in marketing/promoting their technology leap forward. Yet SQL Server was first introduced in 1989 and it gained notoriety as the industry standard database as it is known today in the late 1990’s. Boasting a leap to MS SQL Server in the 21st century just doesn’t seem apropos, does it? I am curious on the technology messaging these ERP’s were marketing prior to gaining circa 1999 standards?
Do you remember the 3GL development language called Cobol (originally released 1954)? If the ERP you purchase includes database files titled C-ISAM, guess which development language that implies?
How can these ERP vendors sincerely market 100% Microsoft, when they include remnants of antiquated technologies?
Marketing can even be in the form of introducing you to carefully selected (and sometimes biased) Customers or Industry Consultants who may not be entirely forthright with their experiences when communicating with you.
Then there are the ERP’s that originated in Germany or France that claim have been converted 100% into English. Then you find out after you buy that the data files and tables are not in English. I hope your report writer is multi-lingual.
Perception can be real or imagined.
If you want to avoid wading through the marketing, speak with objective opinions that you can trust. How can you be introduced to unbiased opinions? Demand to speak to companies that have been using these ERP’s for years. And not just the customers the vendors provide, speak to companies in a similar geography (using same local support), similar size and similar industries (or using the same critical and unique functionality as you expect). And remember, visiting these companies at their facilities is even better.
Only then will the truth become obvious.
The author of this blog, Andy Pratico, offers “How to Select ERP” webinars to help you uncover the truth about ERP systems, so you can make your own, informed decision during the ERP selection process!