Often when talking with people I just met I will focus on their occupation because I’m truly fascinated by the different occupational paths people take. And with any reciprocal conversation, after I ask somebody what they do, they often ask what I do. Usually people are satisfied by an answer like, “I work for a software company called QAD, headquartered in Santa Barbara.” But sometimes people will press me, “What kind of software?” or “Who are your customers?”
As I drill into details of how QAD makes Enterprise Resource Planning Software (ERP) for global manufacturing companies, people ask, “What is ERP?” So today I’m going to attempt to answer that question once and for all (looking at you, Mom), but I’m not going to answer it with business words and software jargon (Wikipedia can help you with that). Instead I’d like to use an analogy to illustrate that ERP is very relatable because it’s just like something that you should know a fair bit about since you have one: the human organ system.
It’s worth pausing for two caveats:
First, I will not be able to fully describe ERP and will miss many concepts that are deserving of their own blog posts at a later date — not to mention their own books. The purpose of this post is to answer the high level question, “What is ERP?” through an analogy.
Second, it’s not a perfect analogy, after all what analogy is? This is meant to bring life and a different perspective to two things that you are a part of every day — whether you are aware of it or not.
Still with me? Great!
An ERP System is Like an Organ System
If you think back to your anatomy class days or even a more recent trip to the doctor, you’ll recall just how critical your organ system is in your body. It performs many different functions, each with their own goal of maintaining homeostasis within your body. And when each body system is working effectively, at peak efficiency, the person is healthy. But perfection and a perfectly effective person is very difficult to achieve, especially for an extended period of time. We all know that we should eat better and exercise more — but we can’t all be Diana Nyad. Peak efficiency and effectiveness is a goal that there is always room to grow on (just like QAD’s vision for our customers: the Effective Enterprise).
Each system in the body is very different, just like ERP. For example, the respiratory system takes in oxygen that is delivered by the circulatory via blood to the muscular system that allows the person to move. Just like an ERP system that takes a customer order and delivers it to the demand planner and then to the shop floor for production.
Business & Body Critical
None of this would matter if systems didn’t work together: you wouldn’t be alive and your business wouldn’t be functioning. Both systems are critical, one to power you, and one to power your enterprise. And just like when your organ system is working and you are able to do amazing things, so too your ERP running effectively you can create amazing products.
Here are some parallels that I quickly came up with:
|Organ System||ERP System|
|Circulatory System||Hardware / Cloud|
|Exercise||Up to Date System|
|Effective Person||Effective Enterprise|
What other examples do you have for an ERP system and your organ system? Or do you have a different analogy you would use?