Simple vs Easy

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anand jeyahar

Jun 28, 2012, 12:13:42 PM6/28/12
Hi all,
       I recently came across this short note on simple vs easy.  It triggered off a couple of thoughts on the nature problems faced on a ERP product development and the reasons for the nature of ERP market as it is right now.  As i am currently an outsider to the ERP field altogether, feel free to point out flaws in my hand-wavy theory. 
         1.Complexity of features: 
                        There are a wide variety of features usually associated with a ERP product. There is also a need/requirement for inter-operability between these features. 
Simplifying a product means, pruning a lot of these features and sometimes pruning the level of depth of inter-operability between them. 
         2. Migration to a new ERP: 
                       This is one area where that post strikes at a core problem. Namely, the user is very familiar to the old ERP and has trouble learning or trying out a new product. Not to mention the Data schema migration involved. Which is classically a big PITA problem.  Infact, this is one of the areas, where there arises a communication gap between user's needs and the developer. The user says he wants <invoicing/accounting/etc..> process to be simpler. When for the most part, he means he wants it to be easier/more familiar to something else he has used. But simpler from the developer's view point translates to less fields to manually fill(aka default values). Less fields altogether and a sleek clean looking form.

         3. Getting on the TreadMill
                       Adopting a ERP software is to adopt a set of standards and operating procedures to the way your business is run. Typically, this is run so as to help the business scale/grow across people,places,offices,cultures etc.  As Rushabh points out in his blog, it is a boring, regular commitment to an exercise regimen. I would like to use this rivers of money metaphor from Venkatesh Rao here . So a business is like a river/stream of money. It starts out as a wild, turbulent flow of water rushing down from the mountains looking for a place with lower altitude and taking the shortest cuts and routes whenever possible, combining with other streams nearby, gathering force and momentum, till it grows into  a big river and flows into the plains at a steady and relatively laminar flow, irrigating the lands it passes through, till it nears the sea, where it again splits into multiple branches and merges into the sea. 

Most startups are at that wild, mountain stream stage. A ERP s/w becomes the most important at the plain stages, where the flow is reasonably laminar/predictable enough to feed vast agricultural lands, irrigate them and encourage more economic activity around them. At the wild stream stage, the requirements are slightly different. There the function of ERP s/w is more akin to Dams to generate hydel power and regulate the flow of water to the agricultural area. 
 My hypothesis: 

          erpnext simplifies most of the features and follows "explicit is better than implicit" model.  Most users of existing ERP s/w are not aware of the depth and complexity of these inter-operability and when migrating to erpnext they are surprised by the simplicity.  But very soon, are disappointed by the lack of the familiar and implicit inter-operabilities/assumptions they had gained from previous ERP software.
Therefore i suspect majority of erpnext users are businesses that are  in a phase of transitioning from a wild mountain stream into the steady,laminar flowing river of the plain agricultural lands. 
What do you think? 

Do let me know, where my analogy/metaphor breaks down. Also please point out the details i have missed, that invalidate this theory.

Thanks and Regards,
Anand Jeyahar


Rushabh Mehta

Jun 29, 2012, 12:36:58 AM6/29/12
Hi Anand,

Thanks for kick starting a thoughtful conversation :)

To stretch your river analogy, it takes a few monsoons for the flow to settle down.

Another aspect you can add is the "investment" it takes to switch to a different kind of system. Not only the financial, but also the non financial - the amount of "thought" that has to be spent, the amount of motivation that needs to be stoked etc. Putting all this together you come across a number of multi-dimensional barriers...

I am also not very clear what small business owners or manager want. Do they want a "simple" and "familiar" system or do they want a "comprehensive" system. I think they are not clear either. If users are moving from an accounting only background, they may find the system daunting. If they are from an enterprise background - anything new and untested seems like a bad idea. So the ideal users are those who have "identified" they need a system and are willing to "experiment". Most small business probably never reach this stage - they use whatever their peers are using. So its waiting game as far as widespread adoption is concerned.

Along with "familiar" ground, I think they are also looking for a "safe" ground.


p.s. allow me to repost this on the blog!

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