Tuning Up Your ERP/Finance Infrastructure

To judge the ultimate immaturity of the “Cloud” ERP/Finance solution market, look no further than the broad success of vendors offering MDM (Master Data Management) solutions. Ironically, one of the perennial leaders in the space is one of the biggest purveyors of “you only need one” ERP/Finance solutions talking out the other side of their mouth—the 800-pound gorilla that is SAP—calling into constant question whether there can ever be a single, central solution to any company’s ERP/Finance needs. This actually makes perfect sense: Even within a unicorn single-instance ERP/Finance implementation, there will always be utility in matching incoming and outcoming transactions/messages to the proverbial “Golden Record”—to/from suppliers and customers who so often represent the true source of the information contained therein. (How many times has your bank/supplier/customer changed location addresses, contact names, phone numbers, etc., even before you reorganized cost centers, budget codes, or part/resource/asset numbers?)

Golden Children

The broader truth is that “ERP” has never been the monolith that its promoters have advertised it could be. SAP acquired SuccessFactors to coexist beside their original offering, both of which is still challenged for market share within SAP shops by point providers like Workday, UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group), and others. SalesForce continues to rise in front offices everywhere regardless of incumbent ERP provider. And Oracle dares you to figure out where Larry’s attention will wander next, between ongoing JD Edwards, PeopleSoft, Oracle EBS, Oracle Fusion, and Oracle Cloud application suites. (Oops, I forgot NetSuite—think there might be a TikTok GL for sale soon, too?) It’s no coincidence that the most successful “transformation” shops have all built a strong central MDM infrastructure at the heart of their architecture, whether home-grown, acquired, or otherwise. And once that beating heart is in place, the flexibility to choose the next “best tool for the job” becomes an intrinsic strength—especially when negotiating subscription renewals with your favorite ERP provider, all of whom pay attention to overall solution footprints when choosing their discount terms no matter what they pretend in public.

The Golden Ticket

Companies regularly wrestling with interface changes (completion estimate—2 weeks, right?) have constant opportunity to plug in data quality and consistency checks at the same time. And when the data moving through the system is pre-cleaned, there’s far less reconciliation scrubbing necessary at monthly close time, or, worse, during board meetings where folks campaign for whose version of “the truth” is closest to it. But MDM is so much more than just that. Auditors love knowing who proposed each governance-relevant change, each involved (segregated, right?) approver, and who actually pressed the button to move things into production and when. Risk managers (not to mention treasurers) appreciate information like that, too, whenever things involve bank accounts and payments/receipts. And IT engineers will feel like they’ve finally arrived in Oz to find a true hub-and-spoke interface architecture from which to splash water on any remaining wicked-witch, point-to-point connections.

The best part of golden standards is that there are so many to choose from

Those who know me know the joke here—a surfeit of standards means there’s no standard at all—and it’s definitely Caveat Emptor when it comes to MDM. The fact that so many vendors succeed in the space is testament to the scope of the need/value, not necessarily the quality of the choices. (My 20 year old Honda continues to run fault-free, and if you’ve ever tried to find replacement parts for a 20 year old Jag, you know the pain of taking brand chances). What you’re looking for is a proven architecture that both plugs-and-plays with all the established ERP/Finance worlds, but also delivers tools that make connecting your highest-value, specialized departmental solutions a snap as well. The goal is making the whole shop behave as if everything is part of one system—which it will be if you set your MDM solution up right.