In the TV series ‘Counterpart’, actor JK Simmons plays an administrative UN employee who is shocked to discover that during the Cold War, a doorway to a parallel dimension was opened up. In this parallel dimension, each person – himself included – has a duplicate living out an alternate life based on circumstances set in motion back in the 1950’s.
While this entertaining sci-fi thriller invites viewers to challenge conventional notions of trust and identity, it also reveals something that many of us are living out on a daily basis: the implications of an ERP system that has an ‘evil counterpart’. The scary part is that this evil counterpart is… the true reality of your company’s purchases and suppliers.
ERP systems are a hub for transactions, but they are also supposed to serve as a central source of truth. If people and teams in your company are working around or outside of your ERP system, they are contributing to an alternate reality, one that eludes reporting and visibility. An ERP system only knows what it is told, and if secrets are kept – even unintentionally – it diminishes the effectiveness of all decisions based on supposedly centralized data.
Here are some of the pitfalls that may result if your ERP is operating in a parallel dimension:
Secrets and Lies
As we’ve already pointed out, an ERP system only knows what it is ‘told’. If the channel of information is not a seamless system integration, but instead relies upon data entry, the risk of data inaccuracy due to manual updates is unnecessarily high. These errors become part of the record where they lead to problems in the short term, such as insufficient or excessive inventory, and in the long term, such as an inability to get an accurate report of demand/consumption over time.
Agents Trapped in Cones of Silence
Commerce is a team effort, and the results of each decision or situational analysis can only be optimized if they are based on a complete understanding of the whole operation. When team members work independently in isolation by using spreadsheets to manage supplier information and orders, they cause a communication breakdown. Their actions are not stored for access by other members of the team. Opportunities to collaborate and refine decisions are lost because without a complete ERP system, the only version of the truth available across the company is a partial one.
Operating in a Complete Blackout
To this point, we’ve predominantly focused on the impact of alternate truth on the people working through the ERP system on a daily basis. And while these are valid concerns, every operation also needs oversight – one or more people whose job it is to recommend different priorities or a new direction. With activity going on outside the awareness of the ERP system, their visibility is reduced to near zero – or worse, only partially reduced without them knowing it. As a result, they may try to make bold or real-time decisions based on faulty intelligence, and end up doing the company and its customers more harm than good.
Before you think your ERP’s evil counterpart is a negative but static problem, consider this: when Counterpart’s alternate dimension was accessed seven decades ago, it was on one trajectory and ‘reality’ was on another. In those years, individuals and organizations made millions of decisions. While each choice may have been small, they are compounded over time and drive an ever widening gap between the two realities.
The same is true of ERP data. On the first day after an ERP implementation, the parallel dimensions may be very close. Over time, however, they will naturally move further and further apart, eventually resulting in an irreconcilable variation that only the magic of TV could bring back into alignment. The task for you – should you chose to accept it – is to fight to preserve one reality, one version of the truth, as preserved by your ERP system when all data and transactions are automatically processed through it.