Past, Present, Future concept. Driving on an empty road in the mountains to the Future passing Present and leaving behind the Past.

Welcome to Part 2 of this series, reflecting on the past, present, and future of technological development and innovations specifically around ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software solutions. If you missed Part 1, here’s a link to bring you up to date: ERP PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE (PART 1)

I am Brian Iinuma, one of the founding partners of Strategic Systems Group (SSG) in 1991 and the company’s current President in 2021. Marking our 30th anniversary seemed like the perfect time for reflection. So, I sat down with my colleague, David Cervelli, Managing Partner here at SSG, and we pondered the world as it was then and the world as it is now. And sort of like a time capsule buried in the foundation of a building, we decided to record our thoughts for posterity. Below is a transcript of Part 2 of our conversation.

ERP Past, Present, Future (Part 2): What it was, what it is, what it may be

Brian: One more thought that occurred to me is about business. Maybe back then, in 1991, at least the businesses that we encountered were relatively small. Only a few of our clients were in the range commonly referred to as “enterprise-level companies.” We did, however, find a niche among clients that were divisions of large corporations. They generally had pretty good processes, but their processes were not always streamlined. Do you recall that, David, from your early work in the industry?

David: The large corporations back then – and I think it is still true in many ways today, those large entities were often growing through acquisitions. They would go out and buy other companies and then fold them into a division. Once the sale was completed and they got the financials and chart of accounts set up, the parent frequently walked away and left them on their own.

So, while they might have enforced certain security protocols or financial rules, each division seemed to be doing their own thing in many ways. As time went on, and I watched some of the same companies as they matured, corporate started pushing down more procedures and policies to the division level. Although just as often, it was rather loosey-goosey. They were big companies that were still being run like small companies.

Brian: Yes, my experience was very similar. Today, and partly because of technology, it seems like our client companies have a better handle on the process. Baan has a 4GL toolkit, for example and the Infor LN application has DEM (Dynamic Enterprise Modeler). There are also tools from Microsoft, for example, Power Automate. Power Automate can control the flow of processes to some extent and integrate with other systems.

Some of that stuff is easier today. Someone remarked to me recently that, yes, all that stuff is now pretty easy with low-code or no-code. But, it does not necessarily mean that you should implement it on your own. Have you seen a case like that, David, where people hear about low-code / no-code options and think: “Oh, shoot. I can do this. Let me try that.” And remember how we’ve seen them get themselves into trouble?

David: Well, the first thing that jumps through my mind is how, back in the day when Visual Basic and Excel queries were first released, many non-technical people who really had no business writing code were writing code! You had finance accountants, and controllers, and manufacturing clerks who were writing code. And before you knew it, you had a whole subsystem that didn’t quite work right and was calculating incorrectly.

Every time there is a technology jump, I see that scenario, like when new tools are first released. That was the case when Crystal Reports came out ten years ago. Everybody was writing Crystal Reports. And some of them would just bring the whole system to a grinding halt. Or worse, the numbers were just plain wrong. You would walk into a meeting where everybody had printed out a sales report, and every report showed something different.

Today, I am starting to see that with Power BI. Don’t get me wrong; Power BI is a great tool. The problem is that people go and take a few video lessons, and presto, they are out there writing code. And, they’re getting in trouble. They are developing beautiful stuff, except that the numbers are all wrong.

Technology just does that. People misuse it or do not understand it, and they use it incorrectly. I think the tools are there, they are very powerful, and if you get trained, and you put it in an environment where it can be managed, it works great. Often, I think that the problem is the people selling the tools, or the people selling the software, pitch it as, “Oh, anybody can do this. See how simple it is. Let me show you how to create a couple of things.”

Customers get the idea that anybody can write it and it becomes the wild, wild west. So, while the tools are there, you need to build a set of rules that everyone adheres to. You cannot give everybody a car that could do 150 miles an hour without establishing a speed limit. You’ve got to have some guardrails. Typically, IT is controlling the best way to do it. But what happens, too often, is that IT becomes this ivory tower. They are enforcing rules, but it becomes a little too much, too heavy-handed. Maybe because they got burned one time too many, maybe it’s because they had to keep responding to people’s reports being wrong, or the numbers were being misquoted.

I can see both sides of that. I love the new tools. I also realize that the new tools can be quite dangerous.

Brian: Yes, it is a little unfortunate.

Let’s pause here, and in our next segment, we will talk more about how business strategies and how they have evolved over time.

Stay tuned for more…

This ends Part 2 of our conversation about ERP Past, Present, Future. Watch the SSG blog for the next installment, coming soon.

Meanwhile, here is how to contact David Cervelli and Brian Iinuma at Strategic Systems Group (SSG). Just call (310) 539-4645 or use our contact form.

Meet David and Brian

David Cervelli, Managing Partner at Strategic Systems Group, is primarily responsible for the delivery of services to SSG’s clients. David’s experience in Information Technology and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) spans more than 30 years. Primarily focused on Infor and Microsoft Dynamics applications, David had the opportunity to assist large and small companies in various roles to deliver solutions and enhance clients’ business processes successfully.

Brian Iinuma, President at Strategic Systems Group. Brian Iinuma has over 30 years IT experience in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), payment processing, and direct marketing. He is the President and co-founder of Strategic Systems Group, Inc. (SSG), a provider of IT services to manufacturing and wholesale distribution companies. SSG’s core competence is the implementation and support of ERP applications including Infor LN and Microsoft Dynamics.  Mr. Iinuma serves on the board of directors of the Southern California chapter of the International Association of Microsoft Channel Partners and co-hosts the True Stories in Tech podcast. Mr. Iinuma is the #1 bestselling author and holds B.S. and MBA degrees from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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ERP PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE (PART 1)