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 3 in 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 and/or Part 2, here are the links to bring you up to date:

ERP PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE (PART 1)
ERP PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE (PART 2)

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, the world as it is now, and the world as it might look like tomorrow. 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 3 of our conversation.

ERP Past, Present, Future (Part 3): What it was, what it is, what it may be

Brian: I’ve been thinking about the evolution of “business strategy” over the last 30 years. Maybe back then, we did not pay a lot of attention to business strategy, nor did our clients discuss the concept of business strategy. My observation is that back then, maybe business strategy was not as crucial to many organizations. Some of the companies that we had worked with as employees, and maybe also in our early consulting days, simply didn’t focus on business strategy.

Maybe, too, technology was not a key component of business strategy. It was more about production and sales, and marketing. At least, that is my observation. Today, however, is different. Some companies have very essential strategic requirements that are satisfied by technology that will give them the advantage they want or help them maintain their advantage.

Do you recall seeing that shift as well, David?

David: Well, if you think about what it was like years ago, very few companies had a CIO. The role of CIO was reserved for the Fortune 500, or Fortune 1000 maybe. That role of somebody looking at a vision of how technology can be used throughout the organization and maximize the organization did not exist. IT kept the printers going and the applications running. Then desktops came around, and IT was in charge of keeping the desktops running and backing them up. There was no real vision.

I remember we were at one company where we rolled out a CAD system because the Design Department wanted to do CAD work. They spent a fortune on those systems. This was ’91, ’92, maybe ’90. They spent thousands of dollars on this equipment, and it never quite worked right. They knew they needed something, but they did not really understand CAD. And to be honest, neither did we.

There was no vision. There was no plan. There was no clear idea of what we were trying to accomplish. It was just: “Oh, we need this.” That casual, spur-of-the-moment approach was very common back then. “Look, here is a new shiny new piece of software. I read it is pretty good. I play golf with somebody, or the CIO played golf with somebody, or the CEO had heard about it at a tennis club. So now we are going to try this.” Nobody was really looking at how it worked and how they were going to use it.

Today, when we discuss a new ERP application or even just a minor system enhancement with our clients, we are always thinking about what their vision is for the future and how this ERP or this enhancement will support that vision. There is always a 5-year plan that says: Over the next five years, we are going to have these pieces in place, we are going to go after these new business sectors using this new technology. Or we are going to expand into these new geographies. Everything that you are putting in place today is the basis for supporting that plan.

And it’s true, even the day-to-day stuff. Today I was talking to a company that currently accepts orders on the web. They have orders coming through EDI. And they still have orders coming in by fax. They have all these orders coming from all these directions. Now, they want to go out to Amazon, too. So we, Strategic Systems Group, we have to help them start looking at everything holistically. We have to think about how all of this will be supported.

Because none of this is going away, this is where we are going. This is where they need to go. And yet, they still have to key and order it. Somebody still has to manually key and order it because somebody is going to mail and order it or drop it off at the office. It is just getting a lot more complex.

Brian: That is wild, David. One of the other things I thought about that was different from now is the platform. Back then, when we first began in 1991, we were very focused on specific platforms. So, for example, MANMAN in our case. Very early on, it ran on HP 3000 equipment which you do not see today at all. Although we do still have some clients on MANMAN, do we not? It is a little bit surprising.

Today, we have some opportunities that we did not have before. Sometimes we refer to this as being “platform agnostic.” The software does not necessarily have to be on a particular platform, such as the Infor platform or the Microsoft Dynamics platform. We do some things that are platform agnostic. At one point in time, we had to do a 5-year IT strategic plan occasionally. How was that compared to working on something that was specific to a platform?

David: Well, years ago, yes, basically the ERP systems that we put in were the main source for all data. Everything came in and out of it. It was the main hub. Then, in the mid to late ’90s, things started to get decentralized, basically sharing amongst themselves without a central hub. All the applications started working together, so it decoupled everything. Today, we are sometimes working on one application only to find out that there are five other ERP applications in the environment. So, we are not really talking about just Microsoft Dynamics AX, for example. We are talking about order processing and how the order process works through the system. It is definitely much more agnostic.

And technology- ERP, yes, there are specifics within each application, but to a large extent, ERP is ERP. So, if an ERP application is coming into the building, it is not just coming into the order entry area. It is going to manufacturing, and then it is going to shipping, and then invoicing, and finally out the door. It is a lot more interesting because you are not limited to: “Okay, this ERP system we are talking about only does this.” We do not have that problem anymore. Years ago, we would say, “Well, we cannot do that unless we write this major customization.”

It frees us of that; it really does.

Brian: Let’s pause here, and in our next segment, we will talk about the evolution of project management and software selection: 1991 to 2021.

Stay tuned for more…

This ends Part 3 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)