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But should we expect this kind of activity to settle down over time?

This is something we were able to look at as one of the questions we asked in the poll was how long the ERP system concerned had been in place. Almost exactly a third of respondents had implementations that were less than three years old, the point after which we might consider a system to be relatively bedded in and mature. This gave us the opportunity to compare activity between relatively new and more established environments, and while some differences can be seen, it’s pretty clear that change is ongoing throughout the lifetime of ERP (Figure 2).

Figure 2

Some of the most prominent differences, as we can see, are towards the bottom of the chart and the activities here are more concerned with underlying platform related activity. Mature systems seem to involve more work here, but this may be as a result of older hardware, platform software and management frameworks needing more effort to keep running. Newer implementations are more likely to be based on modern architectures that are inherently easier to manage with the latest generation of admin tools.

By the same token, the additional effort required to maintain interfaces that is apparent in older setups is in part down to a lot of the original integration work having being done before the latest developments in open standards and APIs had been embraced by ERP vendors, making things inherently more difficult to change and maintain.

Coming back to business functionality, however, we can see from the activities towards the top of Figure 2 that ERP systems are essentially living entities that are constantly evolving. This is something acknowledged by readers through comments such as:

ERP projects should never end, that's the whole point of ERP ultimately - a continuous search for perfect automation and you could - and to my mind should - argue that if it ever ends you're not doing it right.

The markets & business change continuously, ERP has to keep up.

With this in mind, it is interesting to look at the parts of the system that are typically the most dynamic from a business functionality perspective (Figure 3).

Figure 3

The overall size of each bar indicates the number of installations that have the functionality listed in place, but whether you look at this, or the composition of the bars which reflects the degree of ongoing change, the obvious area that stands out is reporting, analytics and business intelligence. This is consistent with feedback from the end of last year on unlocking additional value from ERP and CRM (see here. Businesses are increasingly wising up to the fact that the information gathered in these systems is an incredibly valuable asset.

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