Very functionality-rich or regifting unwanted presents

Very functionality-rich or regifting unwanted presents
When focusing on unbelievably rich functional of ERP-systems, the sellers of the latter mostly take advantage of the clients' blind confidence. In fact it's useless for only a tiny part can be used in practice. Moreover it's harmful for it will prevent from implementing the functionality you really need.

As for the walls, they were hung with a medley of pictures. Among the latter was a long engraving of a battle scene, wherein soldiers in three-cornered hats were brandishing huge drums and slender lances. It lacked a glass, and was set in a frame ornamented with bronze fretwork and bronze corner rings.
Beside it hung a huge, grimy oil painting representative of some flowers and fruit, half a watermelon, a boar’s head, and the pendent form of a dead wild duck.
Attached to the ceiling there was a chandelier in a holland covering — the covering so dusty as closely to resemble a huge cocoon enclosing a caterpillar.
Lastly, in one corner of the room lay a pile of articles which had evidently been adjudged unworthy of a place on the table. Yet what the pile consisted of it would have been difficult to say, seeing that the dust on the same was so thick that any hand which touched it would have at once resembled a glove.
Prominently protruding from the pile was the shaft of a wooden spade and the antiquated sole of a shoe.

"Dead souls" by N.Gogol

We have already discussed the effect that the technology of inducement by glass beads has on naive indigenous people customers who let their legs be pulled.
This rather straightforward technology comes down to covering what in fact is a multi-million-dollar hole with shiny gift-wrapped features.

The features as glossy as they are useless in practical use.

However, our lasting experiences with a non-decreasing que of likely victims of marketing fiddling motivated us to create a more general case — a generalized critique (in the scientific sense) of such a popular among ERP systems sellers phenomenon as "functionality-rich".

What "really does make a difference"© with the "intellectual majority" is such marketing tool as "functionality-rich".

Actually it’s "Very Functionality-Rich", or VFR for short.

The logic of ERP-system sellers is as simple, as a sticky fly tape, and goes like this:

Look, our dear potential customers, see, how many nice little buttons, forms and checkboxes we’ve got. See, here we’ve got budgetary procedure, here — multimodal transportation, here — sales forecasting, here — automatic vehicle license plate recognition, and here, look — some more and more and more… And here in our PowerPoint presentation some 170 pages of all sorts of "functionalities". Now, that’s the way to go!

Usually, the customer representatives being wooed at such presentation​, come to a conclusion:

  • that the offered solution has everything and anything ever invented by human mind in business processes automation. Which, after all, is not far from the truth . We’ll just automate everything in one go.
  • that, surely, we don’t need the major part of the presented features yet. On the other hand, they are already there, and we don’t need to pay for them anything extra. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll need a "module" for automated reptile feeding at a crocodile farm!
  • that concerning the modules that we really need, everything works differently at our company now. But these guys sound so convincing about the "best practice" and all — maybe they really do know how it should be done? After all, "thousands of implementations across the globe", "market leader" and anyway, they won’t be charging millions of dollars for nothing​. The worst-case scenario is we’ll have to refine it along the way.

Alas and alack, the logic here is faulty.

Imagine that you are taking part in a multi-day cross-country walk. Your goal is to maximize your market share, i.e. to be closer to the top part of the finalists list at the finishing line.

Since it’s an endurance competition, you need to choose the contents of your backpack wisely.

So here you are at a sports store, and a sales person tells you: "Take this backpack, it’s a good one. A knife, a tent, anti-mosquito spray. And a grand piano and a truck bumper for free".

"Whaaaat? Why the hell would I need a piano and a bumper?"

"Well, who knows? You might! Play the Moonlight Sonata to a girl, or fix a truck for that matter… If you run into one along the way."

"What Moonlight Sonata?! I can’t even play the piano!"

"No big deal! You’re gonna be out there for a while, so you’ll have time to learn."

Or, let’s say, you have a construction business. You’re buying a new digger.

A sales agent working for a world market leader is offering you their top model. For many millions of dollars. The machinery is so cool that it doesn’t even look like a digger: there’s a bucket, of course, but all around it there’s also a spa tub, a saw mill, a half of an IMAX screen, a restaurant grill, a shredding machine, pieces of a gas piston electric power generator. That’s only what you can tell right away. A single engine powers his firework of device that interact with each other in a completely non-realizable way.

The sales agent, actually, is not trying to fake that realization. In his qualified opinion, you, having paid several millions for the bucket, will get all of this fabulous stuff for free. Which should make you happy.

In response to your obvious questions, such as "Why do I need a shredding machine combined with a water sprinkler, the sales person answers that it’s fine, if you don’t want to use it — just don’t, no one is making you. However, in case you need to destroy a piece of paper or water a bed of onion — all devices are there for you, and completely free of charge!

Whereas your complaints about excessive fuel consumption or an absolutely unpredictable scale of maintenance disasters proclaim you an ignoramus — the whole world is using it, and they’re OK with it. Thousands of successful implementations and "best-practices". If you don’t know the ropes, just don’t disgrace yourself. Here’s the contract and banking instructions for the remittance of the advance payment.

In fact, it’s all very simple.

An ERP-system is a classic example of complex connected systems.

If we omit the harsh math, then one of the main attributes of such systems is that when the complexity (=functionality) increases linearly, then the number of connections between the system elements and the diversity of their interactions increases exponentially. Consequentially, the reliability drops exponentially as well.

Consequentially, the reliability drops exponentially as well.

Any attempt to modify a highly complex connected system is incredibly labor-intensive (carrying a grand piano in the mountains). At a certain level of complexity, the system’s reaction to change becomes completely unpredictable — seemingly minimal alterations in one block of business processes cause a total collapse of other blocks, which on the first glance have no connection to the one changed whatsoever.

If you take a rock and put it on the ground — it’s going to be the most stable thing on earth. But if you put it on the side of a mountain that is made up of the same rocks, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with a disaster in the form of an avalanche.

This effect is the key to understanding why it’s practically impossible to modify ERP VFR-solutions — consequences are unpredictable.

Imagine that the VFR-solution you’re purchasing initially has the timing "functionality" implemented. However, soon after the purchase during implementation you realize that the brilliant feature (as the charming sales person told you) is in fact a 19th century cuckoo clock ("proven best practice"). Not bad either, but what you need is a chronometer watch! So… how do you make a chronometer watch out of a wag-on-the-wall-clock?

We’d better let it function as it does now, while coping with the personnel yelling about it being user unfriendly by telling them the "best practice" mantras. Don’t know the ropes, you clumsy fools?
 

Caveat emptor

Now, a customer, who is susceptible to marketing fiddling, is guaranteed by a VFR solution the following:

  1. A slow, very time consuming and expensive implementation.

or

   2. A very bad one. Implementation of "best practices" as is — it’s when you" have to work by business processes templates that served as a foundation for the software about 30 years ago and now can’t be modified with reasonable effort. You can choose what tempts you the most among items 1 and 2.

   3. A horrible quality of post-implementation service: as slow as if it’s a form of torture (and hence expensive) implementation of most primitive modifications.

   4. If you choose item 1, you get almost zero system reliability absolutely free. Inexplicable and unpredictable hang-ups, slowdowns, deadlocks, weird errors, wandering data consistency faults — all these delights await you and will grow in number in the course of time.

A tempting outlook, isn’t it?

If it’s not — well, forewarned is forearmed.

Now you know that an excessive emphasizing of the "Very Functionality-Rich" in the presale stage is a sign for you to prick up your ears.

March 13, 2015 by John Galt