Monday, April 07, 2008

What is an ERP system? But most of all, what is a system?

This morning, somebody asked for the definition of a system on the whiteboard. I thought for myself: “No problem, let’s have a look at Wikipedia, it will do it!”

Here it is:

“A system is a set of interacting or interdependent entities, real or abstract, forming an integrated whole. The concept of an 'integrated whole' can also be stated in terms of a system embodying a set of relationships which are differentiated from relationships of the set to other elements, and from relationships between an element of the set and elements not a part of the relational regime.”

I spent a bit more than one hour an a half to figure out what they want to mean by “integrated whole”. Here is the result of my reflection:

An “integrated whole” is a set of relationships which is more than:

1. The relationships between this set of elements and other sets of elements

2. The relationships between an element of the set and other elements from other sets

… Like a cake is more than the result of the mix of flour, eggs, sugar and butter!

So, an ERP system is a set of interacting modules (such as finance, customer service, accounting, marketing, HR, manufacturing, etc.) which is more than strictly the combination of the relationships between these modules. But what is included inside this “more”?

In fact, an ERP is also characterised by the concept of a single database, the idea of “best practices”, the possibilities of real-time updates…

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