Medival vs modern: why old tools don't have a place in the new world

January 21, 2021
Jon Ruby

Yesterday I was asked my opinion on what would be the best ERP system for a specific medium-sized company. I'm clearly biased, but for a variety of reasons, they thought I could credibly give them some insight. I was nearly struck speechless when I was told that they had received the advice of a consultant who recommended they buy and implement an on-premise, outdated version of SAP Business One.

My first reaction was to tell this executive to imagine he was going to see a doctor. In order to be thorough, he asked another doctor to get a second opinion. Obviously, two consulting physicians could have different ideas about diagnosis and therapy. They could both be right and their opinions could both be valid, even if they differ. But if one of the physicians recommends antibiotics and the other recommends leeches and bleeding, you should probably discount the medieval medical man.

Melodrama aside, recommending an SAP Business One for a distributed company with less than 50 users in today’s day and age is bold in its backward thinking. Let’s look at some of the problems.

Not Cloud

  • It’s hosted on-site when most of the staff are remote, not to mention all the IT that goes along with it
  • No native Cloud API which would allow other systems to easily connect to it through the Internet
  • Not as well protected from ransomware, hacking, viruses
  • Updates are a pain and cause downtime
  • There is a hardware cost for servers, in time and money, in addition to having to make sure client devices are compatible

Cost: in time, effort, and money

  • Implementation including installation, conversion, customization, and training is an effort measured in years not weeks
  • The initial license cost and ongoing maintenance is an order of magnitude higher than more modern products with the same and greater functionality. Even Microsoft’s offering in the space costs a fraction for comparable features.
  • If the setup cost is a percentage difference on the company’s net income instead of measured in low basis points, that’s a real problem.

Fear of the future

  • Most relevant is that SAP has already announced the end of life of this version of Business One by publicly stating that they are forcing their customers to move to s/4Hanna within a handful of years. Recommending that a company implement SAP Business One today is near professional malpractice in my opinion.
  • Integrations between different platforms, channels, and services are essential to companies trying to sell products in the future. SAP’s answer to connecting Business One to Shopify, for example, is to look for a third-party product on-site, local Oracle database with no cloud API that is planned to take more than a year to implement.
  • The structure of SAP Business One is such that moving off to anything, including other SAP products is a huge undertaking. Implementing it today is like willingly sticking your foot in a bear trap.

These are just the problems that occurred to me in a matter of minutes. I’m sure there are more. I had to wonder why anyone would make this kind of recommendation. I try to believe that people, at heart, are less malicious than it would sometimes seem from the outside. In that vein, I figure that this is somewhat akin to the expression “to a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” The consultant is an SAP consultant and so they recommended the tool they were aware of and comfortable with; no malice involved.

I do think though that anyone out there making a recommendation on a system has a responsibility to educate themselves. The market has changed way too much in the past five years to be offering old tools in a new world.

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