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ERP Systems Help Blur the Lines Between Business and IT Organizations

by Dave Hannon

January 25, 2011

Dave Hannon

The lines between the IT organization and the business functions are getting blurry at many companies. That’s a good thing and in many cases, you can thank the ERP system.

Many of the business process owners I interview these days sound as much like IT professionals as business leaders.

Pop quiz. What business unit and title would you say this statement came from: “We developed a number of automated reports that provide revenue by various slices. And we have very industry-specific reports, like adoption calendars, which are very time-consuming to create, so we already built the logic into the application to do that.”

Give up? It was tech-savvy VP of Finance Mary Jane Rivera at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (read their story here) talking about building logic into applications. Great example of a business function leader in touch with their inner techie.

And on the flip side, CIOs are talking a lot more about the benefits technology has on business processes and end-users. A recent Gartner report points out that CIOs are focusing on issues like attracting new customers and improving business processes as much as they are improving the technical infrastructure of the company.

At the risk of abusing the metaphor, I’d say ERP is the bridge over those long-troubling gaps in the enterprise. ERP is the blending of technology and business process . ERP systems are focusing more on content and less on code, aiming their solutions at business users more and more and requiring less IT expertise for use and maintenance.

And the trend is going to continue that direction, according to a recent Forrester Research report. The report points out that while in the past ERP systems were selected and managed by IT professionals, today “business process professionals now assume a more active role in selecting enterprise applications, including ERP. In addition, the line-of-business and staff functions are taking more ownership of business rules, process flows, analytic content, and business hierarchy configuration as the application middleware technology make these tasks more suitable for businesspeople.”

Despite all of these great strides and cross-functional line-blurring, somehow we still just don’t know who’s in charge of fixing the copier.

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