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“Crisis or Business As Usual? Conway’s Law for Today” by Tim Faith

by Debbie Wilson  |  April 6, 2020  |  Comments Off on “Crisis or Business As Usual? Conway’s Law for Today” by Tim Faith

Conway’s Law (not actually a “law” law, but one of “those” geeky laws) posits that “organizations that design systems are constrained to produce designs which are a copy of the communications structure of these organizations.” If ERP is the backbone or foundation of the Digital Business (and we think it is), then times like these the ERP will reflect how well the organization is architected to succeed or fail.


I took some time this weekend as I was composing this post to think. Bear with me, it’s a rare occurrence! However, it struck me that I’ve been through at least 5 “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences. Natural disasters, man-made disasters, local and global pandemics….. Some of you readers can easily say “I can think of double that number of ‘once-in-lifetimes’”. If you reflect back I’m sure that you can think of several life changing experiences, the kind where you say “we as a business can never be the same again”. But somehow some businesses come through relatively unscathed, while others are very ‘scathed’ or never survive. Can ERP really make a difference?

I know there are many of you out there with ERP systems designed and built 15-20 years ago, and it was adequate for the way you did business back then. It was architected and executed for a certain threshold of success at that time, with only the vision for those implementing it at that time. And we are hearing about the constraints and issues as you navigate these troubling waters. The ERP was architected for a way of thinking, communicating and executing that no longer reflects the current business culture, or worse constrains the business from changing the culture. It’s been set in stone and considered unmovable.

Others of you have taken the opportunity over the years to continuously review and improve ERP. You’ve adapted your ERP as you change as a business You’ve seen it less as a single system and more as a strategy. It is nimble, “agile” and adaptable, just as your way of communicating and adapting as a business is. One enables the other. It is times like this when the hard work of preparing, evaluating and rearchitecting pay off. Those business disruption preparation testing weekends have prepped you for responding well today. You’ve adopted new communication and organizations, and your ERP delivery methods have followed suit successfully.

I’m seeing this crisis as an acceleration point for ERP strategies. The businesses that are thriving or at least surviving have a communication structure that is flexible, adaptable and can be as fluid or as stable as needed. This is reflected in their ERP applications, capabilities and architecture. I’m also hearing from some: “If we make it through this, we are going to have to drastically change something”. And I hope they do both (make it through and change). When we talk about Enterprise Business Capability strategy, Composable Enterprises or Mobile and Frictionless Experiences, it is for having all the information and decision points that you need to adapt and possibly even thrive in times like these. It’s for having visibility into Cash Flow, Employee Availability, IT Assets, Security, Fixed and Other Assets, Customer Health, Treasury Management, Inventory and Logistics that change not just day-to-day, but minute-by-minute.

I’m finding more and more that chaos is the norm, not the exception. The business cultures that architect themselves for adaptability, self-review, disaster anticipation and recovery, and continuous improvement will see times like these as winnable events, with ERP capabilities that reflect themselves.

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Category: applications  erp  

Deborah R Wilson
Managing Vice President, ERP Strategy Team
12 years at Gartner
20 years IT industry

Deborah Wilson, a recovering Gartner research analyst, leads the Gartner ERP strategy research team. Read Full Bio




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