Guess who’s not coming to dinner? Young executives aren’t, not if your company is serving up lumbering, frustrating Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or other enterprise level software.
In a recent supply chain software survey, more than 65% of respondents, executives age 35 and younger, said they would be at least somewhat likely to change jobs due to negative experience using their company’s enterprise software. That’s right: They’d leave because the software stinks.
When you first read that, it’s surprising. After a few seconds, it makes sense. Software is such a huge part of the working experience now. It’s no longer enough that software “does the job.” It has to be non-frustrating to use and make sense. The next generation of managers and executives insist on both; they will leave the company if the tools aren’t up to par.
The Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and the Information Technology (IT) department itself should take heed. Things are changing fast — the roles of both the Officer and the Gentlemen in IT are being re-evaluated as data management evolves and Generation Y moves into management.
Generation Y software.“Today, if you’re providing software at the enterprise level, it’s important that the software handles modern data challenges, demonstrates immediate benefits, and be almost so easy to use that users don’t give the technology much thought,” says Chris Nowak, a “GenX-Y” software industry veteran.
“Brand loyalty in enterprise software these days,” Nowak says, “ironically comes from a tool being so effective that customers give you hardly any thought at all.”
“Employers invest in attractive offices and other benefits designed to attract and retain young talent, but this study makes it clear that the enterprise software people use every day has a significant impact on the quality of life for today’s professionals,” IFS North America Chief Technology Officer Rick Veague said. IFS is the company that sponsored the survey.
The next generation of executives won’t put up with stinky software.
Using Spreadsheets Instead of Modules?
At first glance, there seems to be no harm in employees using a spreadsheet to track data, say, for materials in a supply chain, right?
Actually: the entire point of ERP and relational database-driven SaaS modules for any kind of data management, from HR to MSDS to chemical components, is that in a database there is a single instance of accurate data.
“The single instance of data is then nurtured (maintained and updated) by multiple qualified and permissioned users,” explains Nowak. “This consolidates resource man-hours and eliminates waste in the form of duplicate and outdated versions of the data.”
If 10 employees are using their own spreadsheet and 15 others are using the ERP — there can be no central, single instance of data; at best there will be 12 instances of data. Multiple instances of the same data undermines the point, and the efficiency, of data management systems such as the ERP.
An Unexpected IT Solution: Dismantle the IT Department.An esteemed senior analyst at Gartner, Jim Shepherd, recently wrote in First Thing Monday that the Information Technology (IT) department should be dismantled.
The IT department is a thing of the past, Shepherd argues (persuasively).
Instead of IT being its own department making choices for the company, Shepherd proposes that IT should be selected and paid for at the department level. That would put the power and the onus of choice on the heads of those who actually use it. This would increase engagement and decrease costs, in theory. It could result in fewer young executives skipping out of the company altogether due to poor fare.
If you can gain access to the FTM column, it’s worth reading. (Gartner, Shepherd, Do You Really Need an IT Department Anymore? June 27, 2011) The follow up column on July 18, 2011 is also worth reading — the follow up column suggests a slimmed down version of the IT department:
- a CIO for steerage/vision
- a single-digit headcount for scouting purposes/inter-departmental assistance
- a budget of .5% annual revenues (as opposed to the 2% – 5% that IT Departments now get)
- the excess revenue pool would be folded back into the business
Summary: Human Resources (HR) ought take an interest in what IT is up to. And IT should be aware that its ERP and other data management tool choices affect not just Ops and Finance, but also HR.