Do You Suffer from (ECS) – ERP Centric Strategy?

Executive Summary

  • ERP centric strategy is a serious medical condition.
  • Learn about ECS and how it negatively impacts IT decision-making.


This was going to be a very different article than the ty’pe I ordinarily write. Today I want to talk about a serious topic. You see, there is a silent disease-oriented around enterprise software decision making that goes undiscussed within companies.

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The following shocking statistics apply to this disease.

  1. A recent study showed that executive decision-makers at 4 out of 5 companies suffer from this mental affliction.
  2. Employees that use systems where executives have this affliction are eight times more likely to report that, for planning and analysis, the applications they use to get their work done.

“Totally suck!”


“…yea then at that point I have to export it to a spreadsheet…”


“…wait, and then after I download that, then I have to manually make the assignments, and then I…”

At this point, you have probably guessed that I am referring of course to the dreaded ERP-Centric Strategy.

ECS is a disease that affects the mind and its only observable through the subject’s statements, the propensity to overpay consulting companies for customization work, obsessive use of Excel, and of course by the devastating effects on industrial productivity.

ECS is at epidemic proportions within companies, with many people hiding their symptoms from friends and family for years.

ECS sufferers can often be found looking out windows, saying things like..

“I just want to get more out of our ERP system.”


“I know that the ERP system can do it, we just need a little customization. How about just a little code!”


“How hard can it be to create a forecast with our ERP system? The brochure said that it does forecasting right? I mean I thought I remember it said that it did…”

What is at the Heart of ECS?

Clinically, ECS is a form of wishful thinking combined with an oversimplification of how requirements must be met by software. The most foundational underpinnings of ECS are a fundamentally irrational belief in the following ideas.

  1. The ERP system should be emphasized above all other systems because “it’s the biggest.”
  2. The ERP system is the system of record for all data.
  3. ERP functionality should be used — even when it is weak in a particular area.
  4. Integration should be avoided at all costs.

The History of Mistaken-Centric Thinking

ECS has many historical precedents. For the longest time, the Earth was considered the centre of the known universe. Galileo created a considerable stir when he said..

“…No, the Sun is actually the center.”

Telling people that what they think is the centre isn’t is a dangerous business. The Roman Inquisition almost killed Galileo in 1633 for this observation.

It was later found that Pope Paul V suffered from Earth Centricism (EC), which is an early precursor to what we now call ECS. What this shows is mistakenly thinking that things that are the center that are not, goes back nearly 400 hundred years. (1)

The Effects of ECS

ECS is continuing to affect management and executive decision-makers, and it has the following symptoms: 

  1. Thinking that the minimal functionality in ERP systems can meet all the company’s requirements.
  2. Consistently approving new requests for enhancing ERP to build common, high-maintenance functionality, that should be fulfilled with applications outside of ERP.
  3. Repeating statements from the 1980s made by ERP salespeople.

Those suffering from ECS don’t know that the idea that ERP could meet all or almost all requirements was never true. It simply started out as something that ERP vendor marketing departments made up; that was then promoted to executive decision-makers by account executives.These same ERP vendors who promoted ECS thinking soon abandoned the idea when ERP vendors started to buy other systems that they could also sell. However, those who suffer from ECS never got the memo.

Is There a Cure for ECS?

Fortunately yes, as bleak as ERP-Centric Strategy can seem, there is a cure. However, it’s not in the form of a pill. Executive decision-makers can recover from ECS; there is not anywhere you can go for treatment. There is no Betty Ford Clinic for ECS….not yet anyway.

ECS can be beaten, but important realities must be acknowledged to put someone on the road to recovery. Some of these are listed below.

  • The Big Tent Concept: ERP is simply a large footprint application that provides some functionality areas under one “roof.” It always needs other systems to do work in specific areas.
  • Getting Real on Spreadsheets and Customization: Spreadsheets and customization are performed when the ERP system cannot meet the business requirements. If customization is written, then the application is not meeting the demand, and one is at that point on par with using an external application.
  • Refocusing on the Objective of Enterprise Software Purchases: The objective to get business value out of the purchased solutions, and this means that applications must compete with one another by this concept.

Offering a Helping Hand for the Afflicted

I have studied ECS for a long time now and have seen the effects up close and personal. At first, I used to scratch my head, but now I see it’s a real medical condition.

While not a physician, I have still successfully shown CIOs in companies that they can use point solutions to enhance their enterprise software categories and that they don’t have to feel shameful about not “getting more out of the ERP system.”

I also have a book titled The Real Story Behind ERP: Separating Fact from FictionThis book can help stop ECS in its tracks, and it explains the entire history of ERP marketing, and then what happened in reality, and paradoxically how no one who said all the things that were used to sell ERP felt guilty afterwards.

If you know someone who has ECS, send this book to them. I know that together we can beat this disease.