Why ERP Software is so Hard to Use – a Theory

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Full disclosure: I am not a video gamer, too old and more interested in analog pursuits. My actual breakfast bagel and coffee are 100% more appealing to me than the picture of your breakfast delicacy posted on Instagram.

But I have kids with an Xbox and over the recent holiday they tried to get me interested in playing Halo, evidently one of the more popular video game offerings in the market. But, again, what do I know.

OMG…what an eye opener!

The care and love that had to go into creating that game literally jumps off the screen. And at that moment it hit me… the people that develop and "program" games are themselves gamers! They are actual consumers of the product they produce. They do their jobs as much out of love for the product that they enjoy as they do for making money. Boy does it show.

Now let's contrast that with the teams of developers that you have met that create ERP applications. Come to think of it, has anyone ever met an ERP software developer? Do they even exist? Do they hide the fact out of fear that there is a social stigma attached? Are the embarrassed that they don't work on cool "apps?

One thing is obvious, none of them have to use the crap that they code on a daily basis!

That gives us the consequences that we, as consumers of ERP software, have to deal with:

  • Impossible to navigate user interfaces.
  • Flash over substance…Oooooh, let’s all look at that shiny dashboard…does anyone understand the underlying data?
  • Technology that literally slows down ERP system use for the average user.
  • Technology for the sake of technology that makes systems harder to implement and maintain. Anyone else remember when “C:install” was all that was needed to install your accounting software?
  • Technology decisions driven by business models rather than what makes sense for the consumer.

And no, I am not a luddite or an old cranky guy. At the same time, I doubt average users are demanding the continuous onslaught of "improvements" that do nothing for the average user.

If we have all of these technologies and tools, why aren’t ERP systems easier to install and keep running? Don’t other industries pride themselves on “progress”? Imagine if every year cars used more gas, cost more money and were harder to start, stop and handle but car makers trumpeted that this was the latest and greatest?

None of the major technological advances that have been applied to ERP software have benefited the average user. Everything is flash for the main stage at a conference. What has anyone done to speed up the entry of hundreds of vouchers? Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Maybe every developer should be forced to eat their own dog food for a month. Maybe the next release would actually “empower every person on earth”.


Peter Joeckel has thirty years of experience in the ERP world. He heads a unique team of highly experienced ERP and CRM professionals uniquely qualified and positioned to help Microsoft Dynamics GP clients and partners transition into the Microsoft Dynamics 365 world.

This new world of Microsoft Dynamics 365 requires a different type of skillset and partner for GP customers.

With a focus on complex implementations and specialized skills in the manufacturing and distribution industries we have extensive experience successfully guiding Dynamics GP customers that have outgrown their partner or their software.

For more information or to contact us regarding your existing or planned system, please visit: TurnOnDynamics where we are thinking about Dynamics 365...24/7.

4 thoughts on “Why ERP Software is so Hard to Use – a Theory”

  1. This sounds like frustration with the systems you're working with! There are systems out there (only some of which I resell!) which are a pleasure to work with, things not just of beauty but also of substance. However, there are two aspects that tend to kill this:

    1. scale - the larger the customers that the software is aimed at, generally the more complex the solution becomes, and the more steps to achieve even simple tasks. You'll find many passionate supports of solutions like Freshbooks and Xero out there, whereas how many people absolutely love SAP - whether or not it works for them day to day?

    2. developers not skilled in business - this much I agree with you, many ERP developers out there are hired for their development skills, not business skills. That said, there are some companies that do not follow that general trend. Specifically, we're talking about whoever designs and more particularly specifies functionality, not the developers themselves. This is the highest skilled part of an ERP solution, and many companies don't have good staff in this area.

    Also to pick up on your gauntlet thrown down, I would say that several technologies are very much improving the lives of data entry users - take for example workflow, where in the solution I mainly resell data entered can trigger values in other fields, authorization processes, and emails within the organization. Mobility is another such area, although perhaps this is more about increasing the number of people who can actually capture data, thereby improving the lives the the original data entry staff by reducing the entries they have to make in some cases.

  2. One reason ERP systems seem complicated is that Microsoft bought about a dozen of them. And they make some good games, too.

    C:install loads files. Implementing a good ERP system requires industry, technology and project management knowledge. And if you've got hundreds of vouchers to input you might want to look at an imaging system.

    Consultants and their implementations are more guilty that the developers, in most cases. whinging about the vendor software is pointing fingers in a game that requires teamwork.

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