THE must read enterprise software website

Check out Strassmann  Many of you will have heard of him, but see his awesome bio.

I’ve read lots of his stuff in drips and drabs over the years, but I stumbled across his website and I have been meaning to draw it to the attention of my merry readers for sometime. It is a treasure trove of sensible stuff. Links to videos, lecture notes and articles, not just excerpts, but meaty stuff that you need to pause and think about.  

He picks up on a number of topics that interest me;

1. What are employees worth? Valuing people. This lecture is a must watch for any accountant or HR person interesting in valuing intangibles or Human Capital Management.

2. Anyone interested in ROI should check out The Business Value of Computers , the tooth to tail ratio and Six rules for finding IT value  – this links rather nicely to Andrew McAfee’s post on the business case.

3. He has recently written about the cost of dirty data, and he provides a model to help you calculate these costs.  In his piece on How to Transform your Business, He talks about the need for data standardisation. This made me think back to Carr’s post on Bastard Apps where he quotes from Merrill about the challenges of the enterprise mashup. Carr also mentions the term data pollution. He goes further and helps you get a grasp on the implications of data pollution and its real cost.

The first step in business transformation:
enterprisewide standardization of data. That calls for the declaration of a Metadata directory as the template for defining data that can circulate within a firm’s information systems. The policy and implementation of an enforceable metadata  directory likely will be resisted by bureaucrats, who see this as a threat to their indispensability. It will not be welcomed by systems developers, contractors and vendors, who prefer to concentrate on upgrading software as a technologically more interesting—and profitable—task 

 In global HR projects, one of the toughest jobs is metadata standardisation. Just agreeing what simple terms like “manager” actually mean are often fraught with all the problems he mentions. This has little to do the application, but is vital to project success.

Often people building and deploying applications focus on the fields and the attributes of the application, but what is important for people using the systems is not the fields, it is the data. Fields are just an means to an end. Clean, accurate data is what is important. Data you can trust.  

An SAP spin

One of the things SAP gets criticised for is the excessive set up costs and the number of switches and tables and rules the application has, and often this is a fair comment.

But one of the powerful things that SAP does, especially in the ERP application, is to make it difficult to enter polluted data. Complex business rule validation is one of SAP’s greatest strengths. SAP integration mantra helps drive this thinking too. SAP makes it almost impossible to book HR costs against a cost centre that doesn’t exist in Finance  because there is one single cost centre table. SAP tends to view freeformat fields with suspicion. We love a pull-down table. This can increase application complexity,  but it does wonders for data quality.  

With the move into MDM, I think we are on the way to providing the meta-data repository of standards that Strassmann talks about. MDM is something I need to spend a lot more time understanding as its impact on global systems projects is growing rapidly.

Business applications are only as useful as the quality of data that is in them.

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