Big Data and ERP – should you integrate the two?

Big Data and ERP - should you integrate the two?

Author: | Published: 23 Oct 2014

I’ve been thinking a lot about Big Data and ERP lately. I wrote a post about why it is important to start nurturing data analysts. And I’ve been working with a new client who are already benefitting from Big Data tools in their operations.

What I’ve concluded might be a little controversial, so indulge me while I drop a little disclaimer on you.

This post is my opinion. I’m just a humble business development manager trying to make it in this world and have no influence on the product roadmap.

ERP is just another input for Big Data

ERP has been at the core of the biggest businesses for over three decades now, so we can be forgiven for assuming that most, if not all business information will continue to go through ERP.

But that reality is changing.

I’ve been working with a brewery that is doing some really interesting things with Big Data, combining various outside data sources with a number of internal data sources to figure out which markets to target and how much beer to make.

When they first told me about their application, I told them that we would run it in SYSPRO like all of the other third-party applications we come across. But as I looked at what they were doing and the complexity of the data manipulation going on in the application, I realized that it was best to keep it separate.

Big Data tools are designed to take disparate data sources and manipulate the data into a form where the data can be used together. From a Big Data perspective, ERP is just another database like any other.

Big Data is just another input for ERP

ERP systems like SYSPRO typically take in all data from other applications and then the system manages the data including security and access.

However, ERP systems aren’t designed to handle Big Data and, while you could build an ERP system on top of a Big Data repository, the cost of doing this exceeds the benefit for a mid-market product.

ERP systems will consume the output of Big Data just fine. Businesses will benefit from Big Data and ERP as separate systems just as readily as they would an integrated system.

Finally, Big Data is maturing very quickly with a number of companies creating tools that allow regular business managers to use Big Data without a lot of technical expertise. Integrating ERP and Big Data systems would prevent you from taking advantage of these advances while locking you in to a system that requires a high-level of technical expertise.

Big Data and ERP Standing Apart

The tendency to think about ERP as the backbone of the business will continue. But Big Data is going to be an exception – perhaps the exception that proves the rule about the centrality of ERP. Without appropriate data your ERP has less value – with the right data to provide two-way feeds of information the value of your ERP increases dramatically. It’s all about the synergy, folks.

ERP data is going to feed Big Data and Big Data is going to feed ERP, but they are going to run in parallel.

Our customers will still be able to benefit from Big Data, and even feed the data outputs into the ERP system. But it will be at least four or five years before it makes sense to completely integrate these two systems. Four or five technology years is roughly the equivalent of 134 human years, so that’s a long time.



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Comments (2)

  • Kayode Ayankoya Reply

    Thanks for sharing your insight. However, I agree with you that some of your take is controversial. My take is that the greatest challenge still remain not understanding Big Data and its benefits.

    The concept of Big Data is more than bringing disparate data sources together. But the possibilities that it offers, the insight and creativity that is possible using analytical tools to find patterns, make recommendations and predictions among other possibilities. From that stand-point, I will say that Big Data will extend the capabilities of ERP systems, rather than ERP consuming Big Data or Big Data becoming an input for ERP.

    Perhaps, the focus should be finding an interface between the concepts of ERP and Big Data that allow users to derive the benefits mentioned above. A recent study indicate that more than 70% of the organisations sampled are either implementing or looking for how to implement Big Data initiatives. I strongly believe that ERP system that will provide this functionality will redefine the ERP markets.

    I have been around for a much shorter time, but I think you might have a shock coming. The integration of ERP and Big Data will be customer driven at it will not take 134 human years.

    October 28, 2014 at 8:13 pm
  • Dave Cavan Reply

    I think we are in “violent agreement” that Big Data and ERP are about to change the landscape, and that the ERP providers that recognize and embrace that over the next four or five years are going to have a very relevant solution for their clients.

    You are correct that Big Data is more than bringing disparate data sources together; really interesting and useful Big Data applications are being launched all of the time. But, as far as a Big Data application is concerned, or rather the Big Data platforms on which the applications run, ERP is just like any other data source.

    I do agree that interfacing ERP and Big Data is important. However, with SYSPRO being built on SQL Server, it is easy to use native Microsoft data tools to pull SYSPRO data into the data platforms.

    When there are some clear application-level winners, then it will make more sense to improve the data interface from ERP to Big Data applications. Until then, data platforms already have strong interfaces and us consultants can do the work to pull the data in.

    I think the bigger adjustment will come from those clients who are preparing their people, business processes and data to take advantage of the insights that it provides. They must be ready to mine the data, make decisions based on the trends they are finding, and be prepared to continue to change their products and approaches to the market based on what they are learning. It’s going to be about what they do with the tools that counts in the end.

    October 29, 2014 at 8:20 pm

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