It’d be an interesting bit of work to calculate how many software applications have been developed across the world over the past 60 years. Computers, and ultimately the software that gets coded into them have revolutionized just about every facet of human life, including making it into space.
40 years of applying software to industry has seen an evolution where business processes, data and software has all merged together. It was clear that whilst many processes need to be treated individually, their outputs, and dependencies with other processes and data, benefit from being in the same ‘place’. ERP solutions are a great example of this – bringing together all the critical processes for a business under one solution.
Consolidation of solutions and processes has many advantages, such as having a ‘single source of truth’, cost efficiencies and standardized UIs. However, it’s not always possible to consolidate, and if you were able to read the last article on TPM, complexity is the nemesis of consolidation.
This observation can be made between ERP and TPM. ERP solutions (in general) tend to focus on transactional operations and processes that have a clear path from Step 1 to Step ‘n’. This is what we would expect from an executional business process.
But what about TPM? Well, TPM is very much focused around planning – and as most planners will tell you, planning can be quite different – there may be more than one way to get to Step ‘n’.
A component of planning falls around how easy it is to test out theories / scenarios / ideas. There isn’t necessarily one answer – or even one particular way to get to what is right. Even worse – what may be right now, may not necessarily be right a few more weeks down the road when other variables or influences will mean a different strategy or approach is required.
Who remembers the old ‘green screen’? In my first experiences of working in industry, I got to see how manufacturing companies used computers to help control stock inventory, financial control, time logging and for the first time – email. Most of the user interfaces were what I think we would call basic – something like this:
Programmers had a lot of challenges to overcome – mainly around the limitations of the hardware and storage/memory/CPU available to compute the code being developed. I can imagine the programmers of that time thinking something along the lines of:
These systems were advanced for their time – but the user interface, processes, and information were not what could be deemed as creative – and my own assumption is the result of that can be seen in how those applications evolved.
So many of the challenges of these early solutions have dropped away to provide the infinite number of applications, user interfaces and in particular these days, the mobility aspect as well.
Trade Promotions Management pulls together huge quantities of raw data from multiple sources. It then needs to be able to provide an interface which allows users to create many different types of objects – which in turn can create huge quantities of data. This information needs to be manipulated, edited, and viewed in lots of different and interactive ways, quickly, to make decisions that will have potentially huge impacts on the production line and profits of the company.
An old work colleague lived by this mantra – planning needs flexibility. That flexibility is what drives so much complexity into this specific area of the software industry. Strike the balance between flexibility and rigid controls, ensure your business processes are logical and can be modelled successfully, and this is the ‘Holy Grail’ for successful planning solution deployment.