Why ERP? A Primer on SAP Implementation: Books: F. Robert Jacobs,David Clay Whybark,F. Robert Jacobs,D. Clay Whybark Why ERP? A Primer on SAP Implementation: Books: F. Robert Jacobs,David Clay Whybark:
“Why ERP? Because I didn’t have a choice as to read it or not. I’d rather take a bath in gasoline and light myself on fire than read this thing again.” (Reviewer’s comment)

Last posting, I put a story up about SAP releasing V 5 of their SCM software. I commented there on the need for software to support supply chain collaboration, among other things. It was pointed out to me by a colleague that the book, “Why ERP” presents an implementation of an SAP ERP system that failed. I have yet to read the book, but it is now high on my reading list (and I encourage those of you interested in these things to do as well.)

Hey, I make it easy for you–I am linking this posting to the Amazon site for this book. But not to get you to buy it, because if that was my goal I would have figured out a way to get a kickback. I wanted to actually link to the comments reviewing the book, like the one quoted above. It appears that this book is fairly common required reading, and that students don’t like it. Don’t believe me? Go read the comments!

This was doubly interesting to me, since it combined the ERP discussion with a discussion on evaluations by students. Over at the blog “Confessions of a Community College Dean” the Dean is trying to figure out ways to evaluate his faculty. This is often stymied by the fact that students’ evaluations are, well, sometimes less than constructive. Note, I say sometimes.

In these reviews of the book you will find there to be constructive critiques. These critiques say things like:

“Do not read this book if you are an expert on SAP or very familiar with ERP systems. This is little more than a text book put in the form of one large example.” (Hmmm one CASE example can be quite rich in individual exmplars used for discussion and study. But still, good critique.)

CAUTION: This book (actually a novel) is good only for those who do not know anything about ERP. Finish this quickly and move on to more detailed stuff like MISSION CRITICAL by Thomas Davenport. (again, the usefulness is challenged, but at least the commentator provides an alternative.)

and, Perhaps the best review:

This actually is a good read. It kept my interest for a full 2 hours, which is what is took to read it. The case study is real and on the mark. It illustrates that even if SAP is being widely adopted in your industry (in this case furniture), it may not be the right solution for you. In this instance, SAP (or the SAP implementation approach) was wrong because the company, whose business model was “make to order”, tried to cut time and costs by directly implementing a configuration which worked well for a company that has a very limited (few part numbers with minimal change) product line.

The author also did a realistic job in presenting the politics of the situation. The company president wanted an easy integration under a tight deadline. The IT geek wasn’t interested in the business model and wanted a showcase quick installation. The marketing guy wasn’t interested in the details and wanted to showcase the installation. The book’s hero is a healthy skeptic, who is trying to understand ERP, its benefits, and how it fit his company’s business.

Based the book’s title, I thought I was picking up another SAP marketing book. But it is not that at all. It’s objective and deals with business issues. No ABAP, idocs, and organization elements here.

My recommendations for anyone writing a review or a critique, including critiquing a course or an instructor? They are quite simple really:

1. Provide positive feedback if at all possible. What did you like, and why? The why is important because it helps to know how to develop future information in a way that worked well previously. Criticism need not be negative, or even pointing out weaknesses. Sometimes people need to be told the good things.

2. Be critical, with a positive attitude. Say things like “While I appreciate XXX, it didn’t work well, because…” Again, the because, or the why, is critical to helping the professor or author provide a fix for things later.

3. Understand the purpose of what you are critiquing. If you are critiquing a course, and the course is on advanced astrophysics, don’t criticize the lack of creative writing assignments. Alternatively, if you are in an MBA program, regardless of the quantitative rigour of the individual course, you should have an expectation that students will be expected to communicate clearly–after all, you are there to be better managers.

So, remember: criticism should be given with the intent of improvement, and while it may have been cathartic for the reviewer to write: “I wouldn’t even make paper airplanes with this book – because they would suck too. When millions of books were burned in WWII, why did they miss this one?” they certainly provided nothing to the discussion.

The Prof

Postscript: (In fact, the paper airplane comment was followed by a recommendation to read “The Goal” by Goldratt. An excellent book, but with a completely different message/intent. This reviewer apparently missed point number three.)