Order Entry Flexibility an ERP Issue

Even at this advanced stage in the development of ERP systems, some users are discovering that the software isn't flexible enough to handle all of their needs for order entry and processing.

Take the General Council of the Assemblies of God, for example. Late last month, the Springfield, Mo.-based organization of more than 11,000 Protestant churches delayed an installation of Oracle Corp.'s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system after learning the order entry module couldn't handle a list of 16 functions needed by its catalog sales operation.

Andrew Hadden, manager of information services planning and administration at the council, said the organization was told up front that a small piece of the order entry software needed to be customized. But after the extent of the functionality gap came to light, he added, Oracle's cost estimate for the tailoring grew to $600,000.

While the council tries to figure out what to do, the ERP rollout is on hold except for a purchasing application that's due to go live in March.

Such problems aren't unique to Oracle. Companies using applications from PeopleSoft Inc. and SAP AG also said the order entry modules don't do everything their businesses require.

Standard Register Co., which prints business forms and provides document management services, is starting to install PeopleSoft's financial and human resources applications as part of a $55.5 million overhaul of its systems.

But Donna Beladi, corporate vice president of business development at Standard Register, said the Dayton, Ohio, company is still exploring different order entry options.

"I don't believe PeopleSoft will be the solution for that piece," Beladi said.

ERP order entry software may be a good fit for companies that build a standard set of products, "but it's not for a custom manufacturer like us," she said.

Byron Miller, an analyst at Giga Information Group Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said the growth of Internet-based sales and build-to-order manufacturing is putting increasing pressure on packaged order entry applications.

The Assemblies of God's general council thought it was all set. "We relied on Oracle's sales team to tell us whether their software could do this or not," Hadden said. "We just feel like we've been burned."

Some of the issues should be resolved by a new order management module Oracle is due to ship in May, Hadden said. But council officials don't think the $600,000 customization bill would be reduced even by half, he said.

Oracle officials promised to work with the church council but said many of the features requested are unique to its catalog business and oriented more to consumer sales than its order entry software was designed for.

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