What Makes Process Process?

Olin Thompson is sometimes called the "Father of Process ERP." He is a principal of Process ERP Partners, http://www.processerp.com, and is somebody who, in my opinion, has his head screwed on properly. He recently wrote an article for Technology Evaluation Center (http://www.technologyevaluation.com) called "What Makes Process Process?" I've said before that I find it fascinating, and morbidly humorous, that suddenly the ERP world has discovered the factory. After a decade and a half of counting goesintas and goesoutas and calling it business intelligence and supply chain management, SAP and the other Enterprise companies are suddenly "experts in process automation." Some of Thompson's telling comments: How a software vendor addresses the needs of process companies falls into one of three categories: A few vendors never mention process. By default, they are stating that they do not address the needs of process companies. Many vendors started with a discrete ERP or SCM product and later decided to market it as a product suitable for process industries. These vendors and products can easily be identified because they typically have a module that includes the word "process". This add-on module is where they attempt to address the characteristics and requirements that make their discrete product into one for process. A few vendors started with a strategy that focused exclusively on process. These vendors do not have a process module; the entire product is designed to address the particular requirements of process companies and only process companies. How can you tell which vendor falls into which category? The first rule is, do not listen to the sales pitch about "process focus". A simple test is to look at the vendor's web page. This is a generalized message to the market that tells you what the vendor is really trying to accomplish. Where is process discussed? Is it the focus of the first page or is it listed as one of many "areas of focus" on page twelve of the web site? Look at the annual report. What percentage of the customers listed are process? What industries does the company say they serve? When they talk about specific customers, do they talk about companies who are in your business? When the vendor does have process customers, what did these customers install from that vendor? Perhaps a vendor has many process companies, but most or all of them installed financials. Few, if any, have installed the vendor's software for operational functions. This may mean that the vendor is an excellent financials vendor, but can the vendor handle your operational needs? It is interesting to see the process industries from the top, through the eyes of somebody who knows what he is talking about, for a change. What do YOU think? Walt