When ERP Forces You to Befriend Excel

Younger execs would rather quit than work with enterprise software, a study suggests.

It's a fun ride following the adventures of business users as they attempt to "outwit" their enterprise software with Excel. This week, that ride has led me to a usability survey conducted by IFS, a developer of an extended ERP application suite, in which respondents say the cumbersome nature of enterprise software could drive them out of their jobs.

According to the survey of more than 281 manufacturing executives, more than 65% who are 35 and younger claim they would be at least "somewhat likely" to switch positions due to a negative experience using enterprise software such as ERP.

Switch jobs? If members of the tech-savviest of generations are claiming they'd bail on a hard-to-acquire job -- because of an enterprise application -- something is very, very wrong.

How do users soothe their frustration? By using spreadsheets, the study finds. A majority admits to using Excel and other such software to skirt overwhelming applications. They also turn to free and low-cost Web-based applications such as Google Docs.

As I've noted in previous blogs, including last week's, forcing users to look elsewhere for work-arounds to complex applications not only sends finance execs packing, but also jeopardizes data viability. Rick Veague, IFS North America CTO, is quoted similarly in the company's statement on the study. "When employees work outside of ERP, they are reducing enterprise visibility, increasing enterprise risk, and in general diminishing the value their employer is realizing from investment in enterprise software," he says.

[Sandra Gittlen also has focused in the past on finance executives who use other systems to work around Excel.]

Other applications that drive users into the arms of spreadsheets: customer relationship management and supply chain management.

CFOs and other executives should observe the usability of these core applications before deploying them. They should take care to invest time and budget into training, or tailoring the application to user work habits. Trying to force-fit a relationship between the user and application serves no purpose for the employee or the company and inevitably will lead to an overall sour experience.

This story, "When ERP Forces You to Befriend Excel" was originally published by cfoworld.com.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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