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The Business ERP Heavyweights: SAP vs. Oracle ERP




Before we begin discussing the advantages and disadvantages of these to mainstream business software lets ask the question: why bother with an Enterprise Resource Planning software? This question should be asked in earnest, given that the implementation of these two heavyweight solutions is extremely challenging and costly. From a "resource management" basis (in particular in reference to overall cost and financial control) the biggest issue that large and medium sized companies face is the lack of confidence and difficulty in real time and accurate reporting of financial status of projects.


Lets consider for example  company "ABC", a construction company with 2,000 employees located across 5 different countries, with 5 projects nearing completion and in the process of close out, 10 project being executed, and another 5 projects in the process of starting. As the quarter Q4 end approaches management will rightly want to have an accurate financial picture of their project portfolio. How much exactly has been invoiced, how much remains to be invoiced, how many payments are outstanding, what is the total value of approved change orders, what have been the operating costs, what are the home office general and administrative expenses, how much have the regional offices cost, etc.


Without a rigid company wide implementation of an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software system in place it is extremely difficult to answer the above important questions with certainty. Companies without such an ERP system can and do make fair assessments and are able to answer these questions, but the problem lies in the confidence, accuracy, and timeliness of such data. A properly implemented ERP system can help on all these fronts.



Expectations and Purpose


Having answered the "why" of an ERP system. The next question is which? Like many things in life, the "right" answer will differ depending on your vantage point.


Let's suppose that as CEO of the "ABC" company above referenced, we want to impress our peers at the golf course and investors when presenting the financial annual report. No other ERP system projects more dynamism, professionalism and an image of success than SAP... whether that's warranted or not is another matter which is surely to be hotly contested, with each critic having their own opinion.


Based on my personal and some of my colleagues experiences, we have found SAP to be possibly more complete as a straight out of the box solution compared to Oracle. However, our biggest complaint (given that some degree of customization is always absolutely necessary, and this often proves perversely frustrating when dealing with SAP products), was the cavalier attitude and utmost reluctance by the SAP consultants/ developers at making changes to the default SAP.


On the other hand Oracle straight out of the box based on our experiences we felt was more "bare-bones" and needed more customization. However this is actually an advantage as customization is needed regardless of the ERP being implemented and the Oracle developers where much more flexible and willing to work with us to deliver a product that was right for us and met our needs rather than attempting to force feed us a canned and therefore sub-optimal database like some of Oracle's competitors often attempt.





Each critic will have their own take on which ERP system is best. Definitely SAP has the most "image"... and by far the best targeted advertising campaign (a walk through any major airport will showcase this: a bombardment of clever SAP ads). However we reserve the right to explicitly qualify the technical merits of SAP. Nonetheless if contemplating SAP as your ERP solution please be a hundred times wary of the SAP developers/ consultants which are only too happy to collect their fees and adhere to the greatest extent possible to the default canned database.


While Oracle ERP lacks the "image" of its major ERP competitor, technically it should be considered as a strong contender and serious option.


To summarize:


SAP EPR: Great image, fairly complete out of the box solution, quite poor/ difficult customization.

Oracle ERP: More development work necessary but results in a better final customized product.



*Disclaimer (just in case this article upsets someone with a stake in the referenced products): The above statements reflect personal opinions only and are not intended to be interpreted as facts. Etc, small print as necessary.


Enterprise Resource Planning


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