Keeping it simple in ERP

Once again, I am in an airplane crossing the Atlantic on my way to another NAV implementation. I am pleasantly surprised to find that they finally offer Wi-Fi on my airline while crossing the waters. A satellite must have been reassigned from Cold War duty to facilitate people uploading pictures of their airplane food. In any case, it allows me to take care of my routine blog posting at 30 thousand feet.

Whenever I start a new implementation or even in the sales phase, I emphasize the importance of keeping things simple. I sometimes reference the following story to drive my point home.

During my math days at the University of Miami, I had a teacher from Russia name Dr. Kaliman. He was an excellent research mathematician which sometimes had little tolerance for pupils that could not quite follow his lectures. I was a rather verbal student insisting on asking about anything I could not fully understand. I clearly remember one afternoon in class where Dr. Kaliman had gone through several blackboards of math proofs, underlying the foundation of a Theorem which was to be the main proof that day. With chalk covering his shirt and pants, he vehemently wrote AB = BA. I had to open my mouth and break his concentration: „Dr. Kaliman, what do you mean with AB = BA?“ Dr. Kaliman looked at me rather frustrated, and very passionately told me „Johannes, it is so simple, it is hard to explain!“

So what´s the moral of the story? When I looked at AB = BA, I immediately started to associate more things to the equation. I started thinking about how it worked when data flows through it. How could it be applied? What really did A and B stand for? I was drastically overthinking the problem at hand. It turned out that this would then be used to prove something like:

LET AB = BA, AA = 1, BB = 1

SHOW ABAB = 1

Where the solution would be

ABAB = AABB (using AB = BA)

AABB = 1*1 = 1 (using AA = 1 and BB = 1)

Therefore ABAB = 1 QED.

This of course has absolutely no context and my mind spinning trying to make more of something that wasn’t, was taking me further from the solution.

In the NAV world we are faced with similar situations. In some cases both the customer and the consultant will fall into the trap of overemphasizing and overthinking an issue that either can be trivially solved or really does not matter in the grand scheme of things. We are so trained to solve problems that sometimes unknowingly we create our own problems to solve. Always looking for simplicity is the key to successful implementations.

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