It is interesting. In one of my last posts (http://food-erp.com/blog/2010/05/24/defining-a-good-product/) I wrote about how quickly a products defining moment turns out to be the lack or absence of certain features and functionality. In our business world though, there is always the answer just a mouse click away: MS-Excel.
People use MS-Excel because THEY THINK the current business application is not supporting said desired feature, right or wrong, who knows. In any case MS-Excel and other MS-Products provide a lot of times a quick fix to the problems, because these software modules are flexible, the user knows more about them then about the business application of its organization and it is accessible to them, since it is installed on almost any office PC.
As we run into an issue or a business opportunity, it is sometimes just not possible to execute this particular feature in the business application. It can be that it is a really screwy requirement with a lot of exceptions to the rules, so that no ERP-System will be able to natively support it. It can also be that the required solution is just so specific, that a standard ERP vendor, even a specialized one, cannot economically feasible develop such a software. There are plenty of reasons.
So we always have a need to expand functions somehow. In its most primitive form, we are talking about reports. There is nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing wrong with MS-Excel as a reporting tool. It is cheap and powerful. Most BI Tools from other software vendors barely match the basic functionality of Auto-Filters, Pivot Tables. Don’t start talking about all the formulas, statistical engine and VBA.
No, running reports is fine. The problem begins it you truly start creating information in MS-Excel. As soon as you start entering a single piece of information on your spreadsheet, that does not reside in your business application, your troubles start. I’m not talking about the formulas you added to the spreadsheet, or the nice conditional formatting that highlights your numbers in the appropriate colors. No, I’m talking about adding data, adding the Rebate amounts you pay to your customers, calculating with ‘vlookups’ where you have the rates on a separate tab. This is just wrong, and people that do that do not longer actually share the office environment with others. They isolate themselves, we get so called island solutions, and some of those people even think it adds to their job security.
What you could do though: Store all data in your ERP. Create a query that calculates all the Rebate Amounts with all exceptions as you need them. Export a file that you can process back with your ERP system and import it to create the necessary AP checks or AR Credits. In any case, if you work with any office application to make your office environment more productive, make sure that all the data is being stored in your main business application, or at least in a shared DATABASE (not MS-Excel or MS-Access) that everybody can have access to.
Bolting on functionality will add the final piece of productivity to your business application. But this should never stop you from driving more features and functionality from you business application provider.