As we head into the fall ERP user convention season, it feels similar to sitting through an endless episode of “Leave it to Beaver.” Listening to Larry Ellison at Oracle Open World, Bill McDermott at SAP’s ASUG Sapphire, Kevin Samuelson at Inforum or Darren Roos at IFS World Conference, it seems the ERP vendors’ world was created by the same writers of the 50’s sitcom.

For you younger folks who are not catching the reference here, Google “Leave it to Beaver” and you will find the summary description of a show that brings the “wholesomeness of 1950s and `60s TV, where dad Ward Cleaver always gets home in time for dinner, mom June cleans the house wearing a dress and pearls, and kids Wally and the Beav always learn a lesson by the end of the episode.” Essentially, everything is perfect.

Deep down, we know this is simply not the case. Life is certainly not what the Beav experienced and transformations are difficult, which is why so many ERP implementations fail. Few who have experienced an implementation describe it as utopia but is a necessary part of business today. Yet when we sit and listen to the recent enhancements, the potential of emerging technologies and the select (and in many cases paid) customer success stories, it is difficult not to have a sense a content, similar to Ward when he would come home to a clean house and freshly brewed tea.

As you attend one or more user conferences for any of the top ERP systems this fall, keep in mind these conferences are structured for the following reasons:

To keep current clients engaged: Buyer’s remorse is a terrible feeling, especially after a multi-million-dollar ERP investment. ERP vendors get this and structure these events to cater to existing clients and make them feel loved. It is also an opportunity to educate and keep clients up to date on software enhancements.

To upsell current clients: Who’s not being pushed to the “cloud” these days. Who doesn’t need artificial intelligence in ERP software, robotics and whatever new functionality has come out in the last year. Getting all users of one software product in a big room and having celebrities stress the importance of staying ahead with your technology can send a powerful message.

To attract potential clients: These are the people who are not paying to attend and who don’t pay for their own dinner. Being surrounded by nothing but positive message and without competing vendors, what a perfect sales scenario. If you are a larger target client, be ready to be guided through the event and not given a chance to stray or talk to anyone who might steer you in another direction (competing vendors, dissatisfied clients, general naysayers, etc.). Be especially careful if attending Workday Rising as this is considered a private event and they will only let you in if you are a customer or prospective customer. If you’ve ever sat through an Amway presentation you know what’s coming.

To make money: Ideally, a direct profit can be drawn if run properly, but ultimately, these events are in place to boost overall profitability in one way or another. Besides the previous points, this is also time for vendors to sell booths to sponsoring consultants and supporting products. The influence of big systems integration partners and resellers simply adds to the aura of simplicity and perfection.

If you attend with an understanding of what to expect you should be good to go. These are great opportunities to learn about your current or prospective software supplier and see what they are all about. If you see or hear something that sounds like “ERP is easy, ERP is for everyone, ERP is all reward and no risk and life is all about apple pie,” just “Leave it to Beaver”.

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