Don’t treat your ERP system like a Russian Supply Line

If you’ve been following along with current events, you will have heard of the struggles the Russian Army is having in supplying their front lines with ammunition, fuel, food, and fresh troops. There are plenty of examples of how this challenge is causing serious problems for Russia in accomplishing its goals of a swift action. Video evidence is everywhere of broken abandoned and destroyed equipment. The root cause for this is the lack of day-to-day maintenance that is required to keep the supply line equipment ready to go. It’s very evident that the Russian army failed to keep up the basic regular maintenance of their supply line fleet and this simple oversight is having serious repercussions for them. You can blame corrupt purchasing agents, negligent conscripts that simply don’t care, or overzealous administrators that are keener on purchasing stealth jets then new truck tires, but the bottom line is a logistic failure has had a major impact on the Russians ability to execute their plan. 

General Omar Bradley (famous World War II general and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) is often credited with saying: ‘Amateurs talk strategy. Professionals talk logistics.’

This quote summarizes a really important point. "Strategy" describes the overall objective and how your team is going to reach that objective.  "Tactics" describe the specific actions that you will be required to meet the overall objective.  "Logistics" describes the process by which the right people and equipment are placed in the right position at the right time to execute the tactics necessary to successfully achieve the strategic objective.
While "strategy" defines the long-term goals, "tactics" are much more concrete, specific, and detailed (in this context, the initiatives that will be completed to reach the objective).  The ancient Chinese military strategist, Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War, "Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory.  Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat."  But Sun Tzu also had an important comment to make about logistics.  He said, "The line between disorder and order lies in logistics."

Management guru Tom Peters said, "Leaders win through logistics.  Vision, sure.  Strategy, yes.  But when you go to war, you need to have both toilet paper and bullets at the right place at the right time.  In other words, you must win through superior logistics."

What has all this to do with your ERP system?

Just like the breakdown in the Russian supply lines, your ERP strategy relies on logistics. Logistics of having the correct servers in the right place with enough RAM and CPU to support the users that will be executing your business tactics. If your servers are not running the latest operating systems with the correct cyber security patches applied, your data is exposed to hackers and crypto locking viruses. Patching your servers and keeping your ERP software up to date with regular upgrades isn’t flashy. It’s not fun budgeting money for such mundane, boring and “non productive” activities, but just like the Russian army, your strategy will eventually suffer a significant failure that will negatively impact your business if you don’t stay on top of the logistics related to the system.

I’ve seen servers explode because the log files were turned on and they filled up the server’s storage system causing a full system shutdown. How costly is that mistake to the business? At the time of this failure the accounting department was posting a long transaction to the General Ledger. Since only a portion of the transaction successfully posted, the system posted an unbalanced journal entry. This error was not discovered until the following month end. Significant resources were required to trace back the entry, figure out what didn’t get posted and then find out how to post a single sided journal entry to correct the accounting system. All this with upper-level management panicking for reports for head office. Had the IT department been monitoring the server space or had known how to truncate the log files as a basic logistic task requirement of the ERP system, none of these business interruptions would have happened.

The logistics of an ERP system are important. If you are responsible for an ERP system and you are unsure of what the logistical requirements are for your system, you’re likely not managing them. It’s ok though, just like the company above, they will eventually get your attention. Hopefully you’ll fair better than the Russian army has.

Logistics is just as important as strategy and tactics.  And the best leaders worry about logistics as much as, if not more than, strategy and tactics.

If your Epicor ERP system is running a version of software that is in sustaining, or you don’t know what that means, you’ve got a logistics problem that you need to address.

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