Take a step back.
In the consulting game we talk about ERP systems all the time. We all know what an ERP is - we think - and we may even know what it stands for.
But if you meet someone who’s not in consulting, what do you tell them you do? How do you get it across?
I’ve tried to explain what I do to my mum for 25 years. She still doesn’t get it. All she sees is me going into far flung ‘customers’, telling them what they should do, and swanning around in a fancy car. I swear she thinks I’m either a spy or a drug dealer.
When my teenage kids used to ask what I do they were equally mystified until I put it in context.
"When an Amazon order arrives" I asked them, "How do you think it got here?"
After they’d looked at me funny and answered "In a van", I explained what I meant and it turned out they didn’t know - they assumed it just ‘happens’.
But when you break it down and talk about how we placed the order and paid for it, how Amazon processed it, picked it, packed it, shipped it and delivered it, they get it. And when you point out that the whole thing is held together by an ERP system and that’s what I work in they get that too.
I’m not saying it’s the most exciting thing we talk about. They don’t leap on me when I get home from work to hear more thrilling stories about roadmapping or APIs. They do, however, realise that ERP systems exist and that there are career opportunities implementing and supporting them.
Embarrassed by the "E" word?
But I don’t say it’s ‘ERP’ as there will be the inevitable, ‘What’s that stand for?’ question. Followed by the equally inevitable ‘What’s that mean?’ when I say what the acronym stands for. It’s a terrible name - uninspiring, dull and doesn’t really mean anything to anyone.
Enterprise (a bit last century), Resource (that’s money, right?), and Planning (ah right, it’s used for planning stuff?). Break it down and it sounds like a finance planning system. It’s all a bit vague. And it’s not just pensioners and teenagers who have no idea what ERP is.
Even within IT it’s a bit of a mystery to people. We recently interviewed 3 developers to build APIs between Hubspot and customer’s ERP systems. None of them had even heard of ERP. Which is scary.
We’re constantly told there’s a skills shortage in ERP - we know it, customers know it and even software providers know it. We need new blood coming into the industry to get some new ideas and perspectives on how things can and should be done. It’s no good just having a load of 40 and 50 somethings still running the show.
We need to be shouting this from the rooftop - telling school leavers, new graduates, people who want a career change and - and this is a key group - people who need to retrain having lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Giving them the message that there are careers available where they can earn good money and where you don’t really need an IT background is vital.
Business experience, the ability to problem solve, the ability to empathise with people, and to being express your ideas clearly are way more important than IT experience. We need to show that not everyone in IT is a coder. And really, the bulk of jobs in ERP - consultants, PMs, change managers, data analysts - don’t involve coding.
We’re not doing a great job at that and the crap name we’ve got - ERP - isn’t helping. Can anyone think of a better one?
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