My Car Mechanic and Your ERP
I’ve got a great mechanic. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m one of those lucky folks who has an auto mechanic who is a trustworthy childhood friend and is passionate about all things on wheels. Recently I was at his place for a late seasonal check-up. My trusty sedan was sounding quite dodgy on these cold winter mornings. I usually try to offer a diagnosis, “block heater”, I’ll say and nod knowingly. He tolerates my lack of knowledge and mediocre maintenance schedule and simply says “let’s take a look.”
I know that several years ago he recognized the need to invest in diagnostic equipment and so the inspection that he offers today is significantly more detailed and comprehensive than what was previously possible. It extends beyond observing the symptoms, like just “block heater”. I think of it as his 37-point check-up.
It got me thinking about analytics and the service that I have been offering to organizations when assessing the functionality of their chosen ERP. The same analytics that run in the ERP module of the CTRLmatters service platform. So, if you’ll permit the metaphor, allow me to explain.
Your ERP was implemented, at a significant cost, to improve your operations. You rely on the information and reports that it provides. However, the system needs constant tweaks and updates to keep it running smoothly. Changes to business processes, new product lines and customers, additional modules added to the existing ERP and integration with legacy systems are happening all the time. So, when was the last time you ran a “37-Point Check-up” on your ERP?
Why not have a set of standard analytics that can be run against your ERP system to give you a quick diagnostic of your ERP system? It can be simple things like checking for duplicates in master tables – which can result in customers that defaulted on payments still having valid, active customer numbers; or vendors with multiple vendor numbers - which allows for duplicate invoices to be incorrectly paid; or employees with duplicate employee numbers … you get the idea. There are also tests that may be more complicated – like looking for separation of duties issues or verifying that business process controls are still configured correctly in your ERP. And what about emerging risk, fraud, and efficiency of operations? The ERP should be helping you manage these as well. Is yours?
In the past 30 years, I have developed thousands of analytics to validate ERP configurations and controls in medium to large public and private sector enterprises. And I found that I was usually running the same sets of tests in numerous companies with minimal modifications. These are different from typical analytics that simply looking for transactions that may affect the financial statements. Deeper and more value-added analytics should be evaluating business processes (e.g., accounts payable, account receivable, payroll, etc.) and providing assurances on the adequacy and efficiency of these processes, the strength of the internal controls, and any resulting efficiency or fraud risks. This was the genesis of the concept of a 37-Point Check-up: a standard set of analytics, adjustable to various installation types and configurations, to review your ERP controls and business process operations.
At CTRLmatters, we provide the ERP component as part of our protection platform – a component that leverages thousands of lessons-learned from my 37-point check-ups over the years. We allow organizations to see beyond their symptoms like “block heater” and see the root cause, and then the associated actions they can take to protect their operations from future “cold mornings”.
In the case of my trusty sedan, it seems that a family of mice had decided that the soy-based plastic coating the wires for various sensors in my car would make for a tasty snack and had significantly lowered the voltage required for optimal engine performance. I can’t help but imagine the parallels I could continue to draw with regard to data, analytics, controls, ERP systems and business operations but perhaps I’ll leave that to your imagination.
May all your business operations be protected and your mornings a little warmer.
Senior Data Analyst