Unifying ERP

By Edward Cone  |  Posted 2004-06-18 Print this article Print

Unifying ERP

Scalet has his work cut out for him.

These days, he’s focusing more energy on Merck’s ERP strategy, which is based on a patchwork of proprietary applications and packaged software from multiple vendors, including J.D. Edwards. With J.D. Edwards now owned by PeopleSoft, Scalet appears to want to select a single planning system and stick with it, say individuals close to Scalet.

And while Scalet is not necessarily saying he will junk Merck’s current mix of enterprise applications in favor of a single ERP system, he talks about promoting "more standardized solution sets."

Merck must learn when it’s appropriate to "buy packages, install the packages the way they come delivered to us, and alter our business processes if necessary," he says. "But there are still other areas, as we get close to our customers, close to basic research, where we will do custom development. That’s … where there’s the greatest opportunity for strategic advantage."

Scalet addressed similar issues at International Paper, according to one of his information systems colleagues there. Because the company grew through acquisitions, "we had systems that were doing essentially the same things in many different businesses, but doing those same things very differently," the colleague says.

Under Scalet, those situations didn’t last long, he says. For example, after the 1999 merger with Union Camp, International Paper stopped implementation of an order management system and took a $3 million write-off.

At Merck, the issue may be that the individual project committees are making isolated decisions because they can’t see the big picture, says the former colleague. "Typically, a CIO has a much broader perspective on the overall landscape. The folks in the forest, they can only see trees. I would suggest Chris is pretty good at seeing the forest."

Senior Writer and author of the Know It All blog

Ed Cone has worked as a contributing editor at Wired, a staff writer at Forbes, a senior writer for Ziff Davis with Baseline and Interactive Week, and as a freelancer based in Paris and then North Carolina for a wide variety of magazines and papers including the International Herald Tribune, Texas Monthly, and Playboy. He writes an opinion column in his hometown paper, the Greensboro News & Record, and publishes the semi-popular EdCone.com weblog. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Lisa, two kids, and a dog.

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