Is ‘best practice’ culturally-inclined?

Back in the pre-Y2K era, when I first encountered ERP, one of the selling points that the ERP vendors used to tout was their ‘industry best practice’ solutions. This meant that they had determined that for a particular industry (say buggy whip production) that best way to do things was to follow a set of processes that their software encapsulated.

I don’t know how many companies were convinced but that message, but its fallacy was brought home to me recently when we visited a company in the heavy manufacturing industry. Not that best practices are wrong per se, but its likely that they were developed in first-world environments, and transferring them to developing-world situations is not straightforward.

During our walk around the factory, we were told at more than one location that the factory managers had tried implementing procedures that were considered first-world best practices but had failed on every attempt. In some cases the reason was lack of advanced support infra-structure on the shop floor, but in other cases it was due to the level of education and training of the workers, cultural attitudes, and language issues.

So when we implement at the factory, we have to be aware of the local ‘way of life’ and not try and impose practices just because some ‘northerners’ think they should work. Once again, it shows to me the importance of enterprise software vendors recognising local conditions when they sell their solutions. I’m afraid that too many international (US?) vendors have little idea about how things work outside the environment they are familiar with, and then cannot understand why some countries struggle with implementations.

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