System of Record vs. System of Engagement, Part 1: What Maintenance Managers Need to Know about ERP Systems


Last week I ran into Tony, a longtime MPulse user. Tony and I go way back, and I’ve watched him personally transform his company’s maintenance department from an emergency response crew to a modern, proactive maintenance team.

Tony and I have seen a lot of changes over the years, including the emergence of data-driven management—which Tony has used successfully for years. However, Tony has a problem. His executive management team is outlining a “big picture” plan that involves a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system used by every department.

“Steve, my bosses want to implement this company-wide ERP system,” Tony told me. “And I understand why. But I’ve seen the demo, and it’s not going to help the maintenance team do our jobs like our MPulse CMMS software does.”

The Maintenance Manager’s Dilemma

Tony is not alone. Larger companies sometimes invest in massive, monolithic ERP systems that offer a variety of business functions in one package—including accounting, human resources, sales, planning, and inventory.

It sounds great, right? But Tony’s already spotted the big problem. These ERP systems rarely served the needs of any business function except for accounting. They were designed with an accounting perspective in mind and often perform poorly as tools for managing other functions, like maintenance.

System of Record vs. System of Engagement

Now Tony’s managers understand that his maintenance team contributes significantly to their company’s financial health by keeping assets working smoothly and minimizing downtime. And they clearly want that to continue.

But with this plan, his managers are confusing a System of Record with a System of Engagement. In a nutshell…

  • A System of Record is the primary system or data repository of an organization. Examples include SAP, JD Edwards, Oracle, Microsoft Dynamics ERP, etc.
  • A System of Engagement is the system that is used to collect data. It’s software that people interface with directly in the form of a task-specific, usable tool for capturing data. That’s the purpose of Tony’s MPulse CMMS Solution.

Many companies are learning that their System of Record doesn’t provide easy-to-use tools to get all jobs done—for instance maintenance management—without excessive system overhead, user antagonism, time, and cost.

That’s a big problem for the maintenance department, where you know the tools you use directly affect your efficiency and productivity. When you aren’t using the right tool, it takes longer to do the job—and sometimes it’s even impossible.

So what can Tony do? I’ll outline his approach in the next blog.