Performing Root Cause Analysis in ERP – Does it Matter?

Technology comes with its frustrations – it randomly reboots, throws pop up errors on your screen and it zigs left when you need it to zig right. Why?

Before I get into explaining the question, “Does it Matter?”, let me share a story.

My home entertainment system consists of a very high-end Denon amp that manages my 59’ LCD Samsung TV, Satellite PVR Receiver, Apple TV Box, Samsung 3D DVD Player, X-Box, Wii and Laptop.

These devices are either connected with cables and/or through wireless connections. My Denon remote allows me to switch easily between each electronic item depending on which one I want to use (watch movies, play video games, view pictures, and so much more).

I’ve been using the same 8 electronic devices for a little over 3 years. It took hours to connect, test, reconnect, test again and ta-da, my entertainment system was operating seamlessly.

Power on, click the Apple TV option and I’m watching Netflix in a matter of seconds.

As Winnipeg turns to Winterpeg, the need for indoor entertainment is a must. A -30C (or colder) day called for a movie on DVD.

As always, I turn my DVD player on, place the DVD in the player, switch my amp to DVD and we are off to the races…or not.

I see the movie, but can’t hear the movie. Hmmm… like most of us, we think it through and determine the most likely causes.

We check the volume, check the cables, power the devices off; turn them back on, and proceed with the same process as before. Yet nothing worked, I still see the movie, but can’t hear it.

I surf the internet and attempt to find others with the same problem; looking for suggested fixes. Nothing. I’ve now spent a good hour or two attempting to solve the volume problem, to no avail.

I’m frustrated and done. I leave it and move on. Another -30C (but bright and sunny) day, it’s time to once again try and solve the volume problem, one difference, my husband physically runs through the motions of turning everything on. Voila! Not only can I see the movie, I can hear it.

How is that possible? What could he have possibly done that I didn’t? Over the next few days, we explain what each one does and attempt to determine what changed.

He switches the amp to DVD before turning on the DVD player. Apparently that makes all the difference. In the 3 years of using the same electronics (and nothing had changed) it now matters what is turned on first?

How can turning on one device before the other cause the sound not to work and only effect the DVD player? I simply could not understand. It simply does not make sense.

As I continue my rant, he looks at me and says, “why does it matter? We know what the problem is. We know how to solve it. Does it really matter what caused it?”

Is Root Cause Analysis Important?

I suppose the hours spent simply figuring out that one device must be turned on before the other is my solution, does it really matter what the root cause is to this?

I suppose I could spend time and perhaps money to get to the bottom of it. I could continue to surf the internet, contact the manufacturers, and perhaps reinstall all my electronic devices just so I can determine what caused this change?

So I ask myself, do I want to spend countless hours so I can simply have the option of what order to power on my devices? Probably not.

Though my electronics problem is a little less complicated than perhaps a Microsoft Dynamics issue, the question remains the same. Is it worth all the time and money to determine what caused this if there is already an answer that fixes the immediate problem?

The Difference Between Support and Root Cause Analysis

Let me start by clarifying the difference between Support and Root Cause Analysis. Support is intended to fix the immediate issue.

Now don’t get me wrong, often, we know what caused the problem (it can be as easy as operator error) but not always. To get to the bottom of more complicated technical issues we need to complete a Root Cause Analysis, where we take the time to research and test what is actually creating the problem so we can eliminate it entirely.

So When Does it Matter to Go So Far As to Invest the Time and Money to Determine What the Root Cause Is?

A few years back, one of our customers lost a number of posted transactions. They sent in a support request, we reviewed it and confirmed the transactions were nowhere to be found.

Solution: Re-enter the batch and post – it worked! Like most cases, that’s the end of the support.

However, over the next month the customer’s posted transactions continued to go missing. Now this particular problem didn’t happen every time they posted but randomly, typically a few times a week over the following month; sometimes more, sometimes less.

This was getting a bit frustrating. The only fix was to re-enter the transactions. We needed to get to the bottom of this to prevent it from disrupting this client’s operations. Root Cause Analysis was a must.

A Root Cause Analysis Process

To start we must run through items that may seem basic, and you may have even done a few of these steps to begin with, however our consultants must run through every step…a process of elimination. Here are some of our analysis steps we took:

  1. Rebooted the system, because sometimes that’s all it takes. That didn’t work.
  2. Reviewed the customer’s posting process, to ensure the process was correct. Nope, not that.
  3. Reviewed the setup, to confirm nothing was changed. Not that either.
  4. Attempted to recreate the problem in their environment, to verify consistency. No, can’t recreate it.
  5. Attempted to recreate the problem in our test environment, to evaluate if it can be recreated outside of the customer’s specific environment. Not here either.
  6. Reviewed the infrastructure, to ensure that it meets the requirements of the software. Nothing.
  7. Contacted Microsoft to see if they have come across this issue before. Not immediately. Though, after a number of discussions and running through a handful of items listed above with them, they offer us some suggested system diagnostics to run.
  8. Ran system diagnostics as suggested by Microsoft. Found it!

After 100’s of hours of analysis and $1000’s of dollars later it was determined that their network, which communicates the action of posting from the workstations to the server was randomly dropping.

Transactions that were posted at that very moment the network dropped (we are talking seconds) were lost. The transactions were getting lost between communicating the action of posting to the server but the data not actually making it.

So even though the software thought it was posted, the actual information was lost in the network when it dropped so the posted transactions never showed up.

Does it Matter?

In business it’s imperative to minimize costs and operate efficiently, so when does it make sense to invest the time and money to understand the underlying cause?

The next time you run into a problem and you can’t get to the bottom of it, your next line of action is to contact the experts by submitting a support ticket to Encore and we work with you to provide a fix.

The problem gets solved and you and your team are able to continue the work at hand. But, if curiosity gets the better of you, “Why did this happen in the first place?” Be cautious, it could get costly, so ask yourself…does it matter?

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