Everyone likes to back up decisions we make and ideas we have with facts. It makes us feel that we did our due diligence, weighed options, and made a commitment based on valuable reasoning. But what happens with the presentation of facts is out of context or hinders the meaning behind them? Instead of simply taking what is being said as the end-all-be-all, the consumer must remember to look at the source for clues in differentiating germane from immaterial fact.

Case in point, recently on the technical forum, IT Toolbox, someone posed a question about experiences and variances between IQMS and Microsoft Dynamics. This fairly innocuous question was posed with the idea that people who know about these two manufacturing ERP products would provide feedback and helps to make clearer a few choices. That started out well with good conversation, some real world examples, and a couple of statistics thrown in. Then we hit a snag. After one specific statistical figure posting, someone else felt compelled to dispel that figure by offering a much varied figure – for something entirely off the subject. One thing led to another and now we have many posts, so far from the original question, that no one even remembers what we were discussing in the first place. In this case, the source of some posts was someone who clearly had an agenda for what he or she wanted to say and was willing to shoehorn in that idea regardless of the relevance. Was his or her comment valid? Perhaps, in the right forum it might have even been helpful. But providing the information at that time, in that way, rendered the “fact” basically useless.

How can facts that are true be irrelevant at time while meaningful at other times? Isn’t a fact always something you should have at the ready to help solve a decision? The theory is yes, but if the fact isn’t provided as a fact it can become noise. For example, I just finished an interesting article called “Time to Stop Believing in Ghosts” about the (as they put it) “ghost” issue of unintended acceleration in automobiles. We all remember the Toyota stories from the media talking about cars going out of control and the tremendously expensive recall the automaker faced in the wake of these incidents. The media reported it so it must be fact. Toyota fired back with research of the impossibility of this happening. The media continued to discuss the recall and increase in accidents. This article presents the scientific, unequivocal, electronics expert-backed version of the truth in that unexpected acceleration is impossible. This is the same information I heard on the evening news at the height of popularity. The difference? The magazine didn’t just brush over this fact. The news did. It was a brief mention between the longer stories of destruction. Like the online posting issue, the media rendered the “fact” basically useless.

Am I saying that the Toyota event didn’t occur or that the poster on IT Toolbox was wrong? No. But, just like with selecting ERP software, you need to understand what is true and what is relevant. ERP Vendor One may have ten times more employees than ERP Vendor Two, but how many are going to work on your account and be accountable to you? Isn’t that the fact you care about? ERP Vendor One may make ten times more than ERP Vendor Two but the smaller vendor puts 75-percent of revenue back into programming and development while the larger vendor puts 90-percent of revenue back into the pockets of its Board of Directors. Which fact helps your company? ERP Vendor One has 100 programmers working on ten various packages while ERP Vendor Two has 20 programmers working on the one and only package they produce. Which programming team do you want?

Listening to the facts, statistics, and information provided to you is only as good as the analysis you put into it. Some facts, just at face value, may not show the whole picture.

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