6 ERP lessons from Johann Sebastian Bach

What you can learn from the great composer, when implementing AX.

By Frans Hoogenraad, Senior consultant & Business solution architect HSO 


Some time ago we visited the museum Speelklok in Utrecht. According to the website:

“In the Music Factory the children are set to work composing, programming and playing their own musical box music. Each child from 4 to 12 years old will receive a free plingplong card on arrival at the ticket desk.”

This sounds great, because “composing”, programming and playing run through the veins of an ERP consultant! (A plingplong card is a punch card, which might be familiar to the elder IT colleagues who could fix a bug with a knitting needle.)

The children liked it, and I was happy to stimulate these important skills. The children were punching out various melodies, and then, before hearing any music, I was struck by the stunning beauty of a work by J.S. Bach, visible as punches on a paper card. The rhythm, the sequence of the tones, the repeating tact was beautiful to see.

One of the masterpieces of Bach is the Toccata and Fugue (BWV 565).

On YouTube you can find “Gantt charts” of Bach’s music posted by Smalin. This reminded me of a Gantt chart in AX. You can see that there music in AX too!


When Bach was cantor in Leipzig, he had to deliver a cantata for church service every Sunday. These strict weekly mile stones were only achievable, because he reused many parts from his earlier cantatas. In ERP implementations, it helps to set clear milestones, and rely on proven experience of the implementation partner.


This week I was on the AX Technical Conference in Seattle and I heard that 75% of the companies in the S&P 500 will probably not be the S&P 500 in the year 2024, most likely because they can’t change fast enough. In a world of changing requirements, flexibility is crucial. Can you easily adapt your system to the new situation?

In 1708 Bach had to compose and play organ works in the Lutheran church for the Duke of Saxony – Weimar, a religious man. Later, music loving Prince Leopold hired Bach as chapel master, director of music. Leopold who was a Calvinist, but he did not use music in church service. Bach switched to composing and performing other secular music, e.g. about parties and about coffee. When Prince Leopold remarried, his second wife did not particularly like Bach’s music style. As a kind of application for a new job at the court in Brandenburg, Bach composed the famous Brandenburg concertos. At HSO we call this a presales demo.

Lifelong Learning

Bach was very flexible in styles, and he was interested in the professional development of other composers of his time. In a similar way the ERP consultant needs to keep up with all new functionality and technology, and have frequent chats with other professionals.

Stick to the Scope

Bach had many roles: composer, organ player, conductor, violin player, klavecimbel player. Bach became the church organ player in Arnstadt and the contractual agreement was that he would accompany the Sunday church service, the prayer time on Monday and the early church service on Thursday. The church authorities implicitly assumed that making music with the school choir was one of his tasks, but Bach refused, because that was not part of the contract. If you don’t stick to the scope, you won’t be able to reach your milestones.

Implementation can be Tough

Not all of Bach’s works were received with enthusiasm. He played the organ to accompany the weekly church songs, but people complained his organ playing was too complicated, and the preludes were too long. In ERP projects too, everything looks complicated and it takes a lot of time before you can actually start.

Nowadays Bach’s music is valued by millions of people and can move them to tears. Cynical people might say: what’s the difference with ERP implementations? Of course, the implementation process is never easy, but valuation comes after time.

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