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Welcome to gotERP?
This is an online forum to share experiences, lessons and learning about the selection, implementation and return on investment for Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems. We also like to discuss Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) systems, Social CRM (SCRM) & social media, Manufacturing Systems, Supply Chain Management (SCM) systems and Payroll & HR Applications.

 

 

 

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ERP Industry Update with Nucleus Research's Rebecca Wettemann

Top Customer Inquiries Include Support, Cloud and Ease of Use

Ask Rebecca Wettemann, an ERP and CRM software analyst with Boston-based Nucleus Research, about the three biggest Enterprise Resource Planning software topics that she's hearing most frequently from clients today and she doesn't hesitate for a second.

They want to know her thoughts and advice about third-party support, she said. They want to gauge her views about hosted ERP or ERP delivered from the cloud. And they want to know if any ERP vendors are really working on making ERP software easier to use.

According to Wettemann, it's a very interesting time to be an analyst covering this marketplace. "Companies are looking at third-party support for SAP and Oracle," including PeopleSoft and JD Edwards systems that are still very much in use, she advised. "Third-party support is cheaper, and it's not just cheaper in terms of only the support contract, but it also means customers don't have to go on a forced software upgrade path" as imposed by their application's vendor. For customers, that's a big plus today to be able to stick with whatever they are using as long as it is still working well for them - and avoid the costly and risk prone fork lift upgrades.

Third party software support vendors deliver services without also having to hawk their latest and greatest applications, which means less pressure on customers, Wettemann said. "In many cases they can also spend less on software maintenance because their support provider can tell them what specific application patches they do and don't need to install" and configure. "These companies are focused on providing quality support, that's often better than the original ERP vendors."

And since third party vendors can often provide more one-on-one attention and personalization with their support customers, they're finding ways to truly penetrate the marketplace, she noted. "I think it will be very interesting to see it moving forward."

One complication, however, is that some of the large vendors are pursuing or threatening to pursue legal actions against such third-party support, she said, so customers need to watch how things shake out.

Cloud computing, hosted ERP and ERP delivered as a service are also getting a lot of her attention and questions from clients. What Nucleus Research is discovering in recent surveys, she said, is greater interest in the idea, especially from businesses that manufacture products and run complex ERP systems to keep it all running smoothly. "What we're seeing are more and more organizations that want to automate cloud business processes," Wettemann explained. "With the cloud, ERP is potentially more cost-effective than the traditional enterprise software model."

As companies continue to use older legacy ERP systems that are maturing and nearing their end of life cycles, particularly if their vendors are no longer in business or have gone through acquisitions, "there may be an opportunity to switch to a cloud-based ERP system that is more flexible and can change over time. Does that mean that every company is going to change from traditional ERP and move to the cloud? Of course not."

Big brand ERP vendors like Oracle are responding to this hosted software movement, she said, by offering new versions of their enterprise resource planning applications that can help fill these gaps and make them more cost-effective to maintain over time.

Another interesting application software trend is a two-tier ERP system. "What we're now seeing are more and more companies participating in an area where corporations had adopted one ERP system and then required its use company-wide," Wettemann said. "Then someone in the business says 'can we run something other than what corporate runs?' and adds another ERP system to the mix. It allows them to be a little more flexible" and to use a mainstay product for the headquarters business and much simpler versions for other divisions. For users, this can greatly simplify a complex ERP deployment and make it much easier to use for a broad swath of non-technical users to adopt and maintain.

Can you make ERP software easier to use? One big trend Wettemann says she's seeing are ERP vendors that are investing today to make complex ERP applications much more usable. These ease of use features are certainly on the minds of customers that employ these huge applications because it will make them simpler to use for their staff.

"Microsoft is developing role-based templates so that each department can do what they need to do without worrying about how it affects the rest of the company," she explained. "Oracle, across the board is investing in lots of usability studies and trying to understand how workers do their work to make it all less difficult to learn and less costly to deal with on the help desk."

One example of this is simple - creating application software help guides on-screen that can guide a user through a business process simply, instead of their having to make a help desk call or asking a co-worker for assistance, Wettemann said. "They're trying to improve the self-help on the user's screen."

That kind of ERP experience would emulate what those same users expect from their consumer devices used when they are away from the office, she said. "Really what we're seeing is a pressure from users, most of whom have broadband Internet from home. They're expecting that same kind of easy user experience that they get on their iPhone or Facebook page. They don't get training on to how to use Facebook. People just intuitively figure it out." Wow, ERP software that is intuitive and easy to understand for users. What will they think of next?

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