Enterprise System Spectator blog: ERP and enterprise system vendor evaluation, selection, and implementation.

The Enterprise System Spectator

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Rootstock's Momentum in Cloud ERP

Rootstock Software is an up-and-coming cloud manufacturing ERP provider, built on the Salesforce.com platform. Last year, I covered Rootstock in a post about four ERP systems in the Salesforce ecosystem. This year, the annual Dreamforce conference gave me the opportunity to interview Rootstock executives and customers about the progress the firm has made over the past year.

In short, Rootstock is showing good momentum, nearly doubling its publicly announced customer count over the past 18 months. It is also building out its product offerings by developing its own native accounting applications and extending its business intelligence capabilities utilizing Salesforce Wave Analytics.

Read the full post on the Strativa website: Rootstock Rounding Out Its Cloud ERP Offerings.

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by Frank Scavo, 9/30/2015 02:00:00 PM | permalink | e-mail this!


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Kenandy Has a Contrarian View Toward Two-Tier ERP

Salesforce.com is proving to be a popular platform for developing ERP systems, and its annual user conference, Dreamforce, has been a great way to catch up with all of them in one place.

Last year, I provided an update on the four ERP providers building on the Salesforce platform in a single post. This year, I want to provide an update on these, starting with Kenandy.
Unlike cloud-only ERP providers such as NetSuite and Plex, Kenandy is not interested in a "two-tier ERP strategy." The strategy of "two-tier" refers to the targeting of small divisions or operating units of larger companies that are running Tier 1 solutions, typically SAP or Oracle, at headquarters and in larger divisions. The cloud provider then targets its ERP solution for smaller divisions of the company with integrated to the corporate system, usually for shared services such as financials, central order processing, or cross-company supply chain management. NetSuite points to customers such as Jollibee Foods and NBTY (China) Trading Company as multinational companies implementing NetSuite in a two-tier strategy. Similarly, Plex boasts of Caterpillar and Inteva Products as success stories in two-tier ERP.  

Going against this trend, Kenandy executives say that, although they will not turn away two-tier opportunities, they would rather work in what they consider a more strategic role with customers. This means targeting (1) large enterprises for a complete ERP solution, or (2) serving as a more agile "orchestration" solution for new lines of business within large enterprises.

Read the full post on the Strativa website: Kenandy: Against the Tide of Two-Tier ERP

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by Frank Scavo, 9/30/2015 06:32:00 AM | permalink | e-mail this!


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Monday, July 06, 2015

More Than a Deployment Option: SaaS Is a Business Model

With the increasingly popularity of software as a service (SaaS), enterprise software vendors today cannot afford to be without a cloud strategy. As a result, traditional vendors have introduced various forms of hosted, hybrid, and SaaS deployment options. These co-exist alongside the vendor’s traditional on-premises license model.

But software as a service is more than just another deployment option, another way to consume software. SaaS is a business model. SaaS not only affects the product: it should drive the nature of how the provider does business, from how the product is developed and maintained to how it is sold, implemented, and supported. It should permeate the very culture of the provider’s organization.
How should the business model of a SaaS provider be different from that of a traditional software vendor? There are at least six aspects.

Read the rest of this post on the Strativa blog: Beyond Deployment Options: SaaS as a Business Model.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Big Changes at Microsoft Dynamics

In a letter to Microsoft employees today, CEO Satya Nadella announced a major restructuring of its business, including what is essentially a disbanding of Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS), the group responsible for Microsoft Dynamics.
  • Dynamics product development teams will now report up into the new Cloud and Enterprise unit (see above)
  • Dynamics sales and partner relationship organizations will now report to Kevin Turner, Microsoft’s Chief Operating Officer
  • Dynamics marketing functions will now be handled directly by Microsoft’s CMO, Chris Capossela, and his team.

Now, some observers and some competitors will be tempted to say that Microsoft is abandoning its Dynamics products. But, in our view, it would be more accurate to say that the Dynamics products are becoming a more integral part of Microsoft’s overall portfolio. There are three arguments in favor of this positive view of Dynamics.

Read the full post on the Strativa blog:  Microsoft Unbundles Its Dynamics Business Unit


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Sunday, June 07, 2015

The Problem with ERP Requirements Templates

Companies undertaking a new ERP vendor selection often begin the effort by using a standard template of ERP system requirements. Though requirements checklists may appear to be a time-saving way to get to a requirements specification, this approach can actually make the project longer and cost more than it should. Moreover, use of requirements templates can actually lead to the wrong ERP system being selected.

In this post, we identify the problems with the use of ERP requirements templates and outline a better way for specifying requirements for new ERP systems.

Read the rest of this post on the Strativa blog: The Problem with ERP Requirements Templates.


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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Oracle Sued by Customer over Source Code Access

Oracle was hit by a customer lawsuit earlier this month in conjunction with its MICROS Systems business, which Oracle acquired in 2014.

The dispute involves access to the source code for the MICROS Open Commerce Platform.  Aero maintains that when it licensed OCP, MICROS (not yet acquired by Oracle) knew that Aero intended to build customizations and new features to integrate with OCP.

Aero alleges that MICROS personnel represented that Aero would have ongoing access to OCP source code in order to build its customizations and maintain them going forward.

Although we do not yet know all of the facts, there is a lesson in this case for companies seeking to become digital businesses.

Read the rest of this post on the Strativa blog:
Oracle Sued by Customer over Access to MICROS Source Code

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Web Commerce: The Great Equalizer

Since the mid-1990s, it’s been easy to see how web commerce has disrupted many traditional business models. Early on, Amazon disrupted traditional bookstores, and Netflix disrupted video stores. More recently, Uber is disrupting the taxi industry, and AirBnB is threatening the traditional hospitality industry.

But what’s not so apparent is how web commerce has become the great equalizer for small businesses. This is true in at least three ways.
  • Market presence. Traditional marketing channels, such as broadcast media, print advertising, and direct mail, required substantial budgets. Today, a small supplier with a well-designed and well-functioning e-commerce website and good natural search results can rank right up there with major brands. 
  • Global reach. Prior to the commercialization of the Internet, it took substantial investment for a supplier to grow its business internationally. But today, even the smallest manufacturer can be found by prospects in overseas markets. Using international distributors and third-party logistics, small suppliers today can more easily serve buyers around the globe.
  • Cost efficiency. Economies of scale still count in making and distributing physical products. But a well-functioning e-commerce site that is integrated with back-end systems, such as ERP, can cut costs for small suppliers. Combined with cloud systems on the back-end, small businesses can enjoy productivity gains from information systems without having to support a large IT staff.
In other words, an entrepreneur with a business concept or a fresh product design can start a business and scale it in a way that was not easily done twenty years ago.

Small Companies Acting Bigger

In NetSuite's most recent user conference, CEO Zach Nelson touched briefly on this point. He said something to the effect that, with its integrated ERP and e-commerce capabilities, NetSuite was helping small companies act bigger. (He also said that it was equally important to help large companies act smaller, but that’s a thought for another post).

I made a note of Nelson’s remarks, and didn’t think much about them until I attended a reception for press and industry analysts later that evening. There, I found myself chatting with John Baker (CEO) and Alan Blackford (COO) of Thos. Baker, a supplier of outdoor furniture. They told me that NetSuite was working on a video about their business. After the reception, Baker sent me the pre-publication video link and I found it an inspiring story.

In the video, Baker tells how he had been commuting to his tech industry job in Seattle for many years, but he aspired to do something interesting that would allow him to work close to his family on Bainbridge Island. So, he started his outdoor furniture business to combine his interest in technology with his interest in design.

Baker points out that setting up web commerce for this sort of business is quite complex. His operational strategy makes extensive use of outsourced manufacturing, with furniture frames stocked in the warehouse on Bainbridge Island, the cushions from a supplier in Alabama, the umbrellas from California, the fire pits from Tennessee. Though the supply chain is complex, but the integrated system allows the firm to appear to its customers as if it were a much large company. When we are talking to our customers, they are comparing us to companies that are somewhere between 40 to 400 times our size,” he said.

Click the image below to watch the video. It’s a promotional video for NetSuite, of course. But it’s an inspiring story nonetheless.


Just how small is Thos. Bros? I believe the firm has just five employees, and all of them appear in the video.

Related Posts

NetSuite Enhances Its Manufacturing Functionality
NetSuite Manufacturing: Right Direction, Long Road Ahead

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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Infor ERP Customers and the UpgradeX Roadmap

I was at Infor’s headquarters in New York City recently for Infor’s Innovation Summit, its annual event for industry analysts. It’s a good two day briefing, packed with a lot of information on Infor’s broad portfolio of products and its many new initiatives, along with access to all of its top executives.

One of my goals was to see what kind of progress Infor has been making on its CloudSuite program, and especially its UpgradeX initiative, which is aimed at upgrading Infor’s existing customer base to current versions deployed in the cloud. In our ERP selection consulting services, we often see Infor as the incumbent provider, so knowing the details of these offerings is important in understanding options for these clients going forward.

But Infor faces two challenges. First, it must convince a greater share of its 70,000 customers to upgrade to its latest versions. Then, if it does convince them, Infor will need to have the implementation resources trained and available to support those customer migrations.

Read the rest of this post on the Strativa website: Infor ERP Customers and the UpgradeX Roadmap

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

With Manufacturing ERP, the Best UI is No UI

Among industry analysts, there is much talk these days about smart devices. The story is that information technology is being embedded in a host of products, from your household thermostat to your wristwatch to your toothbrush. These smart devices can be connected to each other and to cloud-based systems, resulting in an Internet of Things (IoT) that enables a whole host of new products and services. They also throw off enormous quantities of data—big data—that can be analyzed for insights and predictions and further leveraged for information-based services.

All this is new and exciting. But there’s one industry where smart devices are very old news: manufacturing.

Yet, for the most part, today’s ERP systems do not leverage those smart devices on the factory floor. In the typical factory, the intelligence of the factory equipment is used almost exclusively by manufacturing engineers, process engineers, and quality assurance professionals to control production. But when it comes to recording transactions for production control, inventory, or accounting, they are often performed by human operators hand-entering the data.

Read the rest of this post on the Strativa blog: With Manufacturing ERP, the Best UI is No UI→

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Beyond Business Systems to Business Transformation

Over the past several years, we’ve seen a subtle shift in our consulting work at Strativa. Years ago, clients would ask us to facilitate an ERP or CRM vendor selection, a business process improvement project, or various types of IT assessments. Our consultants still do those types of projects, of course.

But today, increasingly, clients are asking us to help them in a more holistic way. Increasingly, they are not just looking for a new system or for business process improvement. They are looking to see how new technologies can enable new business models, how they should rethink their whole applications portfolio to support changes in their businesses, and how they should redesign or simplify business processes to take advantage of new technologies.
Enterprise Software Vendors Need a Broader Focus

I attend a number of vendor conferences and analyst briefings every year. My goal in attending these events is primarily to keep up on the latest capabilities of each vendor, so that we can best qualify them for short listing for our clients. As much as vendors like to talk about business transformation, most of what I see at vendor events is more narrowly focused on features/functions of vendor products. The best try to inspire their customers about the vendor’s product road map. The worst are just sales events, with networking opportunities and parties thrown in.

So, when I planned my attendance at Microsoft’s annual Convergence conference this week, I was expecting more of the same. But after the first keynote, something felt different.

Read the rest of this post on the Strativa website: Beyond Business Systems to Business Transformation


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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Where in the World? At the IT Financial Management Conference!

If you are an IT executive or responsible for an IT budget, you should consider attending the IT Financial Management association conference this year, April 13-17, in Pittsburgh.

For my research firm, Computer Economics, this conference is right up our alley. So, John Longwell and I will both be giving presentations at the conference this year. John, our VP of Research, will be speaking on Long Term IT Trends and What They Mean for Your Organization.  Here's the abstract:
Long-term economic and technology trends are creating new challenges for IT financial management. These trends include the declining cost of hardware, the shift in the spending mix to software and ongoing support, the use of contingency workers, the outsourcing of IT services, the impact of cloud computing, and the increase in IT spending outside the IT budget. Based on over 25 years of research, this presentation will outline the impact of these long term trends and provide practical recommendations to take advantage of them.
My presentation will be on Best Practices for Benchmarking Your IT Budget. Here's the abstract:
Benchmarking is a popular way for IT organizations to justify their IT budgets and focus their efforts for continuous improvement. But CIOs are often unhappy with or question the validity of the results. Based on benchmarking exercises with clients over the past decade, this session will outline three complementary approaches to benchmarking. Best practices will be described for defining peer groups, selecting key metrics, understanding variations by industry and organization size, analyzing gaps, and translating findings into actions.
Registration details are on the ITFMA website. 

Related Links

Computer Economics IT Spending and Staffing Benchmarks

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by Frank Scavo, 3/15/2015 06:18:00 PM | permalink | e-mail this!


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Sunday, February 22, 2015

ERP Selection Is Not Just About Vendor Selection

When an organization decides to look for a new ERP system, consultants and vendors often refer to that effort as an "ERP selection project." Sometimes they will refer to it as ERP vendor selection, or an ERP vendor evaluation, but the idea is the same.

I've been advising companies on ERP selection since 1989, and my consulting firm Strativa has been doing ERP selection consulting since 2000. After many such projects, I've come to the conclusion that the whole process is misnamed. Why? Because referring to the effort as an ERP vendor selection project makes the choosing the right system the primary objective. 

Does this mean that it's not important for an organization to select the right system or the right vendor?  Of course not. But picking the right vendor is only a small part of what organizations need in these projects.

What Organizations Need in ERP Selection Projects

So what should ERP selection projects include, in addition to ERP vendor selection? Here are a few critical needs: 
  • Forming a team. I'm always concerned when the ERP selection decision is driven primarily by the IT organization. Part of the ERP selection effort has to be to to draft key leaders from the business side of the organization.  
  • Gaining executive sponsorship. ERP selection is a major business change initiative. Without executive sponsorship, the project will go nowhere. An early activity, therefore, is to ensure that top management is behind the effort. 
  • Business and IT strategy. Many ERP selections arise from organizations changing their business model, acquiring new lines of business, or expanding into new markets. To provide context, ERP selection should start with a review of the current and future business strategy and how IT is aligned to support it. 
  • Applications systems road map. Many of our clients have dozens of systems in addition to ERP, and many of them are connected to the ERP system. Should those systems stay or go? Most organizations would do well to first address the entire portfolio of applications and lay out a strategic road map to understand the impact of a new ERP system.
  • Application platform decision. Will the new ERP system be deployed on-premises, be hosted by a service provider, or will it be a true cloud system? The choice here will also have implications for the applications road map.
  • IT organizational impact. Does the current IT organization have the needed skills to support the future applications road map, including the new ERP system? If not, what new skill are needed and how should the IT staff be organized? Many of our ERP selection projects include side projects for skills acquisition.  
  • Defining key requirements.  It goes without saying, if you don't know what makes your business different from others, or what makes software vendors different from one another, it's difficult to pick the right system. Defining key issues should precede creation of the vendor short list. 
  • Unbiased evaluation of current ERP system. Sometimes insiders, being so familiar with the shortcomings of the organization's existing ERP system, assume that a new system is the only solution. In our ERP vendor selection consulting, however, we find a small percentage of projects where the current system is the best choice, perhaps with a version upgrade. A truly independent ERP selection consultant will include the current system for consideration. 
  • Choosing an implementation partner. ERP vendor selection is not the only decision: most organizations will need to select an ERP implementation partner. Having the right ERP system but the wrong ERP implementation consultant rarely leads to success.
  • Negotiating contracts. ERP selection does not end with picking the right system. There are ERP software license agreement, implementation consulting agreements, and in many cases these days there are contracts and service level agreements for hosting partners or cloud services providers. Your legal counsel can address legal terms and conditions, but most lawyers do not have a clue about broader issues of technical agreements. Contract review and negotiation is another key activity in ERP selection projects. 
  • ERP implementation planning. Generally, the ERP implementation partner has a good handle on the activities it must perform, but the ERP selection team must also plan for the activities required on the client side, such as training, data conversion, procedure writing, and acceptance testing. Planning for client-side staffing is also a key need.
  • Business case approval. You can pick the right vendor and negotiate fair agreements, but if your own organization does not see the business value, the project will not be approved. ERP selection projects often need to include business case preparation, in business terms.
  • Business process improvement. ERP systems can involve major changes in business processes--hopefully for the better. The ERP selection team should also anticipate the business process improvement needed as part of the new system.
  • Change management. ERP implementations rarely fail because of technology problems (though, it does happen). ERP implementation projects often fail because of organizational resistance to change. How you engage the organization during ERP selection is how you gain buy in for the decision, setting the stage for cooperation during the implementation. 
As shown by this long list of activities, very little of what we call ERP selection is the process of coming up with a short list and picking a winning vendor. Most of the process should be oriented around the activities to make a major business change initiative successful. 

Free ERP Selection Is Not Free

The fact that organizations need much more than picking the right vendor hasn't stopped some service providers and consultants from focusing on it, however. Since the 1990s, consultants have been advising buyers on how to create a short list and pick the right system. 

The free vendor evaluation websites are the worst offenders. I won't name them, but you can find them in any Google search for "ERP selection." Most have just one service: creating a short list of ERP vendors for you to consider. What they don't tell you is that their service is free because these sites make money is by selling your contact information to the very same vendors that they are short listing for you. They are not advisory services for buyers, they are lead generation services for vendors.

Some companies come to us for ERP selection consulting after they've used these free vendor selection websites. Invariably, we find the prospect has already been flooded with phone calls and emails from vendors that were referred to them by the vendor evaluation websites.  It only makes our job that much harder while we are trying to focus on the other 90% of what it takes to make an ERP selection project successful.

Buyers Are Getting Smarter

Ironically, while clients come to us for help in ERP selection, I'm finding that the area where they need the least help is in identifying vendors for their short list. By the time clients reach out to us they've already done quite a bit of homework online and networking with associates to find out who the popular vendors are. In some recent deals, I've had new prospects rattle off a list of other companies in their industry and what ERP systems they are running.

Invariably, however, we usually know of a few vendors that should be short-listed that the client hasn't heard of. In addition, the client may have misconceptions about what certain vendors are good at, or not good at. Nevertheless, I'm finding buyers today are much more knowledgeable than ever about the ERP vendor landscape. 

At the same time, clients are realizing their needs beyond selection. They have all heard the stories of multi-million dollar ERP failures, and they realize that not all the blame can be placed on the ERP vendors or the ERP implementation consulting firms. They are much more aware of their needs and making ERP selection much more than vendor evaluation.

Even if they still refer to their efforts as ERP selection projects. 

Related Posts

Strativa Resource: Trends in ERP and How to Ensure Success
A Guide for Cloud ERP Buyers

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by Frank Scavo, 2/22/2015 12:17:00 PM | permalink | e-mail this!


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Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Free Resources on the New Strativa Website

After much work, we've launched a long-overdue redesign of website for Strativa, my business and IT consulting firm.

Visit the new website at Strativa.com

Free Resources

In addition to giving the site a fresh new design and new content, one of our motivations was to be able to offer free resources for download to our website visitors. A starting collection is now online:
These are just the start. We plan to add to this collection over the coming months and will announce new free resources here as well.

Design Principles

The new site was designed by Streetwolf, a digital creative studio in Los Angeles. Click the link to see some of the major brands its developers have worked with. (Disclosure: the founder is my son, Steve Scavo.) They designed the new site with three key principles:
  • Responsive design: The site is written in HTML5, featuring responsive design. If you're not familiar with that concept, it means that the site detects whether you're running on a desktop, tablet computer, or smartphone, and automatically adjusts to optimize viewing on that device. If you're viewing the site on a desktop or laptop, you can see the responsive design in action, by taking your browser out of full screen mode and dragging the window more narrowly. You'll see the site automatically adjust to the new size, and at some point you'll see the menu bar shrink down to a "hamburger" (those three horizontal lines indicating a menu is behind it).
  • Readability: The site is content-rich, focusing on the primary services that Strativa offers. It also includes a blog. With so much content, the site is designed for readability, from the font choices to the color palette. The text is primary. Images are spare and serve to illustrate the content, not overwhelm it. 
  • Fast: No one likes to wait, especially when looking for information and especially when viewing a site on a mobile device. Images are compressed and we deploy caching of website content where appropriate to optimize the site for fast performance.
If you have feedback on the new site, please let me know through the Strativa contact page.

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Eight Incredibly Useful Tips for Writing New Year Predictions

Every year around this time, analysts and assorted pundits put together their lists of predictions for the coming year. These I find to be, for the most part, sleep-inducing and lacking insight. So, rather than add to the prediction posts already piling up, let me share how you too can come up with predictions for the coming year.
  1. Next year will be like this year, only more so. Pick a news item from today’s newspaper, and turn it into a trend for the coming year. For example, “The dollar will strengthen against world currencies.”
  2. “Will Continue.” Similarly, pick a technology trend that is currently underway and predict its continuation.  For example, “The shift to cloud computing will continue.” If you have several of these, you can mix it up with the word “increasingly.” For example, “ERP functionality will increasingly be deployed on mobile devices.”
  3. Always hedge your bets. In other words, always give yourself an out. For example, if you really feel you need to speculate on market events, never predict something like, “Oracle will acquire Salesforce.com.” Rather, “Oracle will consider acquisition of Salesforce.com.” Or better, “Oracle may or may not acquire Salesforce.com.”
  4. Make it self-serving. Think about what you’re selling. Then predict that thing will be in big demand next year. For example, if you’re a consultant selling contract negotiation services, you can predict, “Buyers will increasingly rely on outside consultants to help negotiate their vendor contracts.”
  5. Update your buzzwords. Don’t be caught using jargon from three years ago. For example, do a mass replace to change the word “social” to “digital.” Likewise, “omnichannel” replaced “multichannel” a few years ago. But now even “omnichannel” is becoming commonplace. So try to come up with something new. I would propose and hereby trademark the phrase, “right channel.” (If you use it, please credit me.)
  6. Internet of Blank. The “Internet of Things” was hot in 2012. In 2013, Marc Benioff introduced “the Internet of Customers.” But why stop there? Think of something related to your business and make up an Internet of that thing. For example, if you are selling help desk systems, a good prediction would be, “Today’s customer service systems will give rise to next generation Internet of Incidents systems.” But, be sure your own website calls out that new buzzword before you publish your prediction.
  7. As-a-Service. If you are running short of predictions, you can always fall back on variations of “as-a-service.” For example, if you’re an industry analyst firm, you can predict “Research-as-a-service will increasingly replace traditional analyst firms.” If you are an accounting firm, you can predict, "Bookkeeping as a service will increasingly be the way in which organizations prepare their financial statements." Notice that it doesn't matter whether the thing you are selling is already a service.
  8. Don’t make it measurable. Finally, whatever predictions you write, never put numbers on them or in any way make them falsifiable. For example, never predict something like, “SAP’s core business will fall by 3% in 2015.” In fact, even pointing to a direction is risky. A better prediction? “SAP’s core business will continue to be under pressure.”
So there you have it. Follow these eight guidelines and you too can publish your own 2015 predictions. And, if you do it right, you won’t have to worry about anyone calling you out a year from now for their accuracy.

Photo credit: Garry Knight


by Frank Scavo, 12/21/2014 09:16:00 AM | permalink | e-mail this!


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Saturday, November 01, 2014

The Maturing of ERP on the Salesforce Platform

Salesforce.com held its monster user conference, Dreamforce, last month in San Francisco, and there were plenty of new announcements. For example:
  • A new analytics cloud, dubbed Wave, which fills out Salesforce.com's offerings to include native business intelligence and analytical capabilities
  • A new version of the Salesforce1 platform, Lightning, for developing mobile apps
  • An expanded partnership with Microsoft for Windows mobile devices and new integrations with Microsoft Office, Office 365, Power BI, and Excel
But Dreamforce is not just about Salesforce. It's about the Salesforce ecosystem—hundreds of partners building complementary and in many cases completely independent solutions on the Salesforce platform.

For those that follow ERP, this post outlines the latest developments with four ERP providers building on the Salesforce platform: Kenandy, FinancialForce, Rootstock, and AscentERP along with my takeaways from each of them. I'll end with one small caveat for buyers.

Kenandy Goes Up-Market

I first wrote about Kenandy after its introduction on stage at Dreamforce in 2011, and I’ve kept in touch with its management team for regular updates. The big news this year is the success Kenandy has had in selling into large companies.

Exhibit 1 in Kenandy’s march up-market is Big Heart Pet Brands, a distributor of pet food and pet supplies, which was formed by the carve-out of the pet food business from Del Monte Foods earlier this year. Milk Bone, Kibbles, Gravy Train, and 9Lives, are just a few of its well-known brands.

I had an opportunity to interview Dave McLain, the firm’s CIO, who made it clear that this is no two-tier ERP configuration. Apart from a handful of point solutions and an on-premises warehouse management system (Red Prairie), a single instance of Kenandy will be providing all ERP functionality when fully rolled out. With $2 billion in annual revenue, this may well be the largest company running a cloud-only system as its only ERP system.

(If readers have heard of a larger example, please let me know--but before responding, please reread the preceding sentence slowly and note the words “cloud only.”)

Why would McLain trust a young vendor such as Kenandy with such a tall order? First, McLain was attracted to the Salesforce platform and its promise of rapid development. In other words, he was sold on the platform and then looked for an ERP provider that was leveraging it. In my view, it helps that McClain is not your typical CIO. He’s worked in the enterprise software industry, with stints at Aspect Development, back around the turn of the century, and at i2. He is not only comfortable working with a young vendor, but he viewed Kenandy’s youth as an advantage, as he felt he would have more influence over the product roadmap. So far, he’s happy with his choice.

Big Heart Pet Brands is only the first and most visible example of Kenandy’s move into larger companies. In a briefing, Kenandy executives shared with me several large deals they have in implementation and several that are in the pipeline. Although the names are still confidential, they are large and in some cases very large, well-known, global companies.

One point that may keep SAP executives awake at night: some of these prospects are reportedly approaching Kenandy because of a determination to halt further implementation of SAP’s Business Suite in new regions of the world.

My takeaway from Kenandy is that cloud ERP is not just for small and midsize businesses.

FinancialForce Goes Deeper

FinancialForce is another young ERP vendor, founded in 2009 as a joint venture between UNIT4 and Salesforce (UNIT4 is the majority shareholder). I wrote about FinancialForce last year and commented on its acquisition of Vana Workforce and Less Software. These acquisitions expanded FinancialForce from financial systems and professional services automation into HR systems, order processing, inventory control, cost accounting, and functionality for product-based businesses.

This year, in a briefing with FinancialForce executives, I heard about the firm’s work to embed HR activities within operational transactions. Users can give other employees feedback on their performance right within the context of a project in the professional services system, for example. The feedback is then recorded in the HR system so that employee performance data is gathered throughout the year instead of during an annual performance review only. FinancialForce refers to this approach as “Everyday HCM.”

The firm also reports good uptake of the “supply chain management (SCM)” capabilities that it acquired from Less Software, tripling its number of customers for this functionality. As I pointed out last year, the term supply chain management is something of a misnomer. There is no real warehouse management, transportation management, or supply chain planning. Rather, SCM in this context really refers to the detailed tracking of physical and intangible products from supplier, through inventory, to customers.

This can best be seen with the large percentage of deals that Less Software, and now FinancialForce, have done with VARs, resellers, and other tech industry channel partners. FinancialForce can now track and process OEM rebates (a long-standing practice in channel businesses). Product costing allows costs to be accumulated by serial number (specific identification) and can include landed cost (i.e. allocated inbound freight cost). This is a huge need for solution providers that import OEM products. Filling out the needs of today’s channel partners, FinancialForce also has a full professional services automation system, and it supports subscription billing along with management of recurring revenue.

These are not trivial product features. It is a testimony to the rapid development capabilities of the Salesforce platform that FinancialForce has been able to build out these features in such a short time.

Like Kenandy, FinancialForce is also getting into larger deals, although the names are not yet public.

My takeaway from FinancialForce is that in some cases the functionality of these young cloud-only vendors now rivals that of the traditional vendors.

Rootstock Expanding Its Footprint and Presence

The founders of Rootstock have the advantage of having developed a cloud ERP system twice. The firm first developed its manufacturing system in 2008 on the NetSuite platform. In 2010, however, Rootstock disengaged from this partnership and rewrote its ERP system on the Salesforce platform. As a result of the replatforming, Rootstock developed its own customer order management product and partnered with FinancialForce for its accounting systems.

Rootstock scales well to larger companies. It claims to be the largest system on the Salesforce.com platform in terms of the number of objects,pushing the boundaries of what the platform can do. All Salesforce partners, of course, benefit from the scale-out capabilities that Salesforce is building into the platform.

In terms of functionality, Rootstock has good capabilities for purchasing, production engineering, lot and serial tracking, MRP, MPS, and capacity planning, shop floor control, manufacturing costing, and PLM/PDM integration. The system can support multiple companies, multiple divisions, and multiple sites, all within a single tenant on the Salesforce platform. It also announced this year the development of a product configurator, a module where most cloud ERP systems are still relying on third-party solutions.

The build out of functionality is making Rootstock more attractive to larger companies as well as the midsize organizations it has appealed to in the past. In a briefing with Rootstock senior leadership, they pointed to their win at CSG, a provider of print and managed services, and enterprise solutions in Australia and New Zealand. In New Zealand, it is the exclusive distributor for Konica Minolta. When fully deployed, Rootstock will be serving “hundreds” of users at CSG.

Other wins this year include Northeast Lantern, a maker of high quality brass and copper lighting fixtures; Wilshire Coin Mints, a retailer and wholesale distributor of coins for collectors and investors; Proveris Scientific, a manufacturer of test instrumentation for the pharmaceutical industry; Pioneer Motor Bearing, a maker of high performance industrial bearings; Pacer Group, a wire and electrical cable manufacturer; Plumb Sign, a job shop producing signage for businesses across the US; and Oberfield Architectural Precast, a manufacturer of precast concrete and other custom-built precast products.

In another development, Rootstock added some muscle to its advisory board this year with the addition of Jan Baan, the former founder and CEO of Baan Software, Jim Bensman, former president of SAP North America, Bill Happel, former VP of General Motors, and Lee Wylie, former CIO of Gartner.

My takeaway from Rootstock is similar to that for FinancialForce: the functionality gap in some areas is closing between the cloud-only ERP providers and traditional vendors.

AscentERP Raises Its Profile

I was not able to meet with AscentERP during Dreamforce, so I arranged a call after the show with Shaun McInerney, its co-founder and President. McInerney was positively excited about his firm’s latest developments:
  • The launch of Ascent Rental, a native Force.com application for companies that rent or loan out equipment. He’s already seeing interest from current customers in the construction industries. Event organizers and medical equipment rental businesses are also targets.
  • An iTunes app that turns Apple iOS devices (iPod Touch 5th Gen, iPhone 5, and iPad Mini) into true high-speed bar code scanners, through use of a scanner sled available from Honeywell. This plays well with AscentERP’s roots in warehouse data collection and is a key element in the case study I highlight below.
  • Integration with Magento for e-commerce, allowing customers to take orders from the web, fulfill them and push shipment information back to customers. McInerney claims over 15 customers already for this functionality, which was only launched two or three months before Dreamforce.

McInerney reports an increase in new opportunities coming from Salesforce, with about half from outside the US. The system supports multiple currencies and base languages of English and Chinese. Like the other three vendors outlined in this post, AscentERP is also seeing its share of larger deals, which includes several in the range of 200 users, a jump from its typical user count in the past.

In my opinion, AscentERP gets the award for the most inspiring customer story. It put together a short video about its client Bosma Industries, a $55 million non-profit distributor of medical supplies, which also happens to be Indiana’s largest employer of people who are blind or have vision loss. AscentERP worked with Bosma to customize its system and to make it fully accessible to Bosma’s visually impaired workforce. This is where that iTunes app for warehouse data collection comes into play.

The best quote is from Bosma’s Adam Rodenbeck, who says, "If Siri can look at Facebook and help us get around on Twitter, why can't it help get us around the warehouse?"

Click the image below to watch the 3-minute customer story.


My takeaway from AscentERP: don't underestimate the marketing value of being part of the Salesforce ecosystem.

Buyers Should Ensure Adequate Implementation Support

One thing that none of these four vendors mentioned: a lack of new sales opportunities. In fact, they all indicated that they were awash in new prospects. This is in contrast to some of the traditional ERP vendors who periodically call me to check whether I’ve “heard of anyone looking for software.” It’s always a good sign when a vendor can afford to be picky about the opportunities it chases—it lessens the likelihood that the vendor will get into situations where it cannot compete and improves the chances of success.

But the the flip side of all these new deals can lead to problems if vendors are not adequately staffed to support them. Generally speaking, I caution clients to be sure they get adequate consulting help when they are considering these vendors. True, these new cloud-only systems are generally easier to implement, but still, they don’t implement themselves. You don't need system admins or DBAs. But you do need consultants who understand how to configure the system and help you implement your processes within it. In some cases, these vendors may have consulting partners that can assist, but they can be stretched as well. It is not an insurmountable problem, but buyers should be sure they get the help they need to have a successful implementation.

Note: Salesforce paid my travel expenses to attend Dreamforce.

Related Posts

Four Cloud ERP Providers on the Salesforce Platform
Kenandy: A New Cloud ERP Provider Emerges from Stealth Mode

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