CRM

What does fishing have to do with Salesforce? #DF15

A Quick Take on News from Dreamforce 2015

Last week I set aside some time to watch some of the big keynotes from Dreamforce, Salesforce’s annual extravaganza. Like Dennis Howlett, reporting for Diginomica, I watched from what Den calls “the cheap seats.” While thousands of attendees swarmed San Francisco, I was part of the virtual audience watching the live stream. As a result I was thankful to be insulated from the chaos and gridlock of a city pushed to its limits, but also missed what appeared to be a truly electric and energizing atmosphere.

There was no shortage of announcements surrounding products and partnerships, and I am certain I missed a lot. For more thorough coverage I might recommend Diginomica’s site. They not only had Den watching from the cheap seats, but a whole team covering it onsite. But from my vantage point, what struck me were the two very different faces of Salesforce – the application side and the platform side. Anyone who follows me knows that I research and write for business leaders about enterprise applications. So you would think I would primarily be interested in the applications, right? Not this time.

The category of applications Salesforce delivers is on the periphery of what I cover. As an analyst I describe my coverage area as “enterprise applications with ERP at the core.” Here is not the time or place to debate what ERP is, or is not. Suffice to say it is a convenient label for the applications that run the business, creating a fiscal and operational system of record. While Salesforce’s (or anyone else’s) CRM solution doesn’t fit that definition, it is still important for me to watch because the footprints of ERP solutions have expanded and oftentimes include CRM. Even if they don’t (e.g. the customer uses Salesforce), the intersection of ERP and CRM is important because it is often where the back office meets the front office where competitive advantage can be gained.

So watching from the sidelines has always seemed appropriate. Lately, however, I seem to be getting dragged from the sidelines to more center stage – but not because of its CRM solution. Instead it is its Platform as a Service that is calling me.

Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a category of cloud computing services that provides developers with a platform to create software without the complexity of building and maintaining the infrastructure typically associated with developing an enterprise application. Clearly developers benefit from using the services delivered with a platform, speeding the development process. Since I don’t write for developers, but for the businessperson, how does this translate to benefits to the business? The obvious answer is in delivering more features, functions and innovation in ways that help companies keep up with the accelerating pace of change.

And that is exactly what a growing number of Salesforce partners find appealing, including ERP and accounting solution providers who fall squarely in my line of sight. It has been those partners that have lured me from the periphery to better understand how Salesforce, as a platform company, can help them deliver more value. I also think that it will be the platform, not the applications, that has the highest likelihood to propel Salesforce on the growth trajectory on which Marc Benioff has his sights.

It’s sort of like the old proverb that goes something like this – give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime. Well, maybe not exactly like that. The platform itself might be appealing to large enterprises with teams of developers on staff looking to modify or even develop their own applications (i.e. learn to fish). But for every large enterprise there are dozens, maybe even hundreds or thousands of small to midsize businesses that are just looking for a fish. Of course, they don’t buy one fish and walk away – they sign up for the “fish a day” program (a subscription). So, sure Salesforce can sell a lot of fish, but that won’t get it to the $10 billion mark – not even close.

But the platform is a “Force” multiplier (pun intended). There are also those partner solution providers who are looking to not only fish, but fish with the latest and greatest fishing tackle and equipment on the market. Using Salesforce’s platform they have proven they can not only fill their nets, but also get to the dock and the fish markets that much faster. Or maybe they don’t go after fish at all because Salesforce CRM satisfies that nutritional requirement. They might be working on the meat and potatoes, the vegetables or the dessert. Together they will have all the other dishes that go with fish in order to make a whole meal and satisfy anyone’s appetite.

The better the development platform, the more likely it will attract more developers. The more developers attracted to the platform, the more applications get developed, which ultimately can be shared. Features, functions and extensions have the potential to start to grow, if not exponentially, at least much faster than the typical linear sequence of development. This is sort of a Catch-22, but in reverse. The strong keep getting stronger, while the weak (those that attract only a few developers) will struggle to compete.

In fact today the Salesforce AppExchange is the largest online marketplace of its kind, offering products built on the platform – all 220,000 of them. All products offered on the AppExchange are 100% native to the platform and share an integrated, secure data and identity management model. All go through a rigorous security review and all are equally easy to customize using developer tools available from Salesforce.

Several vendors I follow closely have based their offerings on the Salesforce Platform.

  • Kenandy used it to develop a modern, new ERP for manufacturing from scratch in a fraction of the time it would have taken with traditional development tools. Sandy Kurtzig, Chairman of Kenandy and also the founder of ASK Computer Systems, is an inspiring entrepreneur. My favorite Sandy quote from back in the ASK days (circa 1984): when asked if she was worried about competitors springing up, she said, “No. We’re in the software business. They have to match me line for line in code. Writing software is like having a baby. You can’t put nine women on it and do it in a month.” Yet that is exactly what Sandy set out to do when she started up Kenandy and saw the Salesforce platform as the means by which she could do it.
  • Rootstock, also ERP for manufacturing, switched from NetSuite’s platform to Salesforce.
  • FinancialForce, owned jointly by Unit4 and Salesforce natively developed its accounting solution on the platform and is now expanding more into the realm of ERP.
  • Conversely, Sage has recently abandoned the ERP moniker (but supposedly not its ERP customers) and simultaneously developedSage Live,a brand new “real time accounting solution” built on the Salesforce platform and brought to market in months, not years.

The new “Thunder and Lightning” hyped on stage at Dreamforce will only serve to make the platform more appealing to developers of all shapes and sizes. But just as in real life, while thunder and lightening add dramatic effects to a storm, it is the rain that makes the garden grow. It will be up to the software developers to capitalize on the drama from Dreamforce and make the rain (software) that makes our businesses grow.

Something tells me next year I might just have to brave the crowds at Dreamforce in San Francisco. My days of watching from the cheap seats may be numbered.

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SAP S/4HANA at SapphireNow

Prior to SapphireNow 2015, I anticipated that SAP S/4HANA would dominate the event. Due to scheduling conflicts I arrived late, but from what I can tell, so did S/4HANA. Of course it did make its way onto the main stage later on in the opening keynote, but not with the fanfare expected for “the biggest product launch in the history of the company.”

Formally announced in February 2015, SAP S/4HANA is described by SAP as follows:

What is SAP S/4HANA?

SAP S/4HANA is a new product fully built on the most advanced in-memory platform – SAP HANA – and modern design principles with SAP Fiori User Experience (UX). SAP S/4HANA delivers massive simplifications (customer adoption, data model, user experience, decision making, business processes and models) and innovations (Internet of Things, Big Data, business networks, and mobile-first) to help businesses run simple in a digital and networked economy.

The SAP Business Suite is SAP S/4HANA’s predecessor. The Business Suite is just that: a suite of separate (integrated) products including ERP, CRM, SRM, SCM and PLM. Like the SAP Business Suite, SAP S/4HANA is designed for the large enterprise, but unlike the SAP Business Suite, all these separate products will be merged into a single product, SAP S/4HANA, eliminating any redundancy of data and the resultant synchronization or data passing. Both will play well with certain SAP cloud offerings including SuccessFactors (HCM) and the Ariba [supplier] network.

Also in February, Hasso Plattner announced that it would eventually satisfy the requirements of the same 26 industries SAP has spent decades building out, implying customers should be patient because this would indeed take time. After all, SAP had over 400 million lines of code to rewrite.

To get a better sense for the similarities and differences between the Business Suite and SAP S/4HANA, I would suggest you take a moment and read SAP S/4HANA: Simple, Fast, Different. That post concluded with “…the devil is in the details.” There were still many lingering questions over how both new customers and existing SAP customers would make the transition. Many industry observers were clamoring for more details on plans, roadmaps and specific status of different functions for different deployment options.

Some of those observers are still clamoring, some quite loudly. And as you might expect, they aren’t shouting SAP’s praises from the rooftops. They are looking for detailed roadmaps. But roadmaps for what? And where are they looking? I know SAP is preaching “Simple.” It is a commendable goal to try to simplify the implementation for any one customer. But where these customers are now is anything but simple.

Taken en mass, the “typical” SAP customer just doesn’t exist. The sheer number of different products, versions, databases, hardware platforms and configurations is staggering. Customers (or pundits) are not going to find all the answers and a road map wrapped up in a nice bow on a website. Each customer (and prospect) needs to engage one-on-one with SAP. And quite frankly, which customers raise their hands and express interest can and should impact the sequence in which SAP will deliver pieces of the puzzle.

If SAP publishes a timetable and sticks with it, come hell or high water, it runs the risk of not satisfying real demand. On the other hand if SAP publishes said timetable and then adjusts it according to actual demand, the industry observers without any skin in the game will cry foul. SAP will be damned if they do, damned if they don’t. There is a lot of moving parts here folks, and the more fluid and responsive SAP can be, the better for its customers.

That is not to say that SAP can afford to take its time and wait. But it is not waiting. While Hasso may have implied it would take time to bring those 26 different industries over to S/4HANA, indeed they are all there today – kind of. There was some disbelief expressed in the Executive Q&A when Bernd Leukert (member of the Executive Board and the Global Managing Board of SAP with global responsibility for development and delivery of all products across SAP’s product portfolio) announced they were all there. No, the development team did not rewrite all that code in the last 3 months, but it did make sure that the code supporting these industries was compatible with SAP S/4HANA. This is just the first stage in the full transition (rewrite) of code, but a necessary one if customers want to start making the move to SAP S/4HANA today as it is still progressing.

Customers starting on the SAP S/4HANA journey today will be running a mix of code that has been converted (to HANA) to be compatible and code that has been optimized. Customers that have not started the journey might need some help in seeing the (vast) potential benefits for doing so. Typically this assistance comes from other customers that already had an idea. Seeing those customers on stage is one of the reasons customers come to an event like SapphireNow.

But SAP S/4HANA is really too new for that. Or is it? SAP did have customers on stage, but they were more likely to be customers who had gathered experience through SAP Business Suite on HANA. So the stories tended to be more about HANA than S/4HANA. And as Jon Reed pointed out, Surprisingly, the business potential of the HANA platform is rarely factored into the initial HANA use case.”

I actually don’t find that surprising at all. First of all, for the first several years SAP itself had been talking about HANA as break-through technology in search of a problem. In recent years it has tried to shift the discussion to the business value, but that transition is hard because many SAP-ers and most industry influencers talk in “tech-speak.” Even those that insist they are talking about the impact on the business often litter the rhetoric with phrases like nearline storage, dynamic tiering, multi-tenant database containers, expansion in virtualization, publishing of objects, etc. ..along with a whole host of alphabet soup (SOAP, REST, HTML5, XML, etc.)

News Flash: business folks don’t know or care about these tech terms.

Those business users do care about speed of reporting. They care about getting answers to questions and knowing which questions to ask. And they care about reduced database size when you equate that to the cost of storage. They do care about being able to inventory and assess prior customizations that built barriers to into taking advantage of innovation and growth opportunities. They care about flexibility and agility in terms of the business as their organizations grow and restructure.

The real questions should be:

  • Can SAP S/4HANA deliver all these business benefits?
  • Can SAP deliver innovation to SAP S/4HANA that will help prospects and customers respond to real-world business changes?

The HANA platform is critical to delivering on the promise of the first question. In order to satisfy the second question, SAP needs to start delivering innovation faster than it has ever done so in the past. And the bar continues to rise on this. Its competitors that deliver only a single multi-tenant SaaS solution have a leg up in that they only have to maintain a single line of code. Others that continue to offer both cloud and on-premise solutions are forced to maintain multiple versions and also often offer a choice of operating system and database. For every hour they spend innovating, they must spend a multiple of that hour making sure it works across the entire spectrum of choice offered, in any possible combination.

In offering multiple deployment options for SAP S/4HANA is SAP putting itself at the tactical disadvantage of having to maintain different lines of code? SAP says no. While SAP has committed to delivering annual updates to on-premise customers, it pledges to deliver innovation on a quarterly basis in the cloud. And yet it claims to only maintain a single line of code, and delivers different configurations, updates and extensions through more sophisticated packaging of all these elements. This implies the core code base never changes, but all innovation is managed separately and then packaged with the base. I myself am a little unclear on the technical details here, but the goal is spot on. Business users will have to trust SAP on this for the moment. Time will tell if this approach is indeed sustainable and manageable.

The future of SAP S/4HANA depends on it.

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Thoughts From NetSuite’s SuiteWorld: What’s wrong with calling it ERP and CRM?

There seemed to be lots of talk and a bit of controversy floating around NetSuite’s SuiteWorld conference this week about the future of ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM (customer relationship management) and other TLAs (three letter acronyms). NetSuite itself is a provider of ERP, CRM and ecommerce. Yet CEO Zach Nelson opened this door by attacking other vendors that don’t have solutions with footprints quite as broad as NetSuite. Zach said Salesforce wasn’t CRM because it didn’t capture the customer order. WorkDay’s HCM and accounting applications aren’t ERP. Zach has been known to go on the attack before, so this wasn’t out of character, and to a certain extent I agree with him. Sales force automation (which is Salesforce.com’s claim to fame) is often referred to as CRM even though I would argue it is only a subset. And Workday’s solution doesn’t fit my definition of ERP. (To be fair, I also haven’t heard Workday call its solution ERP.)

However, some “influencers” in attendance also picked up on this theme. One went so far as to suggest ERP and CRM should go away as software categories. Another stated that “cloud ERP” is redefining what we mean by ERP.

I disagree on both counts.

Companies in search of solutions to run their businesses need a frame of reference, a starting point to define what it is they need. They can’t start with a search for vendors offering “something to run my business.” As loosely as ERP and CRM are often defined, they do accomplish that. And I also don’t believe ERP needs to be redefined, at least not the way I define it.

Too often industry analysts and other influencers over-complicate definitions, perhaps in an attempt to prove just how much the average businessperson needs them, or perhaps to prove how smart they are. I prefer to keep it simple. I define ERP as follows:

ERP is an integrated suite of modules that provides the operational and transactional system of record of the business.

Of course, today most ERP solutions do more than this, and I have been saying for years now that it is getting more and more difficult to tell where ERP ends and other applications begin. But this definition is timeless. It also implies ERP cannot be static. The way companies operate is changing and therefore ERP must also evolve to reflect new ways of transacting business. NetSuite has been responding to this challenge over the past few years, through its approach to omnichannel commerce and with several announcements this week including:

  • A brand new, modernized, mobilized user experience (first available on Apple IOS, to be followed by Android)
  • The unveiling of a “next-generation services resource planning (SRP)”, a unified cloud solution to meet the combined needs of project- and product-based businesses. The solution can be configured as a stand-alone SRP solution or combined with NetSuite’s ERP. It targets software, IT services, consulting, advertising and marketing services companies.
  • A new SuiteGL, intended to “transform the general ledger from one size fits all into a custom business asset.” New capabilities are being developed to add

o   New custom segments to the chart of accounts (example: to support fund accounting and advanced managerial reports)

o   Custom lines (example: you might post additional journal entries based on the country in which the transaction originates)

o   Custom transaction types (example: vendor billing accrual, employee expense report accrual, payroll journal, depreciation journal, statistical account entries)

  • Mobilization of its newly acquired HCM solution: NetSuite TribeHR Mobile for iOS brings collaboration tools, enterprise search capability, time off management and employee recognition (kudos) to Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch mobile devices.
  • A new B2B Customer Center built on NetSuite’s SuiteCommerce platform providing

o   A self-service customer portal

o   Customization, billing and payments, account and product management capabilities, including lists for seasonal purchasing

o   Responsive web design capabilities that can optimize sites for multiple devices

So NetSuite is in tune with the desire and need for business transformation, largely based on the new requirements of this digital age. But… back to the issue at hand.

What impact does the cloud have on this perceived need to redefine what we mean by ERP? Cloud does have an impact, but it is not so much changing what we mean by ERP as changing what we should expect from ERP, a subtle difference, but a very meaningful one. We still need to track inventory assets, record orders, deliver, invoice and collect payment. In a B2B environment, these end-to-end business processes (like order-to-cash and procure-to-pay) have traditionally spanned weeks or months. The cloud connects us and it might help us automate processes, compressing them to days, hours or even minutes. But we still need to keep that system of record. We still need ERP. We just need a better ERP.

I spent a lot of time evangelizing these new and better ERP solutions in 2013. I called them “next generation” ERP: providing better ways to engage with ERP, replacing invasive customization with configuration that is preserved from release to release, more innovation and better integration. Much of what NetSuite has done, and is still doing, is driven by the need for a modernized, technology-enabled ERP.

But what about CRM? Zach declared Salesforce wasn’t CRM because it didn’t manage the customer order. I will leave a formal definition of CRM to those that specialize in that category, but I would argue that the customer order doesn’t belong in CRM anyway. It belongs in ERP because it is a fundamental element of the system of record of the business. But does it really matter? Not when we’re talking about NetSuite’s solution, because ERP, CRM (and eCommerce) are all built as one system. And because it is all one system, everything works seamlessly together and there’s no redundancy of data. The end user doesn’t really know or care if it is a function of CRM or ERP, unless of course they only subscribe to one or the other and not both.

So yes, NetSuite certainly has a leg up on Salesforce in providing what CRM vendors traditionally promise: a 360o view of the customers. NetSuite can and Salesforce (or any CRM-only vendor) can’t. And that is because it is delivered all in one set of code: a fully integrated suite. If sales or support representatives need to see all outstanding quotes, shipped orders, open or paid invoices, they just go to NetSuite. They don’t need to worry about whether it is part of CRM or ERP.

Some analysts have started to call this “a platform.” While I would define “platform” differently, my definition really doesn’t matter. Whether you call it a platform, an integrated suite, or just extended ERP, I suppose it does strengthen the argument for making ERP and CRM go away. You don’t need ERP and CRM. You need this integrated platform. But now we’re just getting into semantics and we’re not really adding value to the conversation. For a prospect or customer buying ERP today, the real question is what are the boundaries of the solutions being considered and how much of the needed functionality does it provide?

The footprint of ERP has grown steadily over the past three decades. We’ve reached a point where the boundary of where ERP ends and other applications begin has become quite blurry. Those in search of solutions should strive to clearly understand these boundaries, which will vary from solution to solution. CRM is only one such complementary application now offered by ERP vendors. But not all CRM solutions offered by ERP vendors are developed and delivered like NetSuite’s solution. A NetSuite customer can subscribe to either of these as a stand-alone NetSuite application, but if you subscribe to both, they operate as a single tightly integrated solution. This is not the case with all solution providers. Just because you are buying both from a single vendor doesn’t guarantee the two (or more) applications have been designed and developed as a single integrated solution, particularly if the complementary solution has been acquired.

In the past an integrated module of ERP tended to provide lighter-weight functionality than that provided by separate, so-called “best-of-breed” applications. So there was a clear trade-off between specialized functionality, which came with the added cost and effort of integration. But the capabilities of those built-in ERP modules today often rival or even exceed the capabilities of stand-alone applications. And the connected cloud and other modern technologies have made integration easier. So the trade-off isn’t quite so clear.

We explored this a bit in our 2014 Mint Jutras ERP Solution Study, asking participants about preferences for a suite approach (like NetSuite’s ERP and CRM) or a more specialized solution (like NetSuite’s partnership with AutoDesk for PLM).

It is clear that while there is an overwhelming preference for an integrated solution, most will be cautious about sacrificing functional requirements for ease of integration or for the purposes of having either a single throat to choke or a single back to pat (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Preferences for a Full Suite

Netsuite fig 1Source: Mint Jutras 2014 ERP Solution Study

This of course puts added pressure on software vendors like NetSuite to continue to innovate and expand their solutions. The easiest way to deliver a seamlessly integrated, expanded solution is to develop it internally, rather than to go shopping for additional features and functions (through acquisition or partnership). Those solution providers that exclusively deliver through a multi-tenant SaaS model will have an advantage in this regard because they maintain a single line of code. NetSuite, for example, delivers two releases a year.

Those that offer only licensed, on-premise solutions, or the same solution through the cloud and on-premise don’t have that luxury. Minimally they will have to maintain multiple releases to accommodate those customers that can’t or won’t upgrade. And very often they offer the software on different operating systems and different databases. Any combination of these increases their support and maintenance efforts exponentially and leaves fewer resources to apply to pure innovation. These vendors are more likely to deliver releases every 12 to 18 months.

Of course acquiring functionality (like NetSuite did with TribeHR for HCM) and even partnering (like NetSuite did with Autodesk for PLM) are options as well, providing the integration is seamless enough. NetSuite has proven that it is capable of delivering on all these different fronts.

While vendors and industry observers argue over what to call these solutions, most good business decision-makers tune out to these discussions. Most are more interested in solving business problems than in redefining what we call the solution. The labels we have today: ERP, CRM, PLM, HCM… are all fine as long as we continue to ask and expect more from them. I, for one, am more interested in helping those business leaders better understand the almost limitless possibilities for business transformation, than in coming up with the next new label – or even worse, the next new TLA.

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Next Generation ERP: Kenandy’s Approach

Changing the World of ERP, One Click at a Time

It has been a while since I last posted in our Next Generation ERP series. If you haven’t been following, you might want to catch up on the 4 part generic series of posts. This one features the approach of a relatively new entrant into the ERP market: Kenandy Inc. Some of you will immediately recognize Kenandy’s founder, none other than Sandy Kurtzig of ASK and MANMAN fame.

By way of introduction or reminder….

What do Star Trek and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) have in common? Apart from each being a bold adventure, both have experienced a rebirth as a next generation. In our four part series, we describe the next generation of ERP in terms of new technology that enables:

  • new ways of engaging with ERP
  • custom configuration without programming
  • more innovation
  • better integration

The next generation of Star Trek continued the original journey but was faster, more technologically enabled and more in tune with the evolving needs of the galaxy. When Sandy Kurtzig came out of retirement in 2010 and founded Kenandy, she may not have been thinking about Star Trek but she clearly wanted to explore new worlds in her entrepreneurial journey and boldly go where no ERP for manufacturing has gone before. Using new technology, Kenandy designed its new ERP from scratch with a singular purpose in mind: to deliver a robust solution quickly that would also keep pace with the rapidly changing world in which we live.

Does Kenandy Qualify as Next Generation ERP?

Not every ERP solution on the market today qualifies as a “next generation” ERP. The depth and breadth of functionality has increased over the past three decades, which makes it harder for a new entrant to compete in the market. The “basics” are table stakes, but they aren’t so basic anymore, particularly in the world of manufacturing where Kenandy hopes to compete.

While other industries might be able to survive with back office functionality that is limited to accounting or human resource management, manufacturing requires a much broader set of features and functions. Indeed, ERP for manufacturing has evolved from material requirements planning (MRP) to manufacturing resource planning (MRP II), to the full operational and transactional system of record of the business. Even the manufacturing of a simple product can be quite complex when you run lean, but strive to be responsive to your demanding customers.

Any ERP vendor today must compete on functionality, but that is not what makes a solution “next generation.” It is the underlying technology and the power it delivers.  But technology and functionality are closely related, because it is the power of the technology platform that allows solution providers to deliver more features and functions faster. Selecting the right platform on which to build ERP is therefore critical.

While the platform may not be immediately visible to the end user of the software, it is dangerous to ignore it and the power of technology. You probably never knew how the USS Enterprise achieved warp speed, but you knew that it could. You didn’t know how the transporter beam worked, but you knew what happened when Captain Kirk said, “Beam me up, Scottie.” While neither were the only ways to get from point A to point B, both added speed and efficiency.

While Kenandy chose to build an ERP solution from a clean sheet of paper, in order to compete, it needed to find a way to add both speed and efficiency to the development process. Kenandy chose to build on the Salesforce Platform to deliver both. And in doing so, its customers also benefit from speed and simplicity, which together yield efficiency.

ERP: Empower Real PeopleTM

Speed and efficiency are prerequisites for delivering on the first element of next generation ERP: providing new ways of engaging with enterprise software.

Traditionally, users have engaged with ERP through a hierarchical series of menus, which require at least a rudimentary knowledge of how data and processes are organized. Hopefully this organization reflects how the business processes and the enterprise itself are structured, but with a hierarchy of menus, there are no guarantees that navigation is intuitive or that business processes are streamlined and efficient.

When processes within ERP are clumsy and inefficient, employees spend more time trying to work around the system, rather than working with it. Cynics like to refer to ERP not as “enterprise resource planning”, but as “Excel runs production.” Sandy Kurtzig strives for a different goal where ERP stands for “empower real people.” For that to happen you need to reach both up and down the corporate ladder.

Traditionally, a small percentage of employees of any company ever put their hands directly on ERP, and this select group almost never included top-level executive decision-makers. But the speed of required decision-making and the consumerization of IT are making this unacceptable.

So how does Kenandy empower real people? It relies on the Salesforce Platform to deliver a user experience that is appealing to the younger work force that has grown up on the Internet. And in making the solution appealing to the millennials, it also makes it easier for the older crowd to use. It recognizes there are “mobile” and “social” users as well, both of which are addressed by the platform.

The Salesforce Platform also enables collaboration by connecting people to the business and to information. For years, salesforce.com made a big deal out of its “social” capabilities but the manufacturing community is just now appreciating social. While a hot topic among pundits and industry “influencers,” the perceived value was lost on many, particularly in manufacturing. Traditionalists distinguish between a business event and a social event, between a business conversation and a social chat, between a business colleague and a friend or social acquaintance. Many didn’t “get” that social is really just shorthand for new and improved ways of getting and staying informed in a collaborative way. And who doesn’t want that?

By building an ERP on the Salesforce Platform, these social and mobile aspects are built in.

Personalizing with Clicks not Code

While all manufacturers face similar challenges, they also have unique ways of dealing with those challenges, and in doing so, actively seek differentiation in their individual markets. What company today doesn’t believe it is unique in some way?

Being different used to mean customization and with traditional, older generation ERP, this meant programming changes, mucking around in source code and building barriers to upgrade and innovation. To qualify as a “next generation” ERP, most, if not all of this customization must be done without ever touching a line of source code. Configuration, tailoring and personalization should replace customization.

Kenandy likes to say it can personalize with “clicks, not code.” This means adding fields, changing workflows, rearranging the screens. This is an absolute necessity in a Kenandy environment because it is delivered only as multi-tenant software as a service (SaaS). In a multi-tenant environment, multiple companies use the same instance of (hosted) software. Of course, data is protected from access by other companies (tenants), but any “customization” is generally delivered through configuration settings, which vary per company.

Kenandy’s architecture allows you to modify business processes and the user experience, including screens, dashboards and even the device. This doesn’t require programmers. Simplicity and this “Do It Yourself” aspect were among the primary reasons Blue Clover Devices selected Kenandy. These features became obvious to Blue Clover during its trial run of the system.

“I immediately saw how easy it is to add and extend capabilities with Kenandy,” said Pete Staples, President and Co-founder. “I was convinced that this was something we could manage pretty much on our own, and that had a strong appeal to us.” While the other system Blue Clover was considering had many positive features, “We felt like we would have to hire them to do everything for us, and that just made us nervous.”

Beyond the Initial Implementation

While this level of personalization and configuration is important when Kenandy is first being implemented, it becomes even more so as life goes on. Today’s manufacturers are bombarded with change, whether as a result of growth, regulatory requirements or just the desire for continuous improvement. Change doesn’t halt once you implement ERP. In fact, the need for change may accelerate as new functionality and new technology opens doors for growth and improvement.

And yet managing change has traditionally been an obstacle to achieving the goals of an ERP solution. The 2014 ERP Solution Study found this to be the number one challenge with the vast majority (82%) rating it as moderately to extremely challenging.

The ability to handle this kind of change was the primary reason Big Heart Pet Brands (formerly Del Monte Foods) selected Kenandy to support its recent acquisition of Natural Balance Pet Foods. “One of the many reasons Del Monte selected Kenandy was that we wanted a flexible system that easily adapts to business changes, such as acquisitions, while also offering enterprise-class capabilities,” said David McLain, Senior Vice President, Chief Information Officer and Procurement Officer, Big Heart Pet Brands.

Kenandy attributes this post-implementation agility to the flexibility and extensibility of the platform and Stuart Kowarsky, Vice President of Operations at Natural Balance seems to be a big fan. “At Natural Balance and in our corporate systems, we’re replacing a patchwork of applications with one unified, extensible solution that will grow and scale with Big Heart’s needs.”

But Kenandy’s ability to accommodate change is not only attributable to the platform, but also to how it has architected the solution on top of that platform, with a unified data model that takes full advantage of the power of business objects.

“Wide-Body” ObjectsTM

Legacy ERP solution data models consisted of an extensive number of tables. Joining those tables together reflected relationships between data. For example, a sales order header table might need to be joined to line items. In turn, those line items needed to be joined with the products being delivered, and any number of associated tables for validation, like units of measure, product categories, inventory locations, planning and replenishment codes, etc. The sales order also had to be joined with customers, shipments, and invoices. It didn’t take long for the number of tables and joins to proliferate almost exponentially, making a change to any one element a labyrinth of changes.

Kenandy replaces that myriad of tables with what it calls a ”Wide-Body” ObjectTM architecture.  These objects will sound quite familiar: orders, invoices, customers, etc. But by packing lots of information into each object, it significantly reduces the number that needs to be managed. Kenandy has less than 100 Wide-Body Objects.

For example, invoice, credit memo and adjustments share similar data structures and therefore can be expressed as a single object, distinguished by embedded fields. Adding fields is a simple process and only has to be done in one place. Changing workflow steps is equally simple because the workflow connects directly to the objects. Also, these Wide-Body Objects are reusable and it is a simple process to make these changes by pointing and clicking. No database administrator (DBA) required.

More Innovation to Come

The ability to enable change this rapidly also has implications for the on-going development of the product, which impacts the third requirement for next generation ERP: more innovation.

In deciding to build a new product from scratch, Kenandy avoided a lot of the headaches other longer-tenured companies face. In developing a new product, you don’t have to worry about keeping any existing customers happy with product or implementation decisions they may have already made. You can start from a clean slate. It is sort of like building a new house. It is much easier to start with an empty lot and a design plan, than it is to remodel an existing structure.

And yet Kenandy set out to build a very big and complex structure. As noted earlier, the depth and breadth of functionality needed to compete today, particularly in manufacturing, is extensive.

The platform itself comes with an extensive toolbox that accelerates the development process. The power of the platform, combined with its SaaS-only delivery model, supports agile development, managed around “sprints,” a concept familiar to proponents of rapid application development. Innovation doesn’t have to be packaged up to be delivered every 12 to 18 months, but in shorter cycles that include scripting a scenario, designing a solution, building and testing. Think of these more as a series of short proof of concept projects, which are continually being delivered. As a SaaS model, no customer is left behind running an older release.

In an interesting twist on “agile” and “sprints,” Kenandy applies these same concepts to the implementation process. New customers gain access immediately to an instance of the software. They can add data, experiment and test it out in a series of pilots. At the end of the process, teams not only have a working environment, but also have learned how to make changes to business processes, again with clicks, not code. Nothing is cast in concrete as the first (or any) “go live” milestone is achieved, therefore it encourages and supports the popular manufacturing concept of continuous improvement.

These were some of the benefits Del Monte saw in its recent acquisition of Natural Balance. Indeed, Sandra Kurtzig was so confident in Kenandy’s ability to respond quickly, she made a commitment to Del Monte to go live with Kenandy at Natural Balance just 90 minutes after the acquisition was complete. No, that’s not a typo – that’s 90 minutes, not 90 days. In fact, the system was up and running in less time and represented a complete implementation including order-to-cash, planning and production, procure-to-pay and financials.

Summary

Like the starship Enterprise, whose five-year mission was to explore new worlds and “to boldly go where no man has gone before,” early versions of ERP charted new territory for enterprise applications. It evolved from MRP (material requirements planning) to MRP II (manufacturing resource planning) and then boldly set out to conquer the “final frontier” of ERP, managing not a small piece of the enterprise, but the enterprise itself.

The new journey Kenandy has embarked on, this next generation ERP, is a far cry from legacy ERP solutions of the past. Not wanting to be constrained by legacy code or preconceived notions, it started with a clean sheet of paper to design a whole new solution. But this new company knew better than to take a further step back in designing its own development platform. Instead it chose a platform that has already proven itself in terms of power, flexibility and reliability.

When Sandy Kurtzig stepped down from her first venture (The ASK Group) she left behind a loyal following within the manufacturing community, where trust is not easily given, but is hard earned. Can she attract the same kind of following in her new venture? In order to compete in this new era she will need:

  • A proven technology platform that allows users to engage with ERP in new and different ways, with intuitive and visually appealing user interfaces, which don’t rely on intimate knowledge of how the system or the data is structured. She’ll need a platform that opens doors to a whole new level of executive involvement… Check
  •  A system that is easily custom-configured, eliminating invasive customization that prevents companies from moving forward with updates and upgrades… Check
  •   To deliver innovation at an increased (and impressive) pace, supported through the use of web-based services, and object-oriented data models… Check
  •  Good integration capabilities that provide a seamless user experience across the enterprise… Check

Manufacturers stuck on older technology with limited functionality might well consider saying, “Beam me up, Sandy.”

This post was derived from a white paper entitled Next Generation ERP: Kenandy’s Approach. Click here to read the full report. The report is free, but registration is required.

 

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Loosely Coupled or Tightly Integrated Enterprise Applications? Why Should a CFO Care?

It seems lately I have been hearing a lot about “loosely coupled” business applications. It started about a year ago at Infor’s customer event (Inforum) and then continued at SAP’s SapphireNow. More recently, with SAP’s introduction of Financials OnDemand, I heard it again. Financials OnDemand is a derivative of SAP Business ByDesign, a cloud-based, tightly integrated suite (that some might call ERP). SAP pulled out the financials that were previously embedded in Business ByDesign so they could stand on their own and be “loosely coupled” to other applications.

But is this what its customers and prospects are looking for? That’s hard to say because it is very unlikely its typical prospect or customer really understands the intended “benefits” of loosely coupled.  In fact, when you start talking about “loosely coupled” to CFOs you are likely to produce that glazed look that says, “I don’t know what you’re talking about… and I don’t really care.” If you refer to “loosely coupled” in contrast to “tightly integrated” you might get a glimmer of understanding, but not an immediate acceptance of the concept.

CFOs might intuitively understand the value gained from tightly integrated applications, particularly in reference to an integrated suite of modules like ERP. After all, who wouldn’t want a complete solution, one where all the pieces just sort of fit and work together, with no integration effort required and no redundant data? While there might be some inherent value to having a loosely coupled solution, that value is not intuitively obvious to a CFO. Yet the opposite is true for both Infor’s CEO Charles Phillips and representatives of SAP, including former SuccessFactor CEO, now SAP’s chief “cloud” guy, Lars Dalgaard. They see enormous value in loosely coupled. As a result they either don’t see a need to explain it, or they have difficulty in explaining something they just intuitively “get.” Either way, the message is just not very clear to your typical financial executive.

So let me try to explain. The biggest reason “loosely coupled” might be of very significant value to a CFO is because things change. Markets change. Companies expand (or shrink). Software is enhanced. Technology innovation happens.  In fact, technology innovation often results from change but is also often the catalyst for change. Yet responding to change is hard.

Let me give you an example that should resonate with a CFO. Let’s say you are the CFO of a mid-size manufacturer who has helped your company expand over the past 10 years.  You implemented an ERP solution back when you were small and your accounting needs were rudimentary. You chose a solution for its strength in managing inventory and production. While you started out operating from a single location, you have expanded globally and now operate in 6 different countries around the world. While the financial modules of your ERP met your needs when you first implemented it, now you struggle with compliance and tax regulations, multiple legal entities, multiple currencies and consolidation. This is a very real scenario. Our latest Mint Jutras survey on ERP indicates 75% of companies today operate with more than one location. Even small companies (those with annual revenues less than $25 million) have an average of 2.6 locations and this average grows to 7.5 in the upper mid-market (revenues from $250 million to $1 billion).

You’d like to move to a newer, more feature-rich accounting solution, but your ERP is still satisfying the needs of manufacturing and since you are continuing to grow, you don’t want to disrupt the business by ripping it out and replacing it. The very thing that attracted you to your solution is now holding you back. Because it is tightly integrated, you can’t just replace a piece of the puzzle without replacing the whole thing.

To make matters worse, your older ERP solution is not really meeting your needs for customer relationship management (CRM). This is not surprising. While the footprint of ERP has been steadily expanding over the past 10 years, the needs of sales and service organizations were not front and center from the beginning. If these needs had been met with early versions of ERP, companies like Salesforce.com would never have taken off like they have. Maybe you too are considering adding a stand-alone CRM to the mix. If so, SAP might be pitching its Customer OnDemand solution in addition to Financials OnDemand.

So is this building a case against tightly integrated, in favor of stand-alone solutions that might need to be integrated? Not necessarily. In a tightly integrated solution there is only one of anything – one chart of accounts, one customer master file, one item master, one supplier master, etc. But these master files are shared across different functions. Purchasing needs to access the supplier master to place a purchase order. But accounts payable also needs a supplier master in order to make a payment. Sales and order management need to maintain information in the customer master, but accounts receivable needs a customer master to apply cash receipts. Pull the accounting solution out and you still need the suppliers and customers. Does the new accounting solution have its own supplier and customer files? Does this mean maintaining two of each? Does the new CRM add yet another customer master? If so, how do you keep them in sync? Or maybe you don’t. But this adds all sorts of new wrinkles.

“Loosely coupled” applications could very well make your life easier. But what’s the difference between “loosely coupled” and what used to be called “best of breed?” This is where it gets harder to explain and I am not entirely convinced all vendors that claim to deliver it are talking about exactly the same thing. It took SAP several tries before I really saw the difference, and I live and breath this stuff. Your typical CFO doesn’t.

In trying to understand SAP’s definition of “loosely coupled” I described the scenario above to the solution marketing team for SAP’s cloud-based financials and asked how the combination of Financial OnDemand and Customer OnDemand would address this issue of redundancy. If each were sold separately (i.e. not delivered as the integrated suite of Business ByDesign) would the customer wind up with two different customer master files? SAP’s answer was no.

Here’s how it works: Think of the customer (master data) as a business object. An older ERP solution will build that customer master file (the business object) right into the solution. Instead, these OnDemand solutions treat the customer master as a separate business object that lives outside of the application. By doing this, both applications can point to, access and reference the same business object.

But what about maintenance? Instead of building the maintenance functions directly into each application, SAP treats that function as a separate function as well. Instead of building that directly into Financials OnDemand and Customer OnDemand, SAP builds it once and puts it in a “business process library” which both (and other) applications can use. The term “business process library” might be a bit confusing because most think of business processes in the context of processes like “order-to-cash” or “procure-to-pay” or “plan-source-make-deliver”. These are workflows that string together different functions. But in this case the business process is much more granular. It refers to the process of maintaining the customer master data.

So by loosely coupling these two applications, the customer still winds up with one customer master file. And both applications use the exact same functions to access and maintain it. These external business objects sort of plug into these applications.

This solves an important problem, but in our scenario, where we are replacing the accounting applications of an existing ERP solution, it is only half of the problem. If that existing ERP is still managing customer orders, it too needs to access the customer master file and it probably assumes the customer master file is the one that is delivered embedded in the ERP. So until or unless you do some potentially invasive surgery to the existing ERP, you are going to have to deal with some redundancy of data.

Of course if you replace that tightly integrated ERP solution with a newer or upgraded solution that has been assembled with loosely coupled external business objects, this problem goes away. In the meantime, SAP, and potentially other solution providers are beginning to re-architect their solutions to make this much easier. They are essentially performing this surgery and delivering applications that make better use of underlying supporting technology to make this happen. Remember the $6 million man and the bionic woman? They were still people, but with some of their “parts” significantly enhanced. Think of it as bionic ERP.

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NetSuite eCommerce: To Suite or Not to Suite: That is the question

Earlier in the year at SuiteWorld 2012, NetSuite announced “Commerce as a Service” (CaaS), the latest in the growing number of “as a Service” acronyms. At the very core of this new offering is NetSuite SuiteCommerce, which combines an eCommerce platform with a customer experience management system that is uniform regardless of customer touchpoint. Unlike bolt-on eCommerce systems, the integration with back office fulfillment, billing and support services is seamless and transparent, because all are built and designed as an integrated suite. Yet even though built and delivered as a fully integrated suite, the eCommerce capabilities can also stand on their own merit. NetSuite customers have the choice of implementing a full end-to-end solution, or just the pieces they need.

When is a Suite not a Suite?

eCommerce is not new for NetSuite. With its roots buried deeply in the cloud, it has always been about delivering Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and eCommerce as a single platform. While developed as an integrated end-to-end solution, the suite can be implemented all at once or modularly and incrementally. NetSuite reports that 98% of its 12,000 customers take the full suite approach (although many implement in a modular fashion) while only 2% go the route of what it calls CRM+. The “+” refers to order management capabilities added to traditional CRM.

NetSuite views the customer order as the heart and soul of a business. While it provides an application development platform and encourages its channel partners to develop incremental solutions around its data model, NetSuite takes ownership of any piece of the suite that directly manages the customer order.

From ERP to Commerce Engine

So how does Commerce as a Service impact this suite approach? NetSuite’s Commerce as a Service essentially transforms its business management application into a commerce-aware platform that can flexibly, yet uniformly manage the interaction with any and all customers regardless of channel, whether through traditional transactions, a website, a smart phone, social media site or in a store. NetSuite’s business management application essentially combines ERP with CRM, therefore addressing and integrating both front office and back office needs. Yet commerce is the engine that drives business, and customer orders provide the fuel that powers the engine. Hence NetSuite’s insistence on “owning” the part of the application that directly manages customer interaction and orders.

While many industry observers today talk about moving from transactional systems of record to systems of engagement, “from” and “to” is the wrong way of looking at this. You need both. You need to manage and maintain all the transactions that power your business, and at the same time you need to better manage interaction (engagement) with your customer. This used to be relatively simple because business-to-business (B2B) was managed through business documents (often paper-based) reflected as purchase orders and sales orders while business-to-consumer (B2C) transactions happened in stores.

Over the past two decades, this rather simplistic approach slowly evolved to the diversity we see today. Along the way came first generation eCommerce solutions that were largely bolted on to existing business management applications. After all, the customers and products were already stored in these enterprise applications, along with the transactions that formed the system of record of the business. So either these bolt-on applications needed to be integrated into the existing business applications, or (just as likely) they stood apart with their own customer and product masters. Integration, if it existed at all, was usually characterized as an arm’s length interface.  This interface was often manual and resulted in redundancy of data. NetSuite took a different and rather unique approach in building eCommerce right into the business management system.

Taking a suite approach to design and development to address these new modes of commerce insures that both front and back offices are in sync and are not introducing a new layer of data redundancy, requiring off-line synchronization. Taking a modular approach to installation and implementation allows customers to implement new features as needs evolve.

What’s new in the Platform?

The platform consists of three new technologies:

  • SuiteCommerce Experience: the underlying tool that allows NetSuite to deliver rich user interfaces quickly regardless of touchpoint (website, smart phone, social media site, etc.)
  • SuiteCommerce Services: these new services expose NetSuite’s back-end commerce functionality and data as services to the SuiteCommerce Experience and any other commerce front-end application. For the businessperson, this enables customers to apply business logic across multiple touch points. For example, promotions (and also credit limits) can be managed across on-line, telephone and in-store transactions. Think about a customer that orders product across a variety of different channels. Does the system recognize the same customer and apply logic universally?
  • NetSuite Commerce Platform: The commerce platform provides all the business processing capabilities including order management, inventory management and payment processing, as well as personalized promotions, merchandising, account management and support. This combines traditional business processes (transactions) with built-in sales and marketing tools (engagement).

Key Takeaways

NetSuite views commerce, and therefore the customer orders, as the very lifeblood of a business. As a result it closely guards the development of applications that directly manage those customer orders. But it also recognizes the diversity of sources of customer orders. Long gone are the days when only traditional paper-based purchase orders were converted to sales orders and long gone are the days when consumer purchases were only transacted in a physical store. The world of commerce today is much more diverse.

And yet the key to handling this diversity is in simplifying both the customer experience as well as the back end business processes. Instead of merging different pieces together in the hope they will one day all fit together, it has taken the approach of designing an integrated end-to-end process that recognizes diversity but introduces a level of uniformity.

Recognizing that many companies can’t handle a big-bang approach to changing their business and some are intimidated by the breadth and scope of an end-to-end ERP solution, NetSuite is toning down its “suite message.” However it continues to develop an end-to-end integrated solution that supports both front office and back office enterprise activity, along with the commerce that fuels the business. Whether you implement all of it or pieces, all at once or in modular stages, NetSuite has taken on the challenge of making sure it all works together seamlessly.

 

To read more please visit:

https://forms.netsuite.com/app/site/crm/externalleadpage.nl?compid=NLCORP&formid=2425&h=f4ab4d3ed91a39e870ee  (registration required)

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Infor’s Inforce Everywhere Completes Salesforce’s 360 Degree View of the Customer

 

Today (March 12, 2012) Infor announced general availability of Inforce Everywhere. Built natively on Force.com and ‘ION-ized’ with Infor’s lightweight middleware platform, Inforce Everywhere brings the back office data from selected Infor Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions safely and securely onto the screens of Salesforce.

While Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution providers have been touting a 360o view of the customer for over a decade, this complete view is actually impossible just using CRM. Shipments, invoices, accounts receivable and returns are the domain of ERP, not CRM. Many companies today would like to turn sales reps into true account managers, but allowing a sales representative full access to ERP is enough to cause any Chief Financial Officer (CF)O) heartburn. By making this type of data accessible directly, selectively and securely through CRM, Infor helps sales reps really manage accounts without purchasing additional ERP seats and without opening the floodgate to ERP.

Infor’s Reseller Agreement

Fast facts:

Infor will provide support to customers that license Salesforce via Infor

Products that Infor will resell include:

  • Sales Cloud, Enterprise Edition
  • Service Cloud, Enterprise Edition
  • Salesforce Sales/Service Cloud related products such as Mobile, Portal, Sandbox, API calls, etc.

The INFOR:SALESFORCE Partnership

The partnership between Infor and Salesforce was originally announced at Dreamforce on September 1, 2011. The intent to build and deliver Inforce Everywhere was part of a three-way announcement including:

  • Three new Inforce applications including Inforce Everywhere, Inforce Ordering and Inforce Marketing
  • A reseller agreement which also extends to Infor’s partners
  • Salesforce investment in Infor

In a way, this partnership is just one of many Salesforce.com is striking these days in expanding beyond the boundaries of CRM and evangelizing its vision of the Social Enterprise. But the deal with Infor stands out in a couple of ways.

First of all the reseller agreement is very unique.  Infor has the ability to resell Salesforce Sales and Service cloud licenses as well as the native applications they develop on Force.com.  Salesforce.com has a very robust ISV ecosystem of partners developing and selling solutions that include Force.com, but only a select few have the right to position and sell Sales and Service cloud as well. This means Infor takes the order, delivers the product (as a service) and provides front line support. This reseller agreement also extends to the Infor channel, which is being actively developed and expanded. Partners can resell the portfolio but will only be allowed to provide implementation services if certified to do so.

Salesforce.com’s investment in Infor is not unique and signals the company’s interest in expanding Force.com solutions and its influence beyond the realm of the front office. FinancialForce.com (accounting applications) and Box.net (content management and storage) are two other examples, but this is the first and only major ERP company that Salesforce has invested in.

But the products being developed are perhaps most important to both Salesforce’s and Infor’s existing customers. In the world of enterprise applications, partnerships can be very easy to form but often never move far beyond the original fanfare of the announcement. Very often these partnerships are just referral-based. They are easy to form, but just as easy to walk away from. A reseller agreement further cements the relationship, but the bond truly forms when solutions are developed and integrated. The two most important factors are moving quickly and adding real value.

Inforce Everywhere has been developed and is being delivered in just over six months from formalization of the agreement and new releases are already planned for Q3 2012 and Q2 2013. It effectively marries the front and back office, exposing data from ERP to the Sales and Service Cloud. The other two Inforce products are planned for release in Q4 2012 (Inforce Ordering) and Q1 2013 (Inforce Marketing).

Infor is also introducing Salesforce.com’s vision of the social enterprise to the ERP world with Chatter in a way that makes sense to its ERP customers. By exposing data in ERP to users of Salesforce, Inforce Everywhere is encouraging a dialogue between the front office and the back office and Chatter will enable it.

How Does this Add Value for Customers?

Many companies today talk about the need for a 360o view of their customers. But getting that complete view is hard and allowing a sales rep access to this level of visibility is even harder. Yet in those businesses that thrive on developing close relationships with their customers, the role of the sales rep must be transformed into that of an account manager. By managing an account, you provide better service, generating customer satisfaction and loyalty, which in turn generates more sales and revenue.

To truly manage an account you need visibility to customer history, outstanding orders, shipments, open accounts receivable, payment history, and service performance. While account management and customer service are engagement-based, this history is transaction-based. Transactions don’t exist in a system of engagement (CRM); they exist in a system of record (ERP). Yet how many companies do you know that are willing to purchase an ERP seat for every sales rep? How many CFO’s do you know that are willing to allow sales reps open access to areas like accounts receivable?

Access to accounts receivable in ERP usually means access to all accounts receivable. While this is not always the case and role and context-based security is more common in ERP solutions today, the implementation of this level of security is not yet pervasive. At the same time, access to customers, orders and quotes through a CRM system generally is restricted to those customers “owned by” the sales reps. So doesn’t it make sense to offer this level of visibility through the existing structure of a CRM?

That’s what Inforce Everywhere does. It exposes that detail that already exists in ERP about customers, shipments, returns, invoices and open balances and makes it visible through secure inquiries within CRM. But the sales rep/account manager is confined to his or her own customers/accounts and doesn’t need to consume an ERP user license. There is no need to purchase seats in ERP to gain access to this data. Infor customers need only subscribe to Inforce Everywhere, which is priced at $30 per user per month.

Some of the data shared between ERP and CRM is shared bi-directionally, while some is single direction. For example, data about sales territories, accounts and contacts is shared bi-directionally. Products, system codes, quotes, orders, shipments, invoices, accounts receivables, return material authorizations are single direction – data in ERP is shared with CRM.

Added value is also derived from Inforce Everywhere in a multi-company scenario. While business units or divisions that cross international boundaries must be established as different legal entities in ERP for financial reporting and compliance purposes, often CRM must have a view across these entities from a corporate, global perspective. Global accounts may be managed across legal entities and international boundaries, so it is important to have visibility worldwide. While this seems simple enough on the surface, delivering this is not so simple. Inforce Everywhere can serve as the link, establishing an optional one-to-many relationship between CRM and ERP. This multi-company scenario will be supported in Q3 2012.

Which ERP Solutions and How?

Inforce Everywhere is currently available for Infor10 ERP Enterprise (LN), Infor10 Distribution iBusiness (A+) and Infor10 Distribution Business (SX.e). XA, Syteline and Visual are planned for release next quarter, followed by S21, Sun Systems, LX, (Lawson) M3 and Adage before the end of the year. Additional Infor ERP applications are planned to be rolled out later.

How is Infor able to produce this steady cadence of releases? Infor10 ION, Infor’s lightweight, middleware platform, is the key to connectivity between ERP, CRM and any other ION-enabled application, eliminating the need for individual point-to-point integration. Think of it as a layer of meta data that can connect Salesforce to potentially any or all of the Infor ERP back office solutions. Each solution need only to expose data to the meta data layer to make the connection, so any ION-ized Infor solution is easily connected.

Key Takeaways

Salesforce has slowly been infiltrating the customer bases of many of the ERP solution providers, especially those that have targeted the mid-market. While ERP solutions have continued to broaden, touching more and more functional areas within an enterprise, they have largely been viewed as back-office solutions. Satisfying the needs of the sales department has often been an afterthought or largely ignored in ERP implementations. As a result, sales departments have sought out their own solutions, sometimes with the blessing of the Information Technology (IT) department and sometimes doing an end run around IT. A cloud-based solution like Salesforce has provided a very viable alternative.

While it is not clear exactly how much overlap there is today between the Infor and Salesforce customers, one would have to assume it would be substantial. That overlap will be target number one for Inforce Everywhere and should be an easy sell.

Where there is no overlap, putting Salesforce Sales and Service cloud portfolio in the hands of the direct and indirect sales force provides them with more to offer the customer. Sure they could buy CRM directly from Salesforce, but the introduction of Inforce Everywhere keeps the sales department happy, but implicitly keeps them in the fold in terms of sharing data and added visibility.

 

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Infor10 in Motion: Making a Run at the Market

On January 23, 2012 Infor released Infor10 Motion, a cloud-based mobile platform built with a loosely coupled architecture on its Infor10 ION framework.The platform approach is based on the premise that people are on the move today and that their work needs to also stay in motion. With this release Infor strives to differentiate itself from other more complex mobile platforms, to not only provide easy development and deployment of mobile apps but also a level of consistency that has previously been hard to deliver with its broad and diverse portfolio of enterprise applications. Infor10 Motion provides an opportunity for Infor to adopt a consistent user experience, aimed at accelerating productivity, across all back office applications.

What is Infor10 Motion?

Infor10 Motion is a platform which consists of three components:

  • Infor10 Motion Builder: the means to build new mobile applications
  • Infor10 Motion Manager: a cloud-based way to manage the devices and the applications running on them
  • Infor10 Motion Server: where “server” is used in the context of software (also cloud-based), not hardware, to process requests from mobile devices

However, this platform would be useless without the applications it is meant to manage and serve. Infor will be releasing a variety of applications, starting with newly released:

  • Infor10 Road Warrior – think of it as mobile customer relationship management (CRM)
  • Infor ION ActivityDeck, useful in reminding users of important tasks, providing alerts and facilitating approvals of pending requests.

Others on the horizon include:

  • Shop Floor: bringing mobility to where manufacturing is done
  • The Mobile Manager: (not to be confused with Motion Manager) supports management decisions on the move
  • Hotel Administration
  • Dashboards

A Common User Experience

All these applications will have a common user experience. While Infor has a very broad portfolio of products, none have a well-defined mobile user interface and therefore this is an opportunity to define a standard and use it to unite disparate enterprise applications in its portfolio. A real life road warrior won’t know (or care) where (which Infor product) data is coming from. In developing a new standard, the user experience will not be constrained by traditional user interfaces and will take advantage of native features of the most commonly used devices. The first release supports the iPad and the iPhone, but support for Android and for Research in Motion (RIM) Blackberry are planned for the summer of 2012. Infor is also expecting to support HTML5.

Infor10 Motion apps are enhanced by being “app aware,” including consumer apps that could potentially add value to the enterprise. For example, think of incorporating Skype and Apple’s Face Time within a customer’s contact information, making these collaboration tools instantly available to field personnel.

Infor also expects the Motion products to standardize reporting and analytics across potentially multiple applications. It will use Infor ION, its lightweight middleware, to construct the Infor Business Vault, a data warehouse that should prove to be instrumental in integrating multiple data sources. Its recent joint announcement with Salesforce.com is one such projected integration point.

Expanding the Reach of Applications

This approach has the potential of bringing a different kind of enterprise applications user into the fold. While many decision-makers are today not directly connected to applications such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), relying instead on surrogates or subordinates to access and provide needed data, consumer-grade applications from mobile devices could complete that circuit and put decision-makers in direct contact with enterprise data.

But to better connect, these consumers of data may require a new and wide-ranging set of applications, perhaps more purpose-built than a broad multi-functional application like ERP. Infor intends to take advantage of the ease of development associated with these types of focused applications and need not be constrained by the limitations of existing applications. And the fact that these apps may be accessing data from a variety of different back end applications will be transparent to the traveling business person.

Infor, as other major enterprise applications vendors, is not counting only on apps coming from their own development teams, but from a broader community of partners and customers. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to this will be in getting that community to feel like an “Infor community.” Today partners and customers alike are much more aligned to individual products in the Infor portfolio than to the Infor community at large. But a single “stack” for reporting and analysis, coupled with a common mobile user experience and cloud-based tools can all contribute to moving towards an Infor-centric community.

Enterprise-Class Mobility

 But also a challenge may be getting its customers to clamor for these applications. Yes “mobility” has proliferated to the point where most people – business people as well as pure consumers – carry one, if not multiple devices. And yet many still do not see the enormous business potential. Mint Jutras research shows that the number one priority for mobility-related functionality is performing approvals and authorizations, followed closely by receiving alerts and notifications. Taking photos and attaching them to records rated higher than mobile order and account management. Other research specifically related to ERP shows that less than half (47%) of companies rate the ability to access ERP data from a mobile device as “important” or “must have,” 26% said it was “somewhat important”, 22% called it a “nice to have” and 6% said it wasn’t a consideration at all. A lot of companies still miss the connection between this proactive management and the underlying enterprise data that runs their business.

Perhaps with the advent of these “smart” applications, the general business population will begin to see the light. What Infor hopes to convey is a worthy message:

  • Don’t wait to act
  • Work in context
  • Get back on the road

Let work move as fast as you do.

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Do you require industry specific functionality? 67% of survey respondents said yes.

Yesterday I mentioned a survey I helped IFS North America conduct on the impact of mergers and acquisitions on the enterprise applications market. In that same survey of executives and professionals of manufacturers with annual revenues in excess of $100 million we also investigated the requirements for industry specific functionality. We looked at the importance of industry-specific functionality in enterprise applications, investigated how well those needs are met and explored the impact lack of fit might have on the business.

We reached over 340 of these manufacturing executives and found 67% of them required industry-specific functionality and even those that did not still expressed a desire for it. Those who require industry-specific functionality were 12% less likely to have implemented ERP, leading us to believe that not finding a proper fit caused some to delay a purchase, but if implemented, those requiring industry specific functionality rate the fit of their current applications only slightly lower than those who have no industry-specific needs. Solutions are out there if you know where to look.

As you might expect, gaps are often filled with additional applications and spreadsheets. And those requiring industry-specific functionality were more likely to have implemented other applications like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Project/Portfolio Management (PPM). And those requiring this added functionality are 66% more likely to require multiple applications rather than being satisfied with a single integrated suite. Gaps in functionality definitely add risk and present barriers to serving customers.

While industry specific functionality is much in demand among the respondent base, vertical industry is not a good predictor of which businesses require greater specialization in ERP. A better predictor may be the types of processes businesses are involved in. Those involved with extensive customer collaboration in high value, complex projects reported a greater need, as did those involved with management of large fixed assets (think heavy duty machinery) and service management. Among those companies with the most pronounced need for greater specialized functionality were those where managing return on assets (RoA) is a core discipline. The need for ERP with enterprise asset management (EAM) functionality creates a “perfect storm” that many enterprise solutions do not handle well. Of course this was music to the ears of IFS since these types of businesses are exactly the type it targets with its extended ERP solution, which also includes Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) and field service functionality.

So how do gaps in solutions impact the business? Regardless of the need for industry specific functionality or not, the most likely impact is the need for non value added work like double entry in multiple systems, negatively impacting productivity. But where the lack of industry specific functionality had a more direct impact was in added risk resulting from not having the needed visibility to the business and in limiting the ability to adequately serve customers.

To see the actual results of the survey, click here.

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The Sage re-Branding Effort Revisited

Back in July I wrote, “Sage North America is taking its brand very seriously these days.”

  • In spite of the fact that it is about an $858 million business and part of the larger global Sage Software, a $2.24 billion company…
  • In spite of the fact that is supports more than 3.2 million customers…
  • In spite of the fact that is has more than 27,000 Value Added Resellers…
  • In spite of the fact it employs 4,000 people in North America and 13,600 across the globe….

In spite of all this, and partly because many of these customers are very small businesses, Sage is hardly a household name. In an effort to strengthen its brand, at its Sage Summit last summer the company announced a major re-branding effort which would rename all of its products. While currently products are grouped and managed internally by software category (e.g. ERP and CRM), each with multiple brands and product lines, the thought moving forward was to simply group them by target of company size. This prompted many questions and caused a bit of an uproar amongst its channel partners, happy with current names and unhappy with incurring the expense of this effort.

Yesterday (October 18, 2011) Sage met with these channel partners virtually.  In a webinar presentation Sage EVP of Corporate Marketing, Dennis Frahmann, and Sage VP of Channel Management, Tom Miller, shared some details of the current plan. As you can see from the plan below, Sage has backed off on re-naming ALL its products. However, the goal remains the same: to build the “Sage” brand. In order to do that Sage will invest in marketing to leverage “Sage” as the master brand.

As stated before, the Sage branded portfolio will consist of product sets referred to by numbers that indicate increasing levels of sophistication or capability. These numbers/products were announced as: Sage 50, Sage 100, Sage 300, Sage 500. The numbers loosely relate to number of employees and annual revenues. For example, Sage 50 is well suited to smaller businesses, often under 50 employees or $50 million in revenue, but I described the coupling as “loose” because these are only guidelines. The fit is primarily based on complexity of their accounting and financial needs.

 

Sage also “exempts” some from this numbering scheme by saying, “All are bonded by a common set of Sage commitments: integration with common applications such as CRM, Fixed Assets and HRMS; Connected Services that connect the desktop to the cloud such as payment services; plus pre-requisite Sage services such as Sage Business Care and Sage Advisor.” So for example, you will see Sage CRM sold along with several of the Sage “number” lines. Sage ACT! is likely to be sold with Sage 50 and SalesLogix can still be sold stand-alone. Its name is not changing. And neither is Sage X3.

 

This makes the re-naming exercise largely ERP-centric. By treating CRM, HRMS, Fixed Assets and Connected Services as shared components, Sage will eliminate much of the anticipated confusion over where these products would “land”. I’m not sure how the decision on X3 really fits into the grand scheme, only that it seems Sage management decided it had enough brand value to leave it alone – at least for now. The same could be said for SalesLogix and ACT! Perhaps they will just get through this round first (a substantial effort) and revisit those decisions later.

 

In an effort to maximize the value and ease the burden on its channel, Sage is also promising to provide channel partners with materials that will assist in the brand transition, including a complete electronic brand transformation tool kit to transition. Sage also promises help in updating websites and co-funding up to 100% for eligible brand transformation activities.

 

In the meantime, here’s the new mapping:

  • Sage 50 is available in US and Canadian editions, representing Sage Peachtree and Sage Simply Accounting.
  • Sage 100 includes Sage ERP MAS 90, Sage ERP MAS 200, Sage Master Builder, and Sage Fund Accounting.
  • Sage 300 includes Sage ERP Accpac and Sage Timberline Office.
  • Sage 500 includes Sage ERP MAS 500 and Sage Fund Accounting
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