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Posts tagged ‘Enterprise Resource Planning’

Roundup Of Cloud Computing And Enterprise Software Predictions For 2014

cloud computing predictions 2014 Alan Kay’s saying that the best way to predict the future is to create it resonates through the best cloud computing and enterprise software predictions for 2014. Constraints that held start-ups back from delivering sophisticated new apps and services are disappearing fast.  The dynamics of one of my favorite books, The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton Christensen, are in full force across the cloud and enterprise landscape.

There are many predictions being generated right now and instead of writing yet another set,  I’m providing a listing of those that are the most interesting and thought-provoking. They are listed below:

  • 10 Cloud Computing Predictions for 2014 – In-depth analysis of ten predictions including how more companies will realize they are really in the software business, private cloud computing having a moment of truth and continued adoption of cloud brokerages.  This set of predictions is an interesting read and provides useful insight.  I’d just add that as application developers go, so goes an industry, a point Bernard Golden refers to in this post.
  • Analytics Eats the World in 2014 – George Mathew of Alteryx is one of the most driven people I’ve ever met about analytics programming and development.  He’s very focused on breaking down constraints that hold analysts back from getting more value from their data. His predictions provide insight into how business analysts’ roles are changing based on rapid advances in analytics app development, model development and use.
  • Changing Cloud Scapes in 2014 – Jeff Kaplan, Managing Director of THINKstrategies provides ten insightful predictions regarding the continued adoption of cloud computing platforms in the enterprise.  His fourth prediction, “Although horizontal cloud solutions will continue to experience significant growth, vertical market solutions aimed at specific industries will grow even more rapidly” is starting to emerge today.  The recent success of Veeva Systems supports his prediction and points to next year seeing more vertical market solutions being successfully launched.
  • Cloud computing experts forecast the market climate in 2014 – Excellent summary of seven cloud computer experts’ predictions for 2014 including Mark Eisenberg, Roger Jennings, Paul Korzeniowski, David S. Linthicum, Tom Nolle, Dan Sullivan and Mark Szynaka.  Highlights include IDC analysts predicting the “Over the 2013 to 2017 forecast period, public IT cloud services will have a compound annual growth rate [CAGR] of 23.5%, five times that of the IT industry as a whole,” and PaaS will lead IaaS and SaaS with a CAGR of 29.7%. What’s useful about these set of predictions is the breadth of expertise reflected in market statistics, market and technology projections and insights shared.
  • Cloud Computing Predictions for 2014: Cloud Joins The Formal IT Portfolio – James Staten of Forrester Research has compiled an excellent series of predictions for the year with emphasis on security and SaaS becoming the de facto choice for new applications.  While he hasn’t quoted adoption figures of SaaS relative to on-premise, he does point out that Forrester believes HCM, CRM and collaboration will be the leading categories of SaaS apps in 2014.
  • My One Big Fat Cloud Computing Prediction for 2014 – I have been following the industry analysis, writing and research of Joe McKendrick for years based on the excellent insight he provides.  Joe predicts that cloud computing is set to become mainstream computing, period.  He cites Cisco’s research showing the majority of data center will be cloud-based and shares his perspective of the market.  Joe has an innate sense of how enterprises adopt and use technology and this post reflects that expertise.
  • SaaS predictions for 2014 – Chris Kanaracus is predicting that multitenancy will fade away as a major concern in SaaS, geographic depth of coverage will accelerate with cloud vendors announcing new data center openings around the world, and more vertical market adoption of SaaS.  He also prefaces his predictions with the Gartner forecast for SaaS (software as a service) quoting their figures of the total market will toping $22 billion through 2015, up from more than $14 billion in 2012.
  • Top Predictions about Software Companies in 2014 – In-depth analysis and predictions of which companies are going to be the most interesting to watch in 2014 and predictions regarding the enterprise software landscape.  This post provides a great overview of how industry veterans see enterprise software changing as a result of cloud computing as well.
  • Troubling, Challenging 2014 ERP Predictions – Brian Sommer’s predictions are the most thought-provoking and honest of any written so far this year. He writes “for an ERP vendor to sell CX (customer experience) software and then mistreat their own customers so badly is more than ironic (or moronic). It’s a death wish.  Yet, it happens.”  If there is only one set of predictions you read from this list, be sure to read this set.
  • What Should CMOs Do In 2014? IDC’s Top Ten Predictions – Gil Press provides in-depth analysis of IDC’s predictions of how the role of CMO will change in 2014.  He’s summarized the key points of the recent webinar including market forecasts from IDC, providing his insight and expertise in this post.  IDC is predicting that digital marketing investment will exceed 50% of total program budget by 2016, up from 39% in 2013 and that by the end of 2014, 60% of CMOs will have a formal recruiting process for marketers with data skills.

Top 12 Sites For Free Cloud Computing & Enterprise Software Research

campusOne of the most common questions I get from students is where they can find free cloud computing and enterprise software research.

Few if any of my students work for companies who have subscriptions with the top analyst firms however.  A small group of students are working on a start-up on the side and want to absorb as much market data as they can.

Many of my former students are also in IT management roles, and when they become interested in a specific cloud computing or enterprise topic over time, they write me and ask if I have any data on their subject of interest.  I keep the following list updated from them too.   To serve all these students I’ve been adding to the list shown below for a number of years. None of these companies are current or past clients and I hold no equity positions in any of them.

The requests are so prevalent in global competitive strategy courses I distribute this list at the beginning of the semester with the following disclaimers.

  • Many of the cloud computing and enterprise software companies pay to have white papers written and research done.  Writing white papers and doing research for an enterprise software vendor client is a very lucrative business for many industry analyst firms.  Ethical industry analysts will often insist that a disclaimer be included in the white paper and on the website stating that they and their firms were hired to write the paper or do the research and publish the report.
  • The reports are intellectual property of the firms publishing them.  Enterprise software vendors often pay tens of thousands of dollars at a minimum for reprint rights and the right to provide them on their websites.  I advise my students to seek out the copyright and quote policies of the research firm of interest if they plan on re-using the graphics in any published materials or in their blog posts.  One for example, the Gartner Copyright and Quote Policy is shown here.
  • Pay attention to the methodologies used in each report and realize they change over time.  This is especially the case with the  Gartner Magic Quadrant and MarketScopes. Gartner has been very active this year in refining the Magic Quadrant methodology for example.

The following are the list of cloud computing and enterprise software vendor sites that offer free downloads of cloud computing and enterprise software research:

  • Amazon Web Services – Amazon has purchased re-print rights to the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service written by Lydia Leong, Douglas Toombs, Bob Gill, Gregor Petri, Tiny Haynes published on August, 19, 2013 in addition to the latest reports from Forrester on enterprise public cloud platforms and enterprise cloud databases. Link:    https://aws.amazon.com/resources/analyst-reports/
  • BMC Software – Many free reports from Gartner, Forrester, The 451 Group and other research firms covering advanced performance analytics (APA), cloud computing, IT Service Management and long-term technology trends. Link: http://www.bmc.com/industry-analysts/reports/
  • Computer Associates – An extensive collection of cloud computing and enterprise software research organized into the following categories: cloud; data management; energy and sustainability management; IT automation; IT security; IT service management; mainframe; project and portfolio management; service assurance and virtual organizations.  CA requires opt-in on the latest research as they use this site as part of their lead generation strategy.  Link: http://www.ca.com/us/collateral/industry-analyst-reports.aspx
  • Cisco Systems –  Data Center and Virtualization; includes the latest Current Analysis, Forrester, Gartner, IDC, Lippis and Yankee Group research reports covering Big Data, blade servers, cloud computing, Hadoop, unified data centers and many other topics.  Be sure to click across the Computing, Network, Orchestration/Automation,  and Network Services tabs to find additional research:   Link: http://www.cisco.com/en/US/solutions/ns340/ns857/ns156/ns1094/analyst_reports.html
  • Hewlett-Packard – HP has invested primarily in networking-related analyst research including the latest studies and market frameworks from Forrester, Gartner, IDC and Infonetics Research.  Link: http://h17007.www1.hp.com/us/en/networking/ar/index.aspx#.Uhp-ERufg-J
  • Intel – Organized around the topic of designing a data center for the cloud, Intel is providing a series of research studies, reports, white papers and videos that provide insights into virtualization, networking, mobility and Intel-based servers running cloud architectures.  Link:  http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/cloud-computing/cloud-computing-analyst-reports.html
  • Microsoft – Balancing the need to support their enterprise applications today and create demand for cloud-based initiatives now and in the future, Microsoft’s series of analyst reports reflect their evolving business model.  Microsoft has licensed the latest research from Enterprise Strategy Group (ESDG), Forrester, Gartner, IDC, Ovum, Yankee Group and others listed on this site. Link: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/news/itanalyst/
  • Oracle - The most comprehensive collection of industry analyst research online for any enterprise software vendor, Oracle has hundreds of research reports available for viewing under their reprint licenses for free, and also for download.  The reports are organized into corporate, infrastructure, systems, services, solutions, industries, enterprise applications and regions.     Link: http://www.oracle.com/us/corporate/analystreports/index.html
  • Progress Software – Extensive collection of research from Bloor, Forrester, Gartner, IDC, Tabb Group, Ovum and other research firms are available for download from this site. Link:  http://www.progress.com/en/inthenews/analyst-reports.html
  • SAS – The most extensive and well-organized online collection of analyst research on analytics and business intelligence (BI) available, SAS makes research available from fifteen analyst firms across six industries on this area of their website.  You can find the SAS Analyst Viewpoints section of their website here: http://www.sas.com/news/analysts/
  • Symantec – Provides downloadable analyst reports in the areas of risk and compliance, endpoint security and management, information and identity protection, messaging security, backup and archiving, storage and availability management, services and emerging trends.  ESG, Info-Tech Research Group, Forrester, Gartner and IDC reports are on this page for download. Link: http://www.symantec.com/about/industryanalysts/analystreports.jsp
  • Teradata – Extensive collection of industry analysis and research organized into the sections of Active Data Warehousing, Active Enterprise Intelligence, Enterprise Data Warehousing, Teradata Analytical Ecosystem and Teradata Integration Analytics.  The latest market frameworks from Gartner, Forrester, IDC and other research firms are available for download.  Link:   http://www.teradata.com/analyst-reports/

Best- And Worst-Performing Cloud Computing Stocks In The First Half Of 2013

Cloud computing stocks continue to show wide variation in performance throughout the first half of this year.

Ten of the twenty companies in the Cloud Computing Stock Index delivered returns to shareholders with NetSuite leading with a 37.30% share gain, delivering $13,730 on $10,000 invested on January 2, 2013.

To more fully define the stock performance of these companies, I’ve added Earnings Per Share (EPS), Price/Earnings Ratio, Year-To-Date (YTD) Total Gains or Loss, Annualized Gain or Loss, and Total Dollar Value of $10,000 invested on January 2, 2013.  You can download the latest version of the Cloud Computing Stock Index here.  The filter applied to these companies is that 50% or more of their revenues are generated from cloud-based applications, infrastructure and services.  Additional details of the index are provided at the end of this post.

 

Best Performing

Name

Symbol

(1/2/13 – 7/5/13)Total Gain or Loss

Annualized Gain or Loss

Total Dollar Value of $10K invested in this stock on Jan. 2, 2013 as of July 5th:

NetSuite Inc

N

37.30%

87.55%

$13,730.00

Keynote Systems, Inc.

KEYN

36.18%

84.53%

$13,618.00

CA, Inc.

CA

26.67%

59.83%

$12,667.00

Workday Inc

WDAY

23.81%

52.77%

$12,381.00

Cisco Systems, Inc.

CSCO

22.60%

49.82%

$12,260.00

Symantec Corporation

SYMC

18.84%

40.84%

$11,884.00

Amazon.com, Inc.

AMZN

11.10%

23.23%

$11,110.00

 

Worst Performing

Name

Symbol

(1/2/13 – 7/5/13)Total Gain or Loss

Annualized Gain or Loss

Total Dollar Value of $10K invested in this stock on Jan. 2, 2013 as of July 5th:

Rackspace Hosting, Inc.

RAX

-46.78%

-71.39%

$5,322.00

Fusion-IO, Inc.

FIO

-41.21%

-65.13%

$5,879.00

F5 Networks, Inc.

FFIV

-31.57%

-52.88%

$6,843.00

VMware, Inc.

VMW

-29.94%

-50.63%

$7,006.00

Riverbed Technology…

RVBD

-24.91%

-43.34%

$7,509.00

Red Hat, Inc.

RHT

-11.47%

-21.46%

$8,853.00

Key Take-Aways:

  • NetSuite leads the index with a 37.3% gain in their stock price, and $10K invested in their stock on January 2nd of this year would be worth $13,730 as of July 5th.  Cloud-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems acceptance is accelerating, evidenced by the success NetSuite is having with their two-tier ERP strategy and recent announcement they are moving into manufacturing.  Their recent alliance with Oracle also shows upside potential.   A cloud-based ERP provider leading the index is good news for Acumatica and Plex Systems especially, the leader in cloud-based ERP systems for manufacturing and one of the most enthusiastic customer bases in enterprise software.  Both of these companies are privately held or they would have been included in the index.
  • The 20 companies that comprise the Cloud Computing Stock Index attained a 29.6% return from July 10, 2012 to July 5, 2013.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) gained 18.83%;  Microsoft, 14.02%; Oracle, 7.17%; and SAP, 27.51%.  The following chart compares the performance of each. Please click on the index to expand it for easier viewing.

  • Widespread adoption of Amazon Web Services, success using the Kindle series of tablets as customer acquisition tools for digital content, market leadership of the online retail landscape, and successful pilots of the AmazonFresh online grocery business in Los Angeles and Seattle are all fueling Amazon’s stock performance this year.

Specifics on the Cloud Computing Stock Index

I used The Cloud Times 100 as the basis of the index, and included the 20 following companies, all of which are publically traded.  The latest edition of the Cloud Computing Stock Index is shown here.  Please click on the index to expand it for easier viewing.

 Note: I do not hold equity positions or work for any of the companies mentioned in this blog post or included in the Cloud Computing Stock Index.  

Gartner Predicts CRM Will Be A $36B Market By 2017

CRM in 2017The latest enterprise software forecast from Gartner shows Customer Relationship Management (CRM) increasing to a $36.5B worldwide market by 2017, a significant increase from the $20.6B forecasted in Q1 of this year.  CRM also leads all enterprise software categories in projected growth, showing a 15.1% CAGR from 2012 to 2017, also revised up from 9.7% in the Q1 forecast.

The latest round of forecasts published in the report,  Gartner Forecast: Enterprise Software Markets, Worldwide, 2012-2017, 2Q13 Update shows CRM eclipsing ERP in worldwide market size in 2017.  The following graph compares the relative growth of CRM, ERP, Business Intelligence (BI), Supply Chain Management and Web Conferencing, Collaboration/Social Software Suites.  Source: Gartner Forecast: Enterprise Software Markets, Worldwide, 2012-2017, 2Q13 Update.  Please click on the image to increase its size for easier reading.

Figure 1 Forecast

Key Take-Aways

Figure 2 Forecast

  • Worldwide enterprise software spending is projected to be $304B in 2013 in the latest forecast, up from $279B in the Q1 forecast. Gartner claims stronger demand for CRM, supply chain management and security are leading to accelerating market growth.
  • ERP spending worldwide is projected to grow from $26.03B in 2013 to $34.3B in 2017, attaining a CAGR in the forecast period 2012 – 2017 of 7%.
  • Business Intelligence (BI) worldwide is projected to grow from $14B in 2013 to $18.6B in 2017, attaining a CAGR in the forecast period 2012 – 2017 of 7.3%.
  • Supply Chain Management (SCM) worldwide is projected to grow from $9.16B in 2013 to $13.6B in 2017, attaining a CAGR in the forecast period 2012 – 2017 of 10.4%.
  • Data Integration Tools and Data Quality Tools worldwide are projected to grow from $4B in 2013 to $6B in 2017, attaining a CAGR in the forecast period 2012 – 2017 of  10.3%.

 Bottom Line:  Gartner’s latest forecasts show that enterprises are realizing the most valuable assets they have are solid, long-term customer relationships.  Trust really is the new currency, as my friend Michael Krigsman often says.

10 Ways Cloud Computing Is Revolutionizing Manufacturing

manufacturing floorThe best manufacturers I’ve visited this year all share a common attribute: they are obsessed with making themselves as easy as possible to work with from a supply chain, distribution and services standpoint.  Many are evaluating cloud-based manufacturing applications including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and several have adopted cloud-based applications across their companies.

With so much interest, there is much confusion as well.  I recently spoke with Cindy Jutras, founder and CEO of MintJutras.  Her firm has recently completed a survey of SaaS adoption in manufacturing, distribution and other industries.  She found the following:

  • 49% of respondents in the manufacturing & distribution industries do not understand the difference between single- and multi-tenant SaaS architectures.  Overall 66% of respondents to the survey did not know.
  • SaaS-based applications are 22% of all manufacturing and distribution software installed today, and will grow to 45% within ten years according to MintJutras.
  • The three most important characteristics of a SaaS solution in manufacturing and distribution include giving customers a measure of control over upgrades, consistent support for global operations and allowing for rapid and frequent upgrades.

Cindy Jutras Research May 8 2013

Why Manufacturers Are Looking To Cloud Computing  

Manufacturers are under constant pressure to increase accuracy, make process speed a competitive force, and capitalize on their internal intelligence and knowledge to make every supplier, distributor and service interaction count.  The manufacturers spoken and visited with to gain the following insights are in the high tech, industrial and aerospace and defense industries, where rapid product lifecycles and short time-to-market schedules are commonplace.

Cloud-based strategies give these companies the chance to bring their own innate intelligence and knowledge into every sales situation.  While on-premise systems could also do this, cloud-based systems were quicker to roll out, easier to customize and showed potential to increase adoption rates across resellers.

One manufacturing manager explained how during a new product launch the speed and volume of collaboration was so rapid on between suppliers and distributors that an allocation situation was averted.  That he said, made senior management believers.  These epiphanies are happening daily in manufacturing.

Based on my visits with manufacturers, here are the ten ways they are using cloud computing to revolutionize manufacturing:

  • Capturing and applying company-wide intelligence and knowledge through the use of analytics, business intelligence (BI), and rules engines.  For the many manufacturers who rely on build-to-order, configure-to-order and engineer-to-order strategies as a core part of their business models, using cloud-based platforms to capture knowledge and manage rules is accelerating. A key part of this area is mobility support for analytics, BI and rules engine reporting and analysis.
  • Piloting and then moving quickly to full launch of supplier portals and collaboration platforms, complete with quality management dashboards and workflows.  Among the manufacturers visited, those in high tech are the most advanced in this area, often implementing Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) and demand management applications that deliver real-time order status and forecasts.
  • Designing in services is now becoming commonplace, making cloud integration expertise critical for manufacturers.  From simplistic services integration on iPhones to the full implementation of voice-activated controls including emergency assistance in the latest luxury cars, adding in services integrated to the cloud is redefining the competitive landscape of industries today.  Revising a product or launching an new product generation with embedded services can mitigate price wars, which is why many manufacturers are pursing this strategy today.
  •  Accelerating new product development and introduction (NPDI) strategies to attain time-to-market objectives. Using cloud-based platforms in high tech manufacturing is growing today as time-to-market constraints are requiring greater collaboration earlier in design cycles.
  • Managing indirect and direct channel sales from a single cloud platform tracking sales results against quota at the individual, group and divisional level is now commonplace across all manufacturers visited.  Dashboards report back the status by each rep and for sales managers, the profitability of each deal.
  • Using cloud-based marketing automation applications to plan, execute and most important, track results of every campaign.  Marketing is under a microscope in many manufacturers today, as marketing automation applications have promised to deliver exceptional results and many manufacturers are still struggling to align their internal content, strategies and ability to execute with the potential these systems promise.
  • Automating customer service, support and common order status inquiries online, integrating these systems to distributed order management, pricing, and content management platforms.  Manufacturing industries are at varying levels of adoption when it comes to automating self-service.  The cost and time advantages in high tech are the highest levels of adoption I’ve seen in visiting manufacturers however.
  • Increasing reliance on two-tier ERP strategies to gain greater efficiencies in material planning, supplier management and reduce logistics costs.  Manufacturers are also using this strategy to gain greater independence from a single ERP vendor dominating their entire operations.  Several manufacturers remarked that their large, monolithic ERP systems could not, without intensive programming and customization, scale down to the smaller operational needs in distributed geographic regions.  Cloud-based ERP systems are getting the attention of manufacturers pursuing two-tier ERP strategies.  AcumaticaCincomMicrosoftNetSuite and Plex Systems are leaders in this area of ERP systems.
  • Reliance on cloud-based Human Resource Management (HRM) systems to unify all manufacturing locations globally.  This often includes combining  multisite talent management, recruiting, payroll and time tracking.  Contract manufacturer Flextronics uses Workday to optimize workforce allocations across their global manufacturing centers for example.

Bottom Line:  Using cloud-based systems to streamline key areas of their business, manufacturers are freeing up more time to invest in new products and selling more.

Plex Systems’ CEO Jason Blessing on the Future of ERP and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)

Jason Blessing med HS
Last week Plex Systems, a leading provider of SaaS-based Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems announced enterprise software veteran Jason Blessing has joined their company as CEO.   He is responsible for the strategic direction and growth of the company, and has a proven track record in many facets of enterprise software, from new application development to professional services.  His extensive experience includes previous executive positions at Oracle, Taleo, PeopleSoft and Price Waterhouse.  You can find his LinkedIn profile here.

Plex Systems’ success delivering ERP entirely on the SaaS platform to manufacturers have many industry analysts, experts and pundits saying their unique business model is prescient of the future of enterprise software.  Originally designed for an automotive parts manufacturer, Plex Online is being adopted by aerospace and defense, food and beverage, high tech and electronics, industrial machinery, and precision metal manufacturers.  You can find an overview of Plex Systems here.

I recently had a chance to speak with Jason and get his views on the future of ERP, SaaS in manufacturing and the enterprise, and what he sees as the greatest challenges and opportunities for Plex Systems.

Here’s a transcript of my interview with Jason Blessing, the new CEO of Plex Systems:

What are the three biggest challenges you see to Plex Systems’ growth over the long-term and how will you and the management team address them?

Our greatest challenge is awareness of who Plex Systems is and the value we are delivering to our manufacturing customers today. We’re already putting together programs that will highlight the very meaningful customer base we have and what they are able to accomplish using Plex Online.  Second, we’re going to continue making significant product investments.  Our owners are growth-minded and we’re looking to create a beachheads in additional areas to compliment our heritage in auto manufacturing.  Third, we’re going to expand our sales and marketing investments to provide better coverage domestically and in Europe and Asia. We’re also on a mission to lead the resurgence of manufacturing in America by giving small and mid-sized companies the systems they need to be formidable global competitors. 

SaaS-based applications have proved themselves in the enterprise.  How and why are manufacturers adopting SaaS-based ERP systems today?  How is this going to change in the future?

Credit has to go to Taleo and Salesforce for proving SaaS can succeed at the departmental level in the enterprise.  We’re finding that the combination of financials and Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) delivered in the cloud is very well-suited for small and medium manufacturers.  These manufacturers often don’t have a large Information Technologies (IT) staff and want to offload these systems so they can stay focused on their core business.  In this sense we free up these smaller manufacturers to get back to work running their businesses without having to hassle with large, complex and costly ERP deployments. 

Will SaaS-based ERP systems cannibalize monolithic ERP systems or coexist and compliment them?  Or are you seeing a mix of both cannibalization and coexistence?  For Plex Systems, what’s the best direction?

We do see customer that adopt parts of our solution, quality for example, to test the cloud model before going wall to wall Plex.   Another approach we see is customers who have global operations bring foreign factories online quicker than they had in the past as a result of SaaS.  The end result will be the cannibalization of monolithic ERP systems by those that are SaaS-based.

One of the implicit factors in this area of cannibalization is the typical release cadence of a SaaS provider.  Most large cloud providers have, on average, 3 releases a year.  Here at Plex Systems we’re on a continuous release cadence.  When a customer asks for a feature enhancement or entirely new set of functions, we strive to be very responsive with our release cycles and deliver what is needed.  

Plex Systems has done well in several key manufacturing industries including automotive, A&D, electronics, food and beverage, and medical devices.  Do you see Plex Systems moving into additional industries, and if so, which ones?  Pharmaceutical and biotech for example.

We’re going to be fairly disciplined in our approach within the verticals we’re already selling into.  We’re seeing increasing interest in moving core shop floor applications to the cloud for example, and we’re going to expand out our coverage in our core vertical markets as a result.      

With the majority of sales in the United States, does Plex Systems have plans for Europe and Asia?  What’s your perspective of those markets for SaaS-based ERP system sales? 

We’re growing at an approximately compound annual growth rate of 30%+ per year, the majority of that growth coming from North America today.  We’re also seeing strong interest from EMEA, South America and Asia.  What’s driving our foreign market demand is the need manufacturers have for quickly getting production centers up and running on financials, MES and Supply Chain Management Systems (SCM).  We also run our own data centers and have hot standby and back facilities supporting our worldwide customer base.

Two-tier ERP delivers significant business value and is growing in adoption. How will Plex Systems capitalize on this trend and what are the implications for the application development priorities?

We’re delivering two-tier ERP implementations today and one of the largest heavy equipment manufacturers in the world uses Plex Online to run their shop floor operations at several manufacturing centers.  Their main ERP system is an SAP R/3 instance, and we integrate to that and help this manufacturer be more efficient at the individual plant and shop floor level.   

Plex_ColorLast year Plex Systems announced IntelliPlex, SmartPlex, in addition to several other significant new services and partnerships.  Of these, IntelliPlex has the potential to deliver analytics and business intelligence to manufacturers who may have never had these metrics available before.  How do you see analytics in manufacturing improving this year, and how will this augment Plex Online’s analytics strategy going forward?

Much of our success as a provider of SaaS-based ERP systems is due to the breadth of applications that span from the shop floor to the top floor. We’re seeing analytics resonate really well with the people who write us the checks, the top floor executives and their teams responsible for the getting the highest performance from manufacturing operations.  We’re going to augment our analytics this year, supporting mobile devices.  We’ve also been doing data mining of production data across the worldwide Plex Systems customer base and see the potential to create an index of manufacturing performance. We’re going to look at how this data will be able to help our customers predict economic conditions in their specific manufacturing industries. 

There are a myriad of studies out on the impact of mobile technologies on manufacturing.  Last year, Plex Systems introduced SmartPlex Mobile, which gives ERP users access to data on iOS and Android devices.  Can you discuss the challenges of mobile adoption in manufacturing and how Plex Systems will address them?

Often mobile technologies installed and used on the factory floor are proprietary to the systems and workflows for that specific factory.  They are fine-tuned to the specific workflows on the factory floor, and the proprietary nature of their electronics only work with the systems they are designed for and Plex Online supports many of these devices.  Material handling, RFID and other logistics projects are based on these kinds of technologies.

We’ve also found that senior management teams want to get as close to real-time data as possible on each phase of manufacturing operations.  SmartPlex Mobile is designed to give senior management teams visibility into operations on Android and iOS devices, and continues to gain interest from existing and new customers alike.

Many manufacturers are dealing with “brain drain” or the retiring and churn of their long-time manufacturing, process control, and quality management professionals.  How do you see Plex Systems helping these manufacturers to retain that tacit knowledge in their organizations over their long-term?

We talk quite often about this with our prospects, customers and internally in our development meetings.  Prospects are especially interested in how to solve this problem as tribal knowledge is often the most difficult to capture and re-use.  It’s common to find manufacturers with a myriad of Microsoft Access databases, legacy systems and data locked on spreadsheets. Our architecture is based on a Master Data Management (MDM) model with gives manufacturers a single source or version of the truth.  Using our experience implementing these systems in small and medium-sized manufacturers, we’ve found methods and techniques for managing corporate-wide data effectively.

Visualization in manufacturing including the extensive use of 2D and 3D CAD drawings is also accelerating.   What are your thoughts on the future of visualization in manufacturing, and more specifically, which key process areas do you see Plex Systems addressing with its visualization strategy?

This area is critically important for the shop floor as it can drive higher levels of production quality quickly. We’re going to continue to invest in this area, and our Actify partnership gives us a strong foundation to build on in this area.  The partnership with Actify allows us to embed engineering drawings directly in Plex, allowing shop floor workers to look up specifications on the fly to ensure high levels of quality.  The drawings are highly valuable because they are contextualized in Plex (e.g., tied to the product in question) and don’t require any expensive CAD equipment or training to view.

Plex Systems has also built a strong foundation of partners including system integrators and resellers.  Do you anticipate Plex Systems will increasingly rely on resellers or stay with primarily a direct sales strategy?  

It’s very important to high fidelity relationships with customers when you’re selling SaaS-based enterprise software so the direct model is important to us.   That said, partners are also very important to us because of the value they can bring to customers and the added reach they can provide us.  So, we’ve been successful in creating a partner program, which has a rigorous certification process that ensures those we partner with have strong domain expertise to serve our shared customers.  Partners can quickly become a force multiplier for us, and we’re working towards that goal by keeping direct sales in balance.   

Disclaimer: This interview was done independent of Plex Systems. I have not and have never been a paid consultant of the company.  I approached them to do this interview based on insights gained from WordPress analytics showing readers’ interest in ERP, SaaS and enterprise software.

2013 ERP Prediction: The Customer Takes Control

From the obvious to the outrageous, enterprise software predictions often span a wide spectrum at the beginning of every year.

In enterprise software in general and ERP specifically, there are many safe harbors to dock predictions in, from broad industry consolidation to Oracle buying more companies.  Or the inexorable advances of cloud computing and SaaS platforms in ERP today, which is often cited in enterprise software predictions.

Too often predictions gravitate too much towards theoretical economics, overly-simplified industry dynamics and technologies, leaving out the most critical element: customers as people, not just transactions.  So instead of repeating what many other industry analysts, observers and pundits have said, I am predicting only the customer side of ERP advances in the next twelve months.

The following are my predictions for ERP systems and enterprise computing in 2013:

  • The accelerating, chaotic pace of change driven by customers will force the majority of Fortune 500 companies to reconsider and refine their ERP and enterprise computing strategies.  Social, mobile and cloud computing are combining to provide customers with more acuity and articulation of what their preferences, needs and wants are.  The majority of ERP systems installed today aren’t designed for managing the growing variation and pace of change in customer requirements and needs.  In the next twelve months this trend will force the majority of Fortune 500 companies to re-evaluate their current ERP systems when it becomes clear their existing enterprise systems are getting in the way of attracting new customers and holding onto existing ones.
  • Highest-performing CIOs will rejuvenate monolithic, dated ERP systems and make them agile and customer-focused, while at the same time excelling at change management.  There are CIOs who can handle these challenging tasks, and the future belongs to those who can fluidly move between them quickly.  In twelve months, a group of CIOs will emerge that are doing this, delivering significant gains to gross margins and profitability in their companies as a result.  They’re the emerging class of rock stars in IT and enterprise computing.
  • Quality ratings of ERP systems by internal customers will become commonplace, including 360-degree feedback on ERP performance.  This is overdue in many companies and it takes a courageous CIO and senior management staff to value feedback on how their ERP systems are performing.  In the most courageous companies, within twelve months the results of these internal surveys will be posted on bulletin boards in IT and throughout IT services departments.  For some companies this will be first time IT staff members have a clear sense of just what internal customers need, how they are being served, and what needs to be done to improve business performance.
  • ERP systems built on a strong foundation of personas, or clear definition of customers and their roles, will overtake those built just on features alone.  This is already happening and it will accelerate as featured-based ERP systems prove too difficult to be modified to reflect the fast-changing nature of personas and roles in organizations.  The quickest way to determine if a given ERP system launching in the next twelve months will succeed or not is asking what personas it is based on and why.
  • Customers push speed and responsiveness from a “nice to have” to a “must have” as advances in mobility platforms and integration make real-time possible.  If there is one unifying need across the personas of customers an ERP system serves, it is the need to improve responsiveness and speed. The same holds true within enterprises today as well. It would be fascinating to look at the data latency differences between market leaders versus laggards in the airline industry for example.  Customers will push accuracy, speed and precision of response up on the enterprise computing agenda of many companies this year. Speed is the new feature.
  • What were once considered ERP-based operations bottlenecks will be shown  to be lack of customer insight.  Take for example the very rapid product lifecycles in retailing.  At first glance slower sales are attributed to not having the right mix of products in stores, which is a classic supply chain problem.  Yet customer-driven ERP systems will tell retailers a different story, showing how product selection, even suppliers, are no longer pertinent to their customers’ preferences and needs.  More customer-centric ERP systems will help retailers overcome costly and difficult to recover from bottlenecks in their operations.

 Bottom line: Enterprises clinging to monolithic, inflexible ERP systems need to re-evaluate how their enterprise computing strategies are serving their customers before their competitors do.

How Cloud Computing And ERP Mobility Are Reordering Gartner’s Hype Cycle for ERP

A good friend of mine recently became CIO of a financial services firm and was given his first major project last month: make the complete accounting, financial, and loan provider data and applications available 24/7 on any iPad or Android-based tablet from any office, at any time.

The majority of loan provider applications are cloud-based and his company is running NetSuite.  His corporate office is in Asia and cloud-based applications made it possible for the company to launch and operate in California within months.   He’s been given six months to transform this mobile vision into reality.

Another CIO of a major A&D manufacturer I recently visited wants vendors to challenge him more to get greater value from his investments in legacy data and ERP systems. Using ERP to run batch reports alone has nearly caused project schedules to slip, so the focus internally is on real-time system integration of project management and accounting systems.  He’s also been given the task of revamping accounting and financial systems by October, 2012, and they just started late last year.

Gartner’s Hype Cycle for ERP 

Considering these two extremes in the context of the Gartner Hype Cycle for ERP (shown below) and the recent report SaaS and Cloud ERP Trends, Observations, and Performance 2011  (free for download until January 9, 2012) published by Aberdeen last month several take-aways emerge.

  • CIOs are under increasing pressure in 2012 to enhance, modify even replace existing ERP systems while standardizing technology across the enterprise at the same time.  The most risk-averse way around this is to add applications to single instance ERP backbone systems, with analytics and Business Intelligence (BI) being the among the most in demand.
  • Cloud-based ERP in the Enterprise and Small & Medium Businesses (SMB) are accelerating along the Hype Cycle faster than Gartner indicates.  Enterprises are using Cloud-based ERP systems as part of their two-tier ERP system strategies due to the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and time-to-deploy advantages, and the flexibility of tailoring everything from user interfaces to workflows to their specific requirements.  Highly specialized Cloud-based ERP suites including those from Plex Systems are gaining traction due to their expertise in specific industries and the compliance-related challenges inherent within them. In SMBs, the cost and time-to-deploy are two major drivers with concerns over security being the biggest impediment to growth.  Gartner reports that they are seeing Cloud-based ERP adoption fastest in companies with fewer than 200 users overall.
  • Cloud-based ERP systems most often considered in industries that have high variable costs, rapid transaction cycles and tend towards higher Return on Invested Capital (ROIC).  Based on the research SaaS and Cloud ERP Trends, Observations, and Performance 2011 the industries who are the most willing to consider Cloud-based ERP versus on-premise are Financial Services (22% SaaS versus 44% on-premise); Healthcare (42% SaaS versus 58% on-premise); and Professional Services (56% SaaS versus 58% on-premise).
  • Large companies (over $500M in annual revenue) using Cloud-based ERP systems are opting for hosted deployments managed by their ERP vendor (10%) or an independent 3rd party (11%), with just 2% relying on a SaaS platform. Aberdeen defined small organizations as those with annual sales under $50M, midsize organizations having annual sales of $50M – $500M. The following is from SaaS and Cloud ERP Trends, Observations, and Performance 2011:
  • ERP mobility will be a dominant force from the shop floor to each sales call where quotes, orders and contracts deliver real-time order and pricing updates.  How a given manufacturer chooses to sell is even more important than what they sell in many industries. Equipping manufacturing, quality assurance, production scheduling, procurement and sales to have immediate data on what’s going on with orders, customers and suppliers is critical.  For the sales and service teams, real-time data is the fuel they run on.  There’s a chronic time shortage in many, many companies right now, and bringing greater ERP mobility from the shop floor to the sales call will increasingly be seen as a means to lessen the time crunch.  2012 is the year where mobility gets real across the enterprise with solid performance numbers being generated as a result.  For companies with large sales forces and service organizations, integrating to key ERP systems to gain real-time data will quickly lead to increased sales and higher gross margins on service and warranty repairs.
  • Gartner predicts that by 2015 enterprises who are successfully using extreme information management strategies (Big Data) will outperform competitors in their industry sectors by 20% in every available financial metric.  The following is the Priority Matrix for ERP, 2011 showing what Gartner believes to be transformational technologies and strategies in ERP.

SaaS-based ERP Systems are Business Process Stress Tests in Progress

Bottom line: Signing up for an Amazon AWS account is faster than creating a profile on Expedia. As a result, there are dozens of SaaS start-ups in the analytics, CRM, social CRM, ERP, supply chain management and many other areas of enterprise software. The ones that are going to make it already have a very clear vision of which complex, challenging, impossible business processes their customers face that they can standardize on, drive down cost per user per month down, and build a real business on.

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