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  • Showing posts with label Oracle. Show all posts
    Showing posts with label Oracle. Show all posts

    Wednesday, April 17, 2019

    Google Getting Serious about Enterprise IT

    This just in: Google has just announced hiring of Rob Enslin as President of Global Customer Operations for its Google Cloud unit.

    Why is this a big deal? Because Enslin only in the past month announced his departure from SAP, where he spent 27 years and was most recently in charge of SAP's entire cloud portfolio. He was also a member of SAP's executive board.

    Enslin will be reporting to Thomas Kurian, who was recently hired on by Google as the CEO of Google Cloud. Kurian, of course, was highly regarded during his 22 year career at Oracle, where he was most recently the President of Product Development. He was also the brains behind Oracle's Fusion line of cloud applications, which represent Oracle's future as a cloud applications services provider.

    Kurian writes:
    Today, it is my pleasure to introduce Robert Enslin, Google Cloud’s new President of Global Customer Operations. Rob’s expertise in building and running organizations globally, business acumen and deep customer and partner relationships make him a perfect fit for this crucial role. Rob will report to me, and he starts on April 22. Rob spent the last 27 years at SAP in leadership roles across sales and operations, most recently as the President, Cloud Business Group and Executive Board Member. He developed and managed SAP’s entire cloud product portfolio, led the field revenue and enablement efforts across multiple geographies, and oversaw core functions including professional services, ecosystem, channel, and solutions. Rob brings great international experience to his role having worked in South Africa, Europe, Asia and the United States—this global perspective will be invaluable as we expand Google Cloud into established industries and growth markets around the world.
    Just today in a private message a fellow analyst said, in another context, that the "enterprise software boat is being rocked." I replied that it needs to be rocked, and maybe it needs to be capsized.

    Perhaps Google getting serious about enterprise technology is just what the market needs. For now, Google's immediate objective appears to be to take on Amazon and Microsoft for cloud infrastructure services. But with hiring of Kurian and Enslin, will Google also start moving into enterprise applications? Or will it be content to just be a platform provider>

    Watch for who are the next new hires. That will give us a clue.

    Friday, May 04, 2018

    Big Shift: NetSuite Moving to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure

    In recent years, Oracle has been intensely focused on its cloud strategy as the key to its growth. At Oracle Open World 2016, with the announcement of Oracle’s second-generation cloud infrastructure, Larry Ellison said, “Amazon’s lead is over.” It was an ambitious goal: At the time, Oracle’s cloud infrastructure (OCI) business was bringing in less than $200M per quarter.

    Uptake of Oracle’s cloud applications is great, but when it comes to Oracle really competing with Amazon or Microsoft as a platform for independent software vendors (ISVs), the story is different.

    The absence of multitenant ISVs on OCI is not because of a lack of capabilities. Oracle’s flagship database, since v12c was released in 2013, has built-in multitenancy in the form of database containers, which allow multiple tenants to share a single Oracle database, with individual containers assigned to each tenant. This approach puts the multitenancy into the infrastructure layer, allowing developers to focus their efforts on application development, not on the mechanics of multitenancy.

    Oracle’s lack of commercial SaaS providers building on OCI is about to change.

    Read the rest of this post on the Strativa blog:
    NetSuite on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure: What It Means for Customers

    Monday, January 23, 2017

    New Customer-Facing Systems Extend the Reach of Small, Midsize Businesses

    Small businesses play a vital role in the economy and are often the leading innovators in new products and services. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, organizations with fewer than 500 workers account for over 99% of businesses, and companies with fewer than 20 workers make up nearly 90%.

    But small business doesn’t always mean simple business. Like larger companies, small and midsize businesses (SMBs) need to reach new markets, develop new products, satisfy customers, and control costs. The main difference is that SMBs need to do these things with fewer resources.

    In recent years, however, software vendors have announced new products to address the challenges facing small businesses. This post outlines two of them.

    Read the rest of this post by Strativa consultant Dee Long: New Customer-Facing Systems Extend the Reach of Small, Midsize Businesses

    Sunday, July 31, 2016

    Oracle Acquisition of NetSuite Is a Mixed Bag

    Oracle took another step in its strategy of growth by acquisition by announcing a bid for NetSuite, the leading player in the cloud ERP marketplace in terms of number of customers. At $9.3 billion, the deal is the second biggest in Oracle’s history, after PeopleSoft in 2005 for $10.3 billion.

    The deal was long expected, for several reasons. Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison was NetSuite’s original investor, and Evan Goldberg, NetSuite’s founder came out of Oracle. CEO Zach Nelson was an Oracle marketing executive. Oracle’s database is an integral part of NetSuite’s infrastructure.

    But apart from helping Oracle in its race with Salesforce.com to get to $10 billion in cloud revenues, what are the benefits of the deal to Oracle? How does it help NetSuite, and what does it mean to the broader marketplace? Looking at the big picture, there are certainly benefits, but there are also several concerns.

    Read the rest of this post on the Strativa blog: Oracle Acquisition of NetSuite Is a Mixed Bag

    Wednesday, October 28, 2015

    Oracle v. Rimini Street Lawsuit Verdict: Good for Third-Party Maintenance

    Earlier this month, the jury in Las Vegas reached its verdict in the Oracle v. Rimini Street lawsuit, a closely-watched case involving third-party maintenance (3PM) in the enterprise software industry.

    Although the jury awarded Oracle approximately $50 million in damages, the amount was far below what Oracle expected. Moreover, the jury found that Rimini Street’s copyright infringement was “innocent,” not “willful,” that Oracle suffered no lost profits as a result, and that neither Rimini Street nor its CEO, Seth Ravin, engaged in any tortious business conduct.

    Assuming the jury’s verdict stands up against potential appeals, the case sets an important precedent for how 3PM providers should operate to ensure they are not violating the intellectual property rights of software owners. We expect customer use of third-party maintenance will increase as a result of this verdict.

    Read this entire post on the Strativa blog: Oracle v. Rimini Street Verdict Clarifies Ground Rules for Third-Party Maintenance

    Saturday, May 30, 2015

    Oracle Sued by Customer over Source Code Access

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

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

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

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

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

    Sunday, October 05, 2014

    Workday’s Goal: Tier I Cloud ERP

    Aneel Bushri, Co-Founder, Workday
    Mention Workday to anyone involved with enterprise applications, and the first response will probably be something about cloud-based HR systems. A few might also mention accounting systems.

    It is becoming increasingly apparent, however, that Workday’s ambitions go beyond human capital management (HCM) and financial management systems. From briefings at a recent Workday analyst summit, I conclude that Workday intends to become the first Tier I cloud ERP provider.

    What is Tier I ERP?

    The term “Tier I ERP” has been bandied about for many years. It is generally understood to refer to the largest ERP vendors that are able to serve the largest and most complex global businesses. Fifteen years ago, there were several players that could arguably be members of that club. But because of industry consolidation only two vendors remain that fit that definition: SAP and Oracle.

    I am convinced that Workday wants to join that club, and it wants to join it as a cloud-only provider. SAP and Oracle may be moving as fast as they can to cloud ERP, but they will forever be, at the most, hybrid providers—offering both on-premises and cloud versions of their systems. Workday, in contrast, intends to be the first Tier I cloud-only provider.

    Evidence of Workday’s Ambition

    There are several things that point to Workday's objective.
    • Tier I customers. Unlike NetSuite, which leads the cloud ERP market in terms of number of customers, Workday from its very beginning has been targeting large companies. I noted this way back in 2008 with Workday's wins at Flextronics and Chiquita. Since then, it hasn't stopped, signing one Fortune 500 customer after another. For example, in 2013, it won HP, with 300,000 employees in 111 countries. This year it closed Bank of America, which is now Workday's largest customer. Moreover, its big company wins are not limited the US. For example, Workday recently sold Nissan and Sony in Japan and Philips in the Netherlands. Our most recent research at Computer Economics shows that Workday's typical customer is so large that it stands head and shoulders above all other cloud ERP providers.
       
    • Tier I functionality. The functionality of Workday's HCM is now approaching that of Oracle and SAP, as it builds out its global footprint. It currently claims customers live in 177 countries, with 27 offices worldwide. Translations are provided for 25 languages. Outside of the US, it still relies on payroll partners, but it is building out its own payroll for the UK and France. Its Financial Management product has now reached 100 customers. It just announced a new embedded financial reporting capability (Composite Reporting) that promises to do away with a whole host of spreadsheets and data warehouse reports that large companies typically rely upon. 
       
    • Tier I cloud platform. Workday has also been building out its cloud platform into one that can handle the demands of the world's largest enterprises. It is moving its infrastructure to OpenStack, a set of open source components and architecture for software-defined data centers. This makes Workday's platform less proprietary than it has been in the past. Moreover, large companies need assurances of system availability and reliability. Therefore, like leading consumer Internet services, Workday is building its platform to quickly detect and recover from failure in any infrastructure component. Taking a page from Netflix, it will soon be randomly turning off components in the production environment as a way of ensuring its ability to recover. Phil Wainewright has more on the latest developments with Workday's infrastructure. 
    Some observers view Workday as less than an ERP provider, as it only provides HCM and financial management systems. But they ignore the fact that Workday has already moved beyond these functions. It already provides purchasing, expense management, and project management functionality. It also includes embedded business intelligence capabilities that embrace data inside and outside of Workday. In one sector in particular--Higher Education--it has already pushed into operational systems, with its launch of Workday Student.

    Can other functional areas be far behind? Workday's CEO Aneel Bushri made a telling comment at the end of the analyst summit, "Financials are the door to everything else," he said. "After you see us land large financial deals, you will see us moving into other areas: maybe healthcare, which is mostly workflow, plus patient accounting and billing. Layer on top of that strong analytics. It might be a year or two from now, but not five years out. But right now, we can't spread ourselves too thin."

    This mimics the evolution of most other ERP providers over the past two to three decades. SAP, Oracle, and many others started as accounting systems. Once they were in the door, they then became the natural choice for expanding into operational systems in other functional areas.

    Avoiding Side Streets

    At this point, Workday has no lack of opportunities. In fact, one of the problems it faces is that there are simply too many good ideas that it could pursue. But if I am right that Workday's goal is to be the first Tier I cloud ERP provider, it cannot afford to take its eye off the ball.

    Here are some of the ideas where Workday is saying no:
    • Platform as a service (PaaS). Most of the leading enterprise SaaS vendors also offer a platform for their customers to extend the vendor's system or to build their own complete standalone systems. Salesforce.com with its Salesforce1 platform is the prime example. In its recent user conference, Oracle CTO Larry Ellison criticized Workday for its lack of a PaaS.

      But Workday is taking another path. First, most user development is for reporting, and Workday excels in its embedded business intelligence capabilities. Second, its applications are highly configurable, which diminish the need for customizations. Finally, where customers truly need to do new development, Workday offers an "integration cloud" to allow customers to build applications on other platforms, such as Salesforce1, and have them interoperate with Workday.  With a number of other good platforms offered by other providers, it is difficult to see the drawbacks to Workday's approach here.
       
    • Commercializing Workday's cloud platform. As noted earlier, the capabilities of Workday's cloud platform are approaching those of large consumer cloud platforms, such as Google's or Amazon's. It is robust, scalable, and fault-tolerant. It is difficult to think of another enterprise software provider that can accommodate the number of simultaneous users in a multi-tenant environment and a single application code line. After Workday's briefing update on its technical architecture, I asked, "At what point do you commercialize this platform?" By this I mean, either to allow other SaaS providers to build on a separate instance of Workday's platform, or to license the platform for them to build upon and operate themselves. The short answer was, never say never, but Workday would rather focus on building applications.
       
    • Manufacturing industry functionality. Manufacturing companies represent the largest industry sector worldwide. Nevertheless, Workday executives are adamant that--at least at this time--they do not plan to develop manufacturing business systems. In part, this may reflect the founders' experience at PeopleSoft, where their attempt to gain market share in manufacturing never gained traction. Way back in 2003, I wrote a post, PeopleSoft Is Tired of Being the Best Kept Secret in Supply Chain Management, which highlighted just how good PeopleSoft was in manufacturing and supply chain. But PeopleSoft never broke through in a big way.

      The other reason, I believe, is that manufacturing is simply a bridge too far from where Workday is today. Most of Workday's target markets today have one thing in common: they are sectors where people are the dominant costs--Financial Services; Professional and Business Services; Higher Education, Software and Internet Services; Government and Non-Profit; Healthcare; and Hospitality. These industries are best for leveraging Workday's roots as an HCM system provider. Workday could change course at any time, but right now, the leadership team feels that chasing product-based businesses would be a distraction.
    Strategy is all about choices: deciding what not to do is as important as choosing a goal. Workday has no lack of those offering free advice--worth every penny!--and I've given my share in the past. Its leadership team is to be commended for keeping its focus.

    What's Next?

    If Workday's goal is to become the first Tier I cloud ERP provider, expect to see Workday begin to build out functionality to more fully serve its target industries, like it is doing with Workday Student in the higher education vertical. I'm speculating here, but it might mean merchandising systems for retail or revenue cycle management for healthcare.

    Will Workday make major acquisitions to fill out its industry solutions? I don't think so. Its  acquisitions to date have mostly been for technology (e.g. Cape Clear) or what I would call capabilities (e.g. Identified). Any acquisition of business applications would need to be rewritten for Workday's platform, and I sense that Workday would rather start with a clean slate in developing new functionality. Workday's approach also allows it to build upon a single object model for each key entity, such as "person," rather than interfacing entities between acquired software. Workday's approach is another point of contrast with SAP and Oracle, which have built up their cloud portfolios largely through acquisition of disparate vendors and are now facing the challenge of integration.

    There is another contrast with SAP and Oracle. Workday has a tremendous advantage in that all its customers are on the latest version. Its architecture with a single code base ensures it will never have legacy customers to support--another demand on a vendor's resources.

    The Tier I ERP club today only has two members. But a third member may be joining sooner than we think.

    Related Posts

    Best Practices for SaaS Upgrades as Seen in Workday's Approach
    Workday Making Life Easier for Enterprise Users
    Workday Pushing High-End SaaS for the Enterprise
    Workday: Evidence of SaaS Adoption by Large Firms

    Wednesday, August 20, 2014

    A Guide for Cloud ERP Buyers

    In working with clients over the last decade, I've watched as cloud ERP vendors have been steadily encroaching on the territory of traditional ERP providers. As a result, ERP selection projects today are more and more becoming evaluations of cloud ERP providers.

    However, buyers need to realize not all ERP systems that are labeled “cloud” are the same. To help buyers better understand these differences, I've just completed a new report for my research firm, Computer Economics, entitled Understanding Cloud ERP Buyers and Providers, based on my experience in selection deals as well as extensive analysis of vendor offerings over the years.

    Figure 2 from that report sums up the differences:

    In brief:
    • Cloud-Only Providers: These are the “born-in-the-cloud” ERP vendors that do not have an on-premises offering and include such companies as NetSuite, Plex, Workday, Rootstock, Kenandy, FinancialForce, Intacct, and several others. These tend to be newer, smaller vendors (although Workday and NetSuite are each in the range of $500 million in annual revenue). Because cloud-only vendors have a single deployment option, they each can focus their entire business—from product development to sales to implementation and ongoing support—on the cloud. As a result, they make fewer compromises and tend to deliver the maximum benefits of cloud solutions in speed, agility, and scalability.
       
    • Traditional ERP Vendors: These are larger, more established providers such as SAP, Oracle, Infor, Microsoft, and a number of others. They are growing more slowly than cloud-only providers. They have more complex businesses as they have to support their on-premises customers as well as their hosted or cloud customers. Because they have developed their solutions over many years or even decades, their functional footprint tends to be more complete than those of cloud-only providers.
    There is much more in our analysis of the cloud ERP market, which describes these two major categories of cloud ERP providers in more detail. In addition, the report also segments cloud ERP buyers into two categories: first-time buyers looking for their first ERP systems and established companies replacing their legacy systems. As it turns out, generally speaking, these two categories of buyers have different pain points and different criteria driving their decision-making. 

    At this stage of cloud ERP market maturity, each of these provider categories has its advantages and disadvantages, and there is no one right answer for a given buyer. Organizations considering cloud ERP need to carefully consider their requirements, their choices, and what tradeoffs they are willing to make. We, therefore, conclude with recommendations for buyers looking at cloud ERP. We also have some advice for providers that seek to serve these two types of buyers.

    As a practical aid to buyers, the full report includes two lengthy appendices, which provide profiles of the key ERP vendors of hosted and cloud solutions today, along with an assessment of their market presence. Cloud-only ERP providers profiled include Acumatica, AscentERP, FinancialForce, Intacct, Kenandy, NetSuite, Plex Systems, Rootstock, and Workday. Traditional ERP providers with cloud/hosted solutions include Epicor, IFS, Infor, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, QAD, Sage, SAP, Syspro, and UNIT4.

    Related posts

    The Cloud ERP Land Rush
    Computer Economics: Choosing Between Cloud and Hosted ERP, and Why It Matters

    Wednesday, February 19, 2014

    The Cloud ERP Land Rush

    Oklahoma Land Rush
    For those unfamiliar with US history, in 1889 the US government opened unoccupied lands in Oklahoma to settlement. Settlers could claim up to 160 acres, live on and improve the land, and then legally obtain title to it. Such an opportunity led to a land rush, in which thousands of settlers raced into Oklahoma to make their claims.

    Today, cloud ERP is like Oklahoma in 1889, mostly unoccupied land, and there is a race as cloud vendors rush in. NetSuite and Plex were two early settlers. Today NetSuite has more acreage (number of customers), while Plex has fewer acres but more development of those acres (functionality)--at least in manufacturing. Cloud-only providers such as Rootstock, Kenandy, AscentERP, Acumatica, Intacct, and SAP (ByDesign) are also in the race. Traditional providers such as Microsoft Dynamics, Infor, Epicor, Oracle, UNIT4, and QAD have also entered the land rush, although they are moving more slowly, as they need to pull wagons full of their traditional on-premises software along with them.

    In the larger suite of enterprise applications, such as CRM and HCM, the land rush is further along.  Salesforce for CRM and Workday for HCM have already staked out large claims and are rapidly developing them. But Microsoft with Dynamics CRM, SAP with SuccessFactors, and Oracle with its Fusion HCM are also adding to their acreage. Core ERP functionality, on the other hand, is earlier in the land rush. There is still a lot of open territory with a lot of unclaimed land.

    FinancialForce Staking Its Claim

    One provider that is clearly in the land rush is FinancialForce, which today announced new branding to signal its claim in cloud ERP.

    The company is now referring to its suite of enterprise applications as FinancialForce ERP. The new branding is necessary because FinancialForce long ago ceased to be a provider only of financial management systems.

    FinancialForce previously added professional services automation to its portfolio and late last year acquired Less Software, which provides inventory management and order. Vana Workforce is another acquisition from last year, which adds human capital management (HCM) functionality.  FinancialForce also added its own functionality in areas outside of financials, such as advanced quoting and revenue recognition. With this broader footprint, FinancialForce now qualifies as a cloud ERP provider.

    Building on the Salesforce.com platform, FinancialForce has direct integration to the Salesforce cloud applications as well as to all of the other providers in Salesforce's AppExchange marketplace. The recent evolution of this platform to Salesforce1 gives FinancialForce additional capabilities for building out its mobile deployment options.

    How many acres will FinancialForce claim? The signs are hopeful. The company is reporting strong results: 80% growth in its revenue run rate, and 62% growth in headcount year-over-year, bringing it to over 260 employees globally.  FinancialForce now has customers in 27 countries with users in 45 nations worldwide. By all accounts, the company is on a strong growth trajectory.

    Plenty of Land for Everyone

    The economic and strategic benefits of cloud computing accrue to end-user organization that completely or at least largely eliminate their on-premises IT infrastructure.  Our research at Computer Economics shows that cloud user companies save more than 15% in terms of their total IT spending, and the money that they do spend goes more toward innovation and less towards on-going support. But it is difficult to move away from on-premises infrastructure if an organization's core ERP system is still on-premises. Therefore, the move to cloud ERP is essential if organizations are to fully realize the benefits of cloud computing. You can move your CRM and HCM systems to the cloud--but if you are still running on-premises ERP, you still have one large foot stuck in the old paradigm.

    In my view, there does not need to be one clear winner in cloud ERP. Just as there were dozens of on-premises ERP vendors in the 1990s, especially when sliced by industry sector, there is plenty of room for many more cloud ERP providers. There is plenty of land for everyone.

    Related Posts

    Computer Economics: Cloud Users Spend Less, Spend Smarter on IT
    Four Cloud ERP Providers on the Salesforce Platform
    NetSuite Manufacturing Moves on Down the Highway
    Kenandy: A New Cloud ERP Provider Emerges from Stealth Mode
    The Simplicity and Agility of Zero-Upgrades in Cloud ERP (Plex)
    Plex Online: Pure SaaS for Manufacturing
    Computer Economics: Cloud Players Storm the Gates of ERP
    Key success factor for SaaS suites: functional parity

    Monday, February 17, 2014

    Oracle's Partial Victory Against Rimini Street and Customer Implications

    The US District court in Las Vegas issued a ruling in the Oracle vs. Rimini Street lawsuit last week. Oracle issued a press release on it this morning, pointing out the parts of the ruling in Oracle's favor, but did not provide a complete view. I've since received an actual copy of the Court's ruling and have had a chance to digest it.

    I've contacted Rimini Street, and they indicate that a statement will be coming later today.  I'll update this post when I receive that.

    Summarizing the Court's Findings

    The Court's rulings are complex, as is fitting in this case (full text here). Let me summarize them as I see them:
    1. The Court's ruling is largely focused on Rimini Street's alleged copyright infringement of Oracle's PeopleSoft software in serving four customers:

      "Oracle’s claim for copyright infringement, as it relates to the present motion, arises from Rimini’s copying of Oracle’s copyright protected PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards, and Siebel-branded Enterprise Software programs on Rimini’s company systems in order to provide software support services to four separate customers: the City of Flint, Michigan (“City of Flint”); the school district of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (“Pittsburgh Public Schools”); Giant Cement Holding, Inc. (“Giant Cement”); and Novell, Inc. (“Novell”)."

    2. Whether Rimini Street has the right to copy Oracle's software depends on the terms of the license agreements to these four companies.

      In this action, it is undisputed that Rimini does not have its own software license from Oracle for any of the identified Enterprise Software programs copied on its systems. Instead, Rimini contends that Oracle’s software licensing agreements with the four customers at issue in this motion expressly authorize it to copy, keep, and maintain copies of the copyrighted software on its company systems and under its control in order to provide contracted software support services to those customers. ....  As each customer’s software licensing agreement is different, the court must evaluate Rimini’s express license affirmative defenses separately for each customer at issue in this motion.
       
    3. Concerning the City of Flint, the Court rules in Oracle's favor, that the City's license agreement with Oracle does not permit Rimini Street to maintain copies of Oracle's PeopleSoft software. 

      Based on the court’s rulings above, none of Rimini’s asserted license provisions (Sections 1.2(b), 1.2(c), or 14.2) expressly authorize Rimini’s copying of Oracle’s copyrighted PeopleSoft-branded software as a matter of law. Therefore, the court finds that Oracle is entitled to summary judgment on Rimini’s express license affirmative defense as it relates to the City of Flint, and the court shall grant Oracle’s motion accordingly.
       
    4. Concerning Pittsburgh Public Schools, the Court rules in Oracle's favor, in regards to Rimini Street's copying of Oracle's PeopleSoft software.

      Here, the court finds that the Pittsburgh Public Schools’ license contains language similar to the City of Flint’s license....

      Based on the rulings above, the court finds that none of Rimini’s asserted license provisions (Sections 1.1, 1.2, or 10.2) expressly authorize Rimini’s copying of Oracle’s copyrighted PeopleSoft-branded software as a matter of law. Therefore, the court finds that Oracle is entitled to summary judgment on Rimini’s express license affirmative defense as it relates to the Pittsburgh Public Schools, and the court shall grant Oracle’s motion accordingly.
       
    5. Concerning Giant Cement, the Court denied Oracle's request for summary judgment against Rimini Street, refusing to find that Rimini Street had used copies of Giant Cement's in ways conflicting with Oracle's license agreement for J.D. Edwards.

      Based on this record, the court finds that there are disputed issues of material
      fact as to whether Rimini’s use of the development environment associated with Giant Cement was for archival purposes or whether Rimini accessed the software’s source code. Accordingly, the court shall deny Oracle’s motion for summary judgment on Rimini’s express license affirmative defense as it relates to Giant Cement.

       
    6. Concerning Novell, the Court denied Oracle's request for summary judgment, ruling that Novell's license agreement allows Rimini Street to maintain copies of Siebel software on its own servers.

      First, the court finds that the plain language of Section 2.1(iv) authorizes Novell to make archival, emergency backup, or disaster-recovery testing copies. Further, the court finds that the plain language of Section 2.1(viii) permits Novell to allow Rimini, or another third-party, to install the software for archival, emergency back-up, or disaster recovery purposes.

      Therefore the court finds that Novell’s license allows for archival and/or back-up copies of the software on a third-party system. Accordingly, the court shall deny Oracle’s motion for summary judgment on Rimini’s express license affirmative defense as it relates to Novell.
       
    7. The Court also ruled on Rimini Street's claim that Oracle's shipping of software to Rimini Street locations granted an "implied license" to Rimini Street. Here, the Court did not agree with Rimini Street's claim and granted Oracle's motion for summary judgment against Rimini Street.

      In its affirmative defense, Rimini argues that for years Oracle shipped back-up copies of its customer’s software installation media to Rimini’s facilities with full knowledge that the installation media were not only being shipped to Rimini’s facilities, but that Rimini was using the installation media to create copies of the software on its own systems to provide support services to Oracle’s customers....

      The court has reviewed the documents and pleadings on file in this matter and finds that the evidence before the court does not support Rimini’s affirmative defenses of implied license and consent of use....

      First, other evidence before the court establishes that these back-up copies, although ultimately shipped to Rimini, were shipped after Oracle’s customers submitted requests to Oracle describing Rimini’s address as the customers’ “secondary offsite backup location.”...

      Second, Rimini admits that the purpose behind the obfuscated shipping requests was to allow Rimini to create development environments to service Rimini’s customers without Oracle’s knowledge....

      Additionally, there is no evidence that Oracle knew of Rimini’s use of the shipped installation media to create copies of the software on Rimini’s systems. Rimini admits that the shipping requests were designed so that Oracle would not know that Rimini was using these backup copies of the licensed software.
    In a nutshell, although Oracle's press release does not mention the Court's refusal to grant summary judgment regarding Giant Cement and Novell, the Court's ruling is, in fact, largely in Oracle's favor. The Court granted summary judgment in the case of the City of Flint and Pittsburgh Public Schools, and in regards to Rimini's claims of "consent of use" and "implied license."  At most, Rimini Street can only claim that there is no decision yet concerning Giant Cement and Novell.

    [Update] Ruling Specifically Deals with Rimini-Hosted Environments

    Rimini Street sent a letter to its customers today, outlining its position on the Court's ruling. In it, it points out that the legality of third-party maintenance is not at issue. Rather, the Court's ruling last week is specifically about how Rimini Street delivers those services--whether through hosting Oracle software on Rimini Street computers, or providing them directly to customers who maintain their own development environments:
    This case is NOT about the legality of independent enterprise software support. Oracle agrees that it is legal for third parties to offer independent enterprise software support to Oracle licensees, and Oracle licensees have a legal right to purchase Rimini Street support services instead of Oracle annual support services. Competitive motivations aside, this case is primarily about the specific processes Rimini Street used to support a portion of its clients.
    Rimini Street also points out that the terms and conditions of Oracle licenses have varied through the years and that the Court's ruling therefore does not apply to all of Rimini Street's customers that use Oracle software. In addition, Rimini Street stopped offering Rimini-hosted environments in 2012. Therefore, going forward, Rimini Street believes that its operations will comply with the Court's recent ruling.

    What Does It Mean for Enterprise Software Customers?

    For those hoping that this case would set a legal precedent for third-party maintenance services, the Court's ruling is not a positive development. The Court has essentially ruled that in two of the four customers in dispute, Oracle's license agreements did not give Rimini Street the rights to do what it did. Concerning the other two, the Court did not rule that Rimini Street had the rights, only that it declined to rule at this time, reserving a decision for a later point in the process.

    It is too soon to tell whether Oracle will prevail at trial. But at this point, one thing is clear for customers: do not enter into a license agreement with a software vendor without ensuring that your rights to third party maintenance are explicit. As the Court's ruling last week shows, it all comes down to what rights you have in your license agreement. Sign the vendor's license agreement as-is and it's likely that your rights to third-party maintenance will be limited to having the third-party provider only able to work on your own installation of the software.  [But see Update #3, below.] 

    Our research at Computer Economics shows widespread dissatisfaction with both the cost and the quality of service for the Tier I ERP vendors' maintenance programs. If there are not viable and healthy third-party maintenance providers in enterprise software, it will just hasten the demise of the traditional software license model.

    In other words, Oracle may win the battle, but long term, lose the war.

    Update: 12:30 p.m. PDT: Changed concluding section to point out that limitation is on where the software is installed.
    Update: 1:00 p.m. PDT: Added section on Rimini Street's customer letter.
    Update: 2:30 p.m. PDT.  In a briefing with Rimini Street, CEO Seth Ravin insists that this particular court ruling does not impact Rimini Street's ability to deliver maintenance services, as it is already moving all PeopleSoft customers to client self-hosting.
    Update: 2:50 p.m. PDT. Dennis Howlett has a good breakdown of the court ruling, with additional perspective from Rimini Street. 

    Related posts

    Rimini Street to Oracle: don't expect us to roll over
    SAP and third-party maintenance: good for me but not for thee
    Legal basis for third-party ERP support industry
    Oracle slams Rimini Street with lawsuit over third-party maintenance

    Thursday, February 06, 2014

    Enterprise Software: Suites Don't Always Win

    The major enterprise software providers promote their pre-built integration as a selling point in capturing new business from existing clients. They argue that, rather than attempting to integrate different systems from different providers, organizations should buy everything from a single provider and get the integration for free.

    Why the Integration Story is Getting Old

    But do suites always win? In my software vendor evaluation work, I've noticed that the integration story is not resonating with buyers as it once did. I think there are several reasons for this.
    1. Vendor suites may not be as well integrated as vendors claim. This is especially true when the vendor's suite comprises pieces that they acquired. Both Oracle and SAP have made many acquisitions over the past decade. Is the integration of these piece parts really seamless? In some cases, yes. But in many cases, no.
       
    2. Integration an IT-priority, not a business priority. Many software selection projects these days are being led by business users. This has always been desirable, but it is especially true when you get outside of core ERP to systems such as CRM, supply chain management (SCM), and human capital management (HCM). IT leaders generally put a high priority on integration because it makes their job easier (notwithstanding point #1). Therefore, when IT leads the vendor selection effort, integration rises near the top of the selection criteria. When business units lead the selection, they tend to rank process alignment, ease of use, and maximizing adoption higher than they do integration with back-end systems. Whether rightly or wrongly, business leaders often say to IT: we want System X--make it work.
       
    3. Integration has gotten a lot easier. The integrated suite story was more convincing 20 or even 10 years ago, when the choices for integration were either brittle point-to-point flat file interfaces or complex middleware or integration hubs that required substantial investment before the first integration could be built. Today, application programming interfaces (APIs) and web services make integration a lot easier than it used to be in the past. SaaS providers, in particular, have gotten very good at integrating with other systems, whether cloud or on-premises, as this is a common requirement among their customers. So, the problem has gotten smaller.

    4. Not all integration points are equally critical. In a recent CRM selection, the incumbent ERP vendor made the claim that there were something like 300 integration points between the vendor's ERP and CRM systems. Did the buyer really want to program all these touch points between ERP and some third-party CRM provider? It's a good sales pitch. But when we investigated further, we found that there were really only a handful of integration points that really mattered to this customer. For example, if pricing only changes once a year, is it really necessary to have the CRM pricing tables automatically updated from the ERP pricing tables? Investigate your real needs for integration and often you will find they are much less than your incumbent vendor will claim. 
    In addition, think about the benefits of not having all of your enterprise system "eggs" in one basket. True, there are benefits to having fewer vendors in your applications portfolio. At the same time, it is possible to have too few--to grant too much power to a single vendor. Behind closed doors, suite vendors talk about how much "share of wallet" they have among their customers. But is it in your best interest to have so much of your IT spending wrapped up with a single provider?

    Situations Where Integration Is a High Priority

    To be sure, there are situations where integration should be a high priority. I would not like to see an organization pick an accounts payable module from one vendor and a purchasing module from another. These functions are too tightly coupled. Furthermore, purchasing and accounts payable are generally not systems of strategic advantage. Customers are better off buying them from a single ERP vendor, implement them, and move on to more strategic opportunities. 

    Likewise, in supply chain management, I don't like to see sales and operations planning, advanced planning, and event management selected from different vendors. These functions form a closed loop with a single data model. Material planners need to be able to perform these functions simultaneously in parallel. Building interfaces to cascade information from one system to another is simply too cumbersome.

    Criteria for Evaluating Integration Needs

    I don't expect that the large integrated suite vendors will change their message. For them, suites always win. But for buyers, I recommend a broader perspective.
    • Is the system you are looking for one that must be integrated with other systems in your portfolio? 
    • If so, can you verify that your incumbent vendor has really integrated those two systems? 
    • How many integration points are really needed, and how many are nice-to-haves that could be satisfied with a simple work around?
    • For those that need automated integration, how difficult would it be for another vendor to provide that integration? 
    • Do third party vendors have references that have done that same integration with other customers? 
    • Do the benefits of a third-party vendor in terms of adoption, ease-of-use, and competitive advantage outweigh the benefits of pre-built integration? 
    Finally, is the system you are looking for one where innovation, competitive advantage, ease of use, and high adoption are top priorities?  If so, the best choice may not be from your incumbent provider. The fact that the large Tier I suite vendors have been acquiring smaller best-of-breed providers is evidence that leading edge innovation is happening outside of the integrated suites.

    Customers should think through the answers to these questions and make the right decisions for their businesses. If they do so, many times, suites won't win.

    Related Posts

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    Photo Credit: www.seewellcn.com

    Tuesday, January 28, 2014

    Plex's Growth Strategy: Glass Half Full

    Those interested in cloud ERP know that Plex was the first provider to offer a cloud-only manufacturing system. Yet Plex has had nowhere near the growth of other cloud enterprise system providers, such as NetSuite. SAP receives a lot of criticism for only having sold 1,000 or so customers its Business ByDesign system--but ByD has only been in general distribution for three or four years. Yet Plex, which launched its cloud offering over 10 years ago, has fewer than 500 customers.What's wrong with this picture?

    Last year, encouraged by Plex's new private equity owners, CEO Jason Blessing and his management team formulated a growth strategy, which they presented at the Plex user conference. Afterwards, I outlined what I thought Plex needed to do to execute on it.

    Following up now half a year later, Jason circled back to give me another briefing, and it was a good opportunity also to see what progress Plex was making. Here is my take: 
    1. Management changes are part of the growth plan. Plex this week announced the appointment of Don Clarke as its new CFO. He appears to be a great candidate for the job. He comes most recently from Eloqua, a leading marketing cloud vendor, where he oversaw Eloqua's growth to nearly $100M in annual revenue, its initial public offering, and its eventual sale to Oracle last year, which put Clarke out of a job.

      I joked with Jason that Oracle's acquisition strategy has been serving Plex well in terms of recruiting, as several of Plex's top management team have come from companies that Oracle acquired: Heidi Melin, Plex's CMO, also came from Eloqua, Karl Ederle, VP of Product Management spent time at Taleo, which Oracle acquired in April 2012, and Jason himself came from Taleo.

      If Plex's growth strategy is successful, there is likely to be an IPO in Plex's future. Clarke's experience in taking Eloqua public will serve Plex well.
       
    2. Plex added 59 new customers in 2013, bringing its customer count to "nearly 400." As mentioned earlier, in my view, the total customer count is well below where it should for a decade-old cloud provider. Jason compares it favorably with the 500 or so customer count for Workday, overlooking the fact that Workday launched in late 2006 and that its typical customer is several times larger than Plex's.

      Still, Plex's growth in 2013 represents a 15% increase in its customer base and signals that its growth strategy is beginning to take hold.

      The new customer count includes some accounts that are larger than Plex has sold to in the past, such as Caterpillar, which is running Plex in a two-tier model for some smaller plants. In my previous post, I outlined some of the functionality improvements that Plex would need to make to better serve these large customers, and there are signs that these enhancements are underway.
       
    3. Plex doubled its sales force last year. This, no doubt, is behind the uptick in new customer sales. The new sales headcount is serving primarily to expand the geographic coverage outside of Plex's traditional Great Lakes concentration to the South and also to the West Coast. (As part of the expansion, Plex opened a Southern California sales office, which happens to be a short walk from my office near the John Wayne Airport.) There are also increased sales to organizations outside North America, another hopeful sign.
       
    4. Plex's industry focus remains in three industry sectors: motor vehicles, food and beverage, and aerospace and defense. In my view, this is probably the greatest constraint to Plex's growth strategy. Short-term, having more feet on the street and expanding geographically are low-hanging fruit. But at some point, there will be diminishing returns. Manufacturing contains dozens of sub-sectors, many of which are adjacent to Plex's existing markets. It is not a big jump to build out support and sell into these sub-sectors. We discussed a couple of these, and hopefully, Plex's product management team will have the bandwidth to address them.
       
    5. Plex's platform remains a weak spot. Most cloud systems today provide a platform for customer enhancements and development of complementary functionality. For example, Salesforce.com offers Salesforce1, a mature platform-as-a-service (PaaS) capability that has spawned an entire ecosystem of partners. NetSuite, likewise, has its SuiteCloud platform.  Although Plex has the beginnings of such a platform, it is still limited to use by Plex's own development team and a few carefully-vetted partners. Jason knows this is a need, and hopefully we will see more progress in this area. 
    There is a lot to admire about Plex. Of the few cloud-only ERP providers that are addressing the manufacturing sector, Plex has the most complete footprint of functionality, rivaling mature on-premise manufacturing systems. In addition, customer satisfaction is readily apparent when I speak to installed customers, both new and old. Hopefully, Plex will build on these strengths and see growth accelerate.

    There is a Plex 2013 year-end recap available on the Plex website.

    Update: And right on cue, Dennis Howlett has done an on-camera interview with Jason Blessing about Plex's 2014 strategy. He also comments on Plex's approach to SaaS pricing. 

    Related Posts

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    Friday, January 24, 2014

    Workday Making Life Easier for Enterprise Users

    Even if you don't follow developments in HR technology, you should pay attention to what Workday is doing, for two reasons. First, Workday is no longer just an HR systems provider, having expanded its footprint into financial systems, operational support for service delivery, and business intelligence. Second, as a SaaS-only provider, Workday has been, in my opinion, a leader in best practices in deploying cloud enterprise systems.

    In December, the company released Workday 21. In addition to the 246 new features included in this version, it also features a major update to its user interface, which Workday starting rolling out earlier this month. 

    Enterprise User Experience Overdue for Refresh

    The look and feel of enterprise software has not changed much since the days of client server, when graphical user interfaces took over from the old green screen mainframe-like experience. Workers use desktop computers to access a main menu, which displays a series of icons or links that point to various subsystems. Data entry screens cram as much information as possible so that users do not have to click through to multiple panels to complete a transaction. Because of the density of information, enterprise software came with extensive user manuals, online help, and training classes.

    When vendors abandoned the client-server architecture for browser-based thin clients, they did not generally change this paradigm. They just changed the back-end. They did not significantly alter the fundamental user experience.

    Now vendors face a serious problem when users demand mobile access. These user interfaces do not translate at all to a smart phone or tablet display. Mobile access, if provided at all, is a completely different user interface than that on the desktop. In fact, some vendors sell mobile access as an additional product, separate from the vendor's traditional desktop access.

    Raising the Bar

    Workday has always paid a lot of attention to its user interface. In fact, Workday has gone through something like five major updates in its UI: from HTML/AJAX to Adobe Flex, then adding native IOS and Android, and now to HTML5.

    But apart from the technology change, Workday's new interface illustrates several best practices, some of which it derived from consumer Internet services, such as Google and Facebook.These are my take-ways:
    1. One interface for all platforms. The familiar "Workday Wheel" is now gone. Why? Because it did not translate well to smartphone or tablet access. The new homepage is a grid of icons that resize and scale according to the size of the screen.
       
    2. Easy movement between platforms. Most of us get interrupted in the middle of our work. The new UI allows users to start a process, such as a performance review, on one platform (e.g. a desktop) and then continue or complete it on another platform (e.g. a smartphone). 
       
    3. Less is more. Workday has removed less-than-essential information from panels, such as the employee profile, organizing and relegating it into tabs or linked lists, so that panels focus the user's attention on what is most important. I especially like the drop-down navigation on the left side of the header bar, which looks quite a bit like Facebook's left side navigation.

    4. Inbox-driven workflow. No more jumping jumping back and forth to the Workday Wheel to complete tasks. A new unified in-box gives users a view of all notifications, with a preview pane and ability to take action right in the inbox.
       
    5. Intuitive use. Viewing the user interface in action, it becomes obvious that most users will not need a lot of training on "what key do I press?" As in the past, they will need training on Workday's functionality and how it applies to their jobs. But the new interface should greatly speed the time to productivity for most users. 
    These are just some of the points about the new UI. In addition, there are many functionality enhancements, which I'm not covering here.

    To see quick overview of the new UI, check out this video by Workday's VP of User Experience, Joe Korngiebe (you can skip past Joe's opening remarks and start at the one minute mark, if you like). 

    To be fair, other enterprise vendors, such as Infor, Oracle, and SAP, are making great strides in the user interfaces as well. Workday's most recent release provides another example of how life is getting easier for enterprise software users.

    Update: Over at Diginomica, Dennis Howlett has his own take on Workday's new UI.

    Related Posts 

    Best Practices for SaaS Upgrades as Seen in Workday's Approach
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    Thursday, January 23, 2014

    Evaluating UNIT4's Growth Strategy

    Changes are afoot at UNIT4, a European-based ERP provider. UNIT4 is looking to move to the next level, and it held a virtual press conference earlier today to outline its growth strategy going forward. This post outlines some of the key points along with my viewpoint of its likely success.

    UNIT4 is best known for its Agresso ERP system, its Coda Financials system, and its majority ownership of cloud ERP provider, FinancialForce (with minority investment by Salesforce.com).

    UNIT4 has been a well-regarded ERP provider for years, focused largely on the services sector. Like many traditional vendors, UNIT4 has been transitioning to cloud delivery and, fair to say, has been more successful than many of its peers. At a time when many traditional ERP providers have less than 10% of their revenue from the cloud, UNIT4 claims to have more than half of its 450M euro annual revenue derived from subscription services.

    New Leadership for the New Strategy

    UNIT4 has a new CEO, Jose Duarte, who came on board seven months ago. He served as co-CEO alongside Chris Ouwinga until January 1, when the board appointed him as sole CEO. Duarte came to UNIT4 from a 20-year career at SAP, which including roles as President of the EMEA & India region and President of the Latin America region.

    If UNIT4 had announced its new growth strategy without making any management changes, I might doubt its seriousness. The top management change, therefore, is a good sign.

    Core Message is Familiar  

    UNIT4 has long had a message of enabling its customers to "embrace change," and it touts its offering as being highly flexible and adaptable to changing business conditions. In its new growth strategy, that messaging does not appear to be different.

    Duarte does point out that the pace of change is increasing--not only from economic and regulatory pressure, but also from the pressure of new technologies, such as the so-called "SMAC" technologies (social, mobile, analytics, and cloud).  Yet IT leaders spend 80% of their budgets on "keeping the lights on," leaving only 20% for innovation. UNIT4 intends to help its customers transition from transaction-centric to people-centric systems.

    In my view, this message is good but it is not particularly distinctive. Most other enterprise software providers have adopted this story--not just newer providers, such as Salesforce.com and Workday but incumbent providers, such as SAP, Oracle, Infor, and Microsoft. Whether they actually accomplish that is another question--but the message is the same.

    Vertical Solutions May Be Differentiating

    UNIT4 Vertical MarketsWhen it comes to UNIT4's industry focus, however, I do see something that may be distinctive. Unlike many enterprise software providers that attempt to cover a broad range of markets, UNIT4 is distinctly focused on services businesses (including public sector), as shown in the schematic nearby.

    Notable, there are no manufacturing sectors in UNIT4's target verticals. ERP has its roots in the manufacturing industry, and that ground is fairly well covered by other providers. By focusing on less crowded verticals, UNIT4's growth strategy has a better chance of success. Some of the sectors--such as financial services, investment companies, travel management, housing authorities, real estate, and insurance companies--have many fewer competitors targeting them. On the other hand, some of the sectors, such as professional services, are targets for some of the newer cloud-only providers, including UNIT4's own FinancialForce investment.

    Overall, I am bullish on UNIT4's market focus. 

    Willingness to Buy or Partner instead of Build

    There is another piece that represents a change in UNIT4's product strategy, and that involves partners. To fill out its offerings for some industry sectors, there are some pieces that UNIT4 may not build directly. This is especially true when addressing sector-specific processes. Duarte didn't mention claims processing in the insurance industry, but I would suspect that might be a good example. In such cases, UNIT4 will be more willing in the future than it has in the past to partner for or even acquire complementary solutions.

    Private Ownership May Facilitate the Strategy

    In November, UNIT4 announced that it had been approached by private equity firm Advent International in a cash offer to buy all issued and outstanding shares of the company--effectively, to take UNIT4 private. Duarte more or less implied that this transaction, which UNIT4 had not solicited but nevertheless was recommending to its shareholders, was not directly related to its growth strategy, although the growth strategy was one of the things that made UNIT4 attractive to Advent.

    Whether related or unrelated, I find a potential departure from public ownership a positive step for UNIT4. Software vendors transitioning from on-premises license sales to cloud subscription revenue often face pressure on financial results as money that would have been collected up-front is now spread out over the subscription period. Taking away the need to report quarterly results gives UNIT4 breathing room to make the transition to cloud.

    Private ownership may also give UNIT4 more flexibility in making those niche acquisitions for complementary products that are essential for its target industry sectors, as they would be able to be completed more quickly than would be the case where public shareholders would need to be involved. 

    UNIT4 has already made substantial progress in its migration to the cloud, but that is only one of the transitions needed. Hopefully, under private ownership, UNIT4 will be able to fulfill all the elements of its new growth strategy.

    Update: Over at Diginomica, Phil Wainewright summarized his half day briefing with UNIT4 in a curiously titled post: Unit4 updates Agresso to SMAC the BLINCs  

    Related Posts

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    Monday, January 20, 2014

    Four Cloud ERP Providers on the Salesforce Platform

    As cloud ERP solutions mature, they are becoming viable alternatives to traditional on-premises and hosted ERP systems. Dreamforce 2013, the annual conference of Salesforce.com users in San Francisco last November, offered a good opportunity to review the progress of four such cloud ERP systems—all built on the Salesforce.com platform.

    Salesforce1: The Next Generation Salesforce Platform

    During the conference, Salesforce unveiled the latest iteration of its platform, now dubbed Salesforce1, as shown in Figure 1.  The platform has a lot going for it.
    • It provides a complete applications development environment (a platform-as-a-service, or PaaS) running on Salesforce.com’s cloud infrastructure. Developers building on Salesforce1 can interoperate with any of Salesforce.com’s applications, such as its Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, as well as other third party applications built on the platform. 
    • It includes social business capabilities. Developers can incorporate Salesforce.com’s social business application, Chatter, as part of their systems. 
    • The platform puts mobile deployment at the center, allowing apps to be written once and be deployed simultaneously on a variety of user platforms, including desktop browsers, tablet computers, and smart phones. In support of the so-called "Internet of Things," Salesforce1 can even be deployed on connected devices. 
    • Finally, the platform provides a way for developers to market and sell their applications, by means of Salesforce.com’s AppExchange marketplace. 
    For a detailed view of Salesforce1, see this review by Doug Henschen over at Information Week.

    With Salesforce.com now the market leader in CRM, it is no wonder that its platform has become more and more attractive to developers. Building on this platform, third-party developers become, in essence, an ecosystem around Salesforce.com, with strong network effects. The more popular the platform becomes, the more it attracts developers. In return, the more developers build on the platform, the more attractive it becomes to other developers. It is a virtuous cycle.

    In our consulting work at Strativa over the past three to five years, I’ve seen several cases where organizations first implemented Salesforce.com’s CRM system, then based on that success started looking to see whether they could replace their existing on-premises ERP system with a cloud-based solution. And, when they search the AppExchange, they find four cloud ERP providers: FinancialForce, Kenandy, Rootstock, and AscentERP.

    I’ve been following these four providers for several years, and this post serves as an overview and update, based on briefings and interviews I conducted with these four vendors during the Dreamforce user conference.

    FinancialForce

    As the name implies, FinancialForce started in 2009 as an accounting and billing system. It was formed as a joint venture between UNIT4 and Salesforce.com. The company expanded into professional services automation in 2010 with the acquisition of a PSA system from Appirio, built on the Salesforce platform, and by building out its own services resource planning (SRP) functionality. More recently, Financialforce developed offerings for revenue recognition and credit control on the new Salesforce1 platform for revenue recognition, pushing these functions out to sales and services users in the field.

    The company lists 50 customer case-studies on its website, an impressive number for a vendor that is only four or five years old.

    At Dreamforce 2013, FinancialForce took two more steps to expand its ERP footprint. First, it announced acquisition of another AppExchange partner, Less Software, which provides configure-price-quote (CPQ), order fulfillment, service contracts, inventory management, and supplier management modules. Founded just two years ago, Less Software was already partnering and doing joint deals with FinancialForce, so the acquisition does not appear to acquire much if any integration work. FinancialForce refers to Less Software as having supply chain management (SCM) capabilities, but I would view that as somewhat of an exaggeration. There are some light warehouse management capabilities, but no transportation management or supply chain planning functionality that I can see. Less Software has had particular success in selling to value-added resellers, such as Cisco resellers, as well as to industrial distribution organizations and one manufacturer of children’s furniture.

    The second step, announced during the conference, was the acquisition of Vana Workforce, a human capital management (HCM) software provider—which is also built on the Salesforce platform. Vana's HCM functionality includes core HR, talent management, recruitment compensation, time management, and absence management. Payroll is not provided, but the system can connect with a number of popular payroll systems. As with Less Software, Vana Workforce was already partnering with FinancialForce, so the integration effort, again, would appear to be minimal.

    Organizations in the professional and technical services sector should take a look at FinancialForce, as well as anyone needing a financial management solution. With its acquisition of Less Software and Vana Workforce, FinancialForce now qualifies for the short list for distribution and light manufacturing companies. There were hints during my briefings that FinancialForce may continue with an acquisition strategy, so it is likely that additional industry sectors may become potential targets for this solution provider.

    Kenandy

    I covered the launch of Kenandy back in 2011, when I interviewed its CEO Sandra Kurtzig. Sandy was the original founder and CEO of ASK Group, the developer of the well-known ManMan ERP system. Her coming out of retirement to launch a new ERP system made a big splash at Dreamforce 2011, where she appeared on stage with Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff and Ray Lane, former Oracle President and now Kenandy board member representing investor firm, Kleiner Perkins. Salesforce.com is also an investor in Kenandy.

    Since that launch, Kenandy has been rapidly adding functionality. It has its own financial systems, including general ledger, invoicing, accounts receivables, and accounts payables. Multi-company and multi-currency support were added earlier this year, with up to three reporting currencies. According to Kenandy executives I interviewed, the system also supports multiple plants with multiple locations in a single tenant. There is a full MRP explosion. Lot tracking and serial tracking allow Kenandy to sell into foods and other industries that require track and trace. Item revision levels are tracked with multiple revisions allowed in inventory.

    Only three years in existence, the installed customer base is small but growing, with some impressive wins. During Dreamforce, Kenandy touted its recent win with Del Monte Foods, which implemented Kenandy for its acquisition of Natural Balance, a pet food manufacturer. I spent some time one-on-one with the Del Monte project leader, who provided quite a bit of insight into the dynamics of the implementation. Del Monte was able to implement Kenandy’s full suite—financials, customer order management, and distribution—in just three months. This included integrations with third-party systems for EDI, warehouse management, and transportation scheduling.

    He also shared with me that he wrote a trade promotion management (TPM) system on the Salesforce platform, integrated with Kenandy, in just six weeks—and he did it by himself. He had previously built a similar system integrated with Del Monte’s legacy system, but that effort took seven months with a team of seven developers. Even discounting the fact that his previous experience might have made development of the second system easier, by my calculations this is about a 50 to 1 improvement in productivity, illustrating the power of the Salesforce platform.

    Del Monte is not finished with Kenandy. The firm reportedly plans to eventually move all of Del Monte’s ERP processing from something like 60 internal systems to Kenandy.

    More information Del Monte’s experience can be found in a case study on Kenandy’s website.

    Rootstock

    Rootstock Software is another manufacturing ERP provider with an interesting history. The management team, headed by CEO Pat Gerehy and COO Chuck Olinger, has decades of experience building manufacturing ERP, most recently at Relevant. Following the sale of Relevant to Consona (now Aptean), the team embarked on a new venture to build a manufacturing cloud ERP system from scratch. They developed their first iteration of Rootstock on the NetSuite platform in 2008, interoperating with NetSuite for financials and customer order processing. In 2010, however, they disengaged from their NetSuite partnership and rewrote Rootstock on the Salesforce platform. (That the Roostock developers could build a complete system so quickly on the NetSuite platform and then again on the Salesforce platform speaks to the power of these modern cloud platforms for rapid software development.)

    As a result of the replatforming on Salesforce, Rootstock developed its own customer order management product and now partners with FinancialForce for its accounting systems. It also has good functionality for purchasing, production engineering, lot and serial tracking, MRP, MPS, and capacity planning, shop floor control, manufacturing costing, and PLM/PDM integration. The system can support multiple companies, multiple divisions, and multiple sites, all within a single tenant on the Salesforce platform.

    On its website, Rootstock highlights an impressive list of 25 customers. These include Astrum Solar, a residential solar provider with operations in a dozen states in the US. EBARA International, a manufacturer of pumps and turbine expanders in the energy industry, with 77 subsidiaries and 11 affiliated companies worldwide.

    Over the past year, Rootstock has been gaining traction. After the Dreamforce conference, it announced four more wins in the month of November: Microtherm, a business unit of ProMat International; Proveris, which provides testing protocols for drug developers; Source Outdoor, an outdoor furniture manufacturer; and Wilshire Coin, a coin dealer.

    Buyers looking for strong manufacturing functionality, including hybrid modes of manufacturing, should consider Rootstock. Project-based manufacturing is also a sweet spot.

    AscentERP

    AscentERP approaches manufacturing ERP from the execution side of the business. Its co-founders, Michael Trent and Shaun McInerney, have a long history in warehouse management and data collection, and it shows in the capabilities of the product. Built from the start on the Salesforce platform, AscentERP supports production modes of build-to-order, assemble-to-order, and configure-to-order along with repetitive manufacturing capabilities. It can take opportunities from Salesforce.com and convert them into sales quotes and into sales orders in the production system. The system supports the complete manufacturing process from master planning, purchasing, production, and shipping. Reverse logistics is also supported through an RMA process.

    Like Rootstock, AscentERP supports the accounting function through partnership with FinancialForce. In addition, the system also integrates with Intacct, another SaaS financials system. For smaller companies, Ascent created an integration with Quickbooks.

    During Dreamforce, AscentERP announced advanced manufacturing functionality, including workflow and alerts, multi-plant and multi-location support, production scheduling and tablet computer data collection using the new Salesforce1 platform.

    Reference accounts include Chambers Gasket in Chicago and All Traffic Solutions, a manufacturer of electronic roadside signs. Both of these customers use FinancialForce for financials. Other reference accounts include The Chia Company in Australia, the world’s largest grower of Chia seed and products, so familiar during holiday season, and SolarAid, an international charity that provides access to solar lighting.

    Buyers may want to short list AscentERP if they are looking for a nuts-and-bolts production system with good support for warehouse management and data collection. Smaller companies may find the Quickbooks integration an interesting option, allowing them to implement ERP without having to give up Quickbooks.

    One sales strategy I wish more enterprise SaaS providers would follow: AscentERP offers a free 30 day free trial on its website.

    Cast a Wide Net

    All ERP systems have their strengths and weaknesses, and these four are no exception. For example, all of these systems are relatively new. Although they are rapidly building out their functional footprints, there are still gaps in their functionality. Buyers that insist on having every box checked on their RFPs may not like this, but those buyers who are willing to do some system enhancements on the Salesforce platform may find that the advantages of speed and flexibility outweigh any short-term gaps. It all depends on whether buyers are viewing pure cloud deployment as a strategic advantage.

    The four vendors outlined in this post are not the only cloud ERP providers in the market. Buyers should also consider other providers, not built on the Salesforce platform. These include established cloud players such as NetSuite and Plex, as well as newer entrants, such as Acumatica. Finally, some of the traditional providers of on-premises ERP systems, such as SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Infor, and Epicor, offer hybrid cloud deployment options that may be alternative to these cloud-only providers.


    Choosing the right ERP system—whether cloud, hosted, or on-premises—can be challenging. Those looking for more in-depth analysis and independent advice in navigating the process should consider our software selection consulting services at Strativa.

    Related Posts

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    Tuesday, June 25, 2013

    Oracle and Salesforce.com: The Great Detente

    Salesforce.com and Oracle today announced a "new strategic partnership." For their mutual customers, the announcement represents a welcome thawing of relations between the two companies. But it remains to be seen whether it represents a strategic change of direction for Salesforce.com.

    Not a Radical Departure for Salesforce.com

    The press release is quite short, just five paragraphs, outlining five points of partnership:
    • SFDC will standardize on Oracle Linux.
    • SFDC will deploy Oracle's Exadata engineered systems in its data centers. 
    • SFDC will deploy the Oracle Database and Java Middleware Platform as part of its cloud infrastructure.
    • Oracle will integrate salesforce.com's cloud apps with Oracle’s Fusion HCM and Financial Cloud.
    • Salesforce.com will also implement Oracle’s Fusion HCM and Financial cloud apps for its own internal use.
    So, what exactly in this announcement represents a fundamental change in direction for Salesforce?
    • SFDC's infrastructure is already based on Linux, so standardizing on Oracle Linux is a minor change.
    • SFDC's applications already make use of Oracle's database as the lower-level physical data store.
    • The press release provides no detail on how SFDC will make use of Oracle's Exadata boxes. If they are merely used to replace commodity storage devices, there would not be any change to the basic architectural design of SFDC's infrastructure.
    • Oracle's integration of Fusion HCM and financial system with SFDC is merely an application integration initiative. 
    • SFDC's implementation of Oracle Fusion HCM and financial applications is a routine "win" announcement. 
    The second bullet could potentially be the most radical departure for SFDC. Oracle's new database release, 12c, could provide the capability for SFDC to run multiple pluggable databases (one for each customer) within a single container database. This would represent a fundamental shift for SFDC away from its single multi-tenant database architecture in favor of Oracle's pluggable database approach.

    Nevertheless, the fact that there is no mention of 12c or pluggable databases in the press release makes me seriously doubt that SFDC intends to fundamentally change its platform architecture. I have a question pending with SFDC on this point and will update this post if and when more information becomes available. [Update: SFDC is not willing to provide details beyond what was in the original announcement and subsequent conference call with Ellison and Benioff.]

    Thawing of Relations

    What I do find significant in this announcement is that Oracle and Salesforce.com have apparently buried the hatchet, at least for now. For their mutual customers, now and in the future, this is good news.

    Customers are not well-served by vendors sniping at each other, and the verbal tiffs between Benioff and Ellison over the past few years, frankly, have become annoying. Hundreds of customers have interfaced Oracle Applications with Salesforce.com's cloud apps. But until now they have done so without the explicit support of Oracle. Customers will be pleased if the two companies can cooperate in providing standard integration. Hopefully, both parties will start acting like adults and doing what is in their joint customers' best interest.

    Workday Is Odd Man Out

    If there is a competitive target in this announcement, it has to be Workday. SFDC will implement Oracle’s HCM and will integrate its Sales Cloud with Oracle’s HCM and also with its Fusion Financials product. This puts Workday in an awkward spot in that Workday leverages Force.com for its platform-as-a-service capabilities. It will be interesting to see how Workday reacts to this d├ętente between Oracle and Salesforce.com.

    While the use of Oracle Fusion within SFDC doesn’t mean much to SFDC customers, it does give bragging rights to Larry Ellison against Workday. Interestingly, NetSuite's CEO Zach Nelson was recently taking pot-shots on stage at Workday during NetSuite's Suiteworld conference. At the time, I took it as a sign of Workday's competition with NetSuite in financial applications. Now I see it as part of a wider competitive alignment. Both Zach Nelson and Marc Benioff are Oracle alumni and both have close ties to Larry Ellison. The three now seem to be joining in solidarity against Workday and validating that Workday is a threat to all three.

    Regardless of the competitive posturing by these major enterprise technology providers, the Oracle/Salesforce detente is welcome news for customers.

    Update, 11:30 a.m. PDT. Dennis Howlett spoke with Aneel Bhusri, co-CEO Workday, who says that he doesn't anticipate any impact from the Oracle/SFDC announcement. 

    Update, 12:15 a.m. Salesforce.com replied to my inquiry indicating they are unable to provide additional details at this time on the announcement.  

    Related Posts

    Oracle Fusion Runs Into Oracle Apps Unlimited
    Oracle's Behavior Undercuts Its Own Cloud Accomplishments

    Sunday, June 02, 2013

    Moving Outside the Box of Enterprise IT

    Information technology goes far beyond the realm of enterprise IT.  New technologies, such as big data, mobile applications, and cloud computing hold promise in addressing many of the world's great problems, while at the same time offering strategic advantage for businesses. Corporate IT leaders, therefore, need to reach outside their narrow focus on ongoing support to incorporate these new technologies to deliver business value. 

    This was my main takeaway from the Future in Review 2013 (FiRe2013) conference down the road last month in Laguna Beach, CA. FiRe bills itself as "the leading global conference on the intersection of technology and the economy." It is an annual conference of the Strategic News Service, which publishes research under this broad theme.  

    Beyond Enterprise IT

    Although FiRe is focused on technology, it is largely outside the boundaries of what is typically considered "enterprise IT," or even "consumer IT." It even goes beyond "line of business IT." It is about future-oriented issues involving the impact of technology on economic and societal interests. Under this year's theme, Digitizing the Planet, the agenda covered a wide range of focus channels, including computing and communications, economics and finance, education, energy, healthcare, environment, global initiatives, and pure science. Presenters included big names, such as Vint Cert, the "father of the Internet," who is now Chief Evangelist at Google, as well as a host of visionary thinkers from a variety of disciplines in the private and public sectors.

    For me, it was a chance to get outside my usual track of user and vendor conferences in the enterprise software market. It was also a great opportunity during the breaks to speak one-on-one with professionals outside of my usual circle, for example, David Engle, Superintendent of the Port Townsend public school district and a panelist in the education channel, Nick Vitalari, author of the book, The Elastic Enterprise, and Greg Ness, who moderated a panel on hybrid cloud.

    Here are some of the big ideas that caught my attention and what they mean for enterprise IT.  
    1. Move from Data Analysis to Data Visualization. One eye-opener was the session on data visualization with Chris Johnson, University of Utah, and Bob Bishop, Founder of the International Centre for Earth Simulation (ICES) Foundation. The aim of ICES is to integrate all the sciences that pertain to planet Earth. The panelists showed one such visualization: a huge simulation of earth's thermohaline conveyor belt: a single worldwide ocean current that has a large impact on Earth's climate. Another showed the earth's magnetosphere.

      How does this apply to enterprise IT? Organizations are swimming in data, both internal and externally sourced data, both structured and unstructured. To go from analyzing the data, to discovery of useful information, to decision support requires some sort of visualization. If data analysis is on your IT strategic roadmap, data visualization should be there also.

    2. Social Collaboration around Data.  There was more on the big data theme. Stanford and NASA engineers have come together to form Intelesense Technologies, with its collaborate.org website. The site provides an interactive 3-D globe, dubbed InteleView, with over two million layers of geospatial data (which users can supplement with their own data) along with forums, blogs, shared calendars, video conferencing, and other tools to facilitate group collaboration worldwide around data. To provide a hands-on experience, Intelesense gave trial system access to all FiRe attendees. 

      How does this apply to enterprise IT? It's not enough for just one person to visualize large data sets. We also need tools that promote collaboration around data. Collaborators may include individuals within and outside the enterprise, and they often include participants worldwide. Many so-called "social business" tools today only provide the mechanism for collaboration (e.g. threaded discussion) but do not include the content (i.e. data) for collaboration. The real need is to combine big data with social collaboration.  The collaborate.org website is an excellent case-study in what this looks like.
       
    3. Business Opportunities and Threats in Big Data. John Hagel and Eric Openshaw from Deloitte posed the question: will massive increases in data lead to increased fragmentation of industries, or will it lead to consolidation of businesses in the hands of a few who can support these massive data platforms? Their answer: it depends on the industry and the business function. Fragmentation will occur mostly in product innovation and commercialization businesses, such as digital media, media businesses, and even in physical products that can be disrupted by 3D printing. On the other hand, consolidation may take place with infrastructure providers, such as digital platform providers. With big oil, the question was always, who owns the resource? But with big data, the question is, who can create the value from it?

      How does this apply to enterprise IT?
      In the view of Hagel and Openshaw, most large companies are vulnerable, because they are largely focused on their products, which is the part of their business that is threatened by fragmentation.  CIOs, need to look beyond systems to support their organizations' current business to capabilities and business models that can allow their organizations to compete in the era of big data platforms. It may not even be your data, but if you can create value from it, your organization will succeed in the marketplace.
       
    4. Protecting IP More Important Now than Ever. Although so much of FiRe was visionary, there was a significant focus on security, with four tracks on "Achieving Zero Loss of Crown-Jewel Intellectual Property." Vint Cerf, now Chief Evangelist at Google, used his time to talk about network security. Cerf and other presenters offered a number of potential solutions. Some are technical, such as increased use of two-factor authentication and software security measures integrated with hardware at the chip level. Others go beyond technology, such as the use of economic sanctions and import tariffs against companies that are found to have stolen intellectual property.

      What does this mean for enterprise IT?
        As the world becomes increasingly connected and much of the organization's IP is digitized, the opportunities and rewards for IP theft increase. As CIOs facilitate new technology-enabled business models, they must also increase their focus on security.
       
    5. Simplification of IT Environments Key to Big Data Challenges. The conference was not without an enterprise IT focus. Mark Hurd, Oracle's co-President and a regular speaker at FiRe, was on hand for a wide-ranging conversation. He pointed out that twice as much data will be created worldwide this year than has been created in the entire history of the planet. Much of this is machine- or sensor-generated data, such as data coming from sensors positioned on deep sea drilling rigs. Drilling companies collect all of this data--much of which is uninteresting--so that they have access to that one piece of information that turns out to be critical when there is a failure deep beneath the sea floor. Storing, managing, and analyzing that much data is a challenge, and technologies such as virtualization and data compression are key to success. Yet many businesses are shackled by legacy systems and infrastructure that do not scale to meet the demand. Simplification of the IT environment, including use of public and private clouds, is essential to meet these challenges.

      What does this mean for enterprise IT? CIOs have two responsbilities that are somewhat in conflict. They must maintain current systems while investing for the future. With limited IT budgets, IT organizations must simplify and optimize their existing systems and infrastructure so that they have the bandwidth to make these strategic investments.

    A Challenge to Enterprise IT Vendors


    The expanding role of technology is not only a challenge for enterprise IT leaders, it is also a challenge for IT vendors. Nearly every major enterprise IT vendor has its visionary initiatives. SAP has HANA, Oracle has its Exa-boxes, IBM has Watson and its Smarter Planet initiatives, and so forth. At the same time, these vendors have enormous revenues in legacy technologies: SAP in its Business Suite, Oracle in its collection of acquired software and hardware technologies, IBM in its legacy hardware and systems integration business lines, and so forth. If IT organizations are challenged to rise above their legacy system support requirements, so too are IT product and services providers. Can the major IT vendors meet the challenge, or will a new generation of big data and cloud providers take their place?

    One note on the conference format itself. In contrast to most technology conferences, which feature highly scripted keynotes and breakout sessions with single speakers, the format of at FiRe is nearly all panel discussions or one-on-one interviews. This format promotes a much more conversational and spontaneous style. The moderators or interviewers take a minimalist approach, guiding the discussion where needed but not becoming a center of attention themselves. Mark Anderson, the FiRe conference chair, and Ed Butler from the BBC hosted a number of sessions in this style. Other conferences could learn from FiRe's format.

    The registration page for the FiRe 2014 conference, May 20-23, 2014 in Laguna Beach, CA, is now open.
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