Microsoft Googles Apple in 2011

Diagram showing overview of cloud computing in...

Image via Wikipedia

“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”

Babe Ruth (1895 – 1948)

The quote above is apt when you are up against a person but what happens when you encounter organisations that are trying to outdo each other? 2010 was certainly interesting in that respect. Hunter Richard’s blog post on Microsoft (MS) is “All In” for the Cloud, but What About Dynamics? outlined Microsoft’s dilemma that is not limited to just MS Dynamics.

Microsoft is still trying its best to innovate as its key visionaries, such as Ray Ozzie (View Ray Ozzies’s – Dawn of a new day OR BBC’s summary) were falling by the wayside. At face value, it could be argued that MS is reinventing itself, as it has done so quite successfully in the past (WordPerfect vs. MS Word, Netscape vs. Explorer,……list continues),  but this time around, there is a caveat. Is MS actually listening to its own visionaries and customers?

MS knows that history is repeating itself once again as it has done so many times before and MS is trying its best to change and adapt, as it knows very well that if it doesn’t, it could wither away and die, just as it had slain Netscape and WordPerfect in the past. The secret to Apple’s and Google’s success is that they listen to us, the customer. They are finely attuned to what, we, the consumer want and need, just as my previous blog post Leveraging IT for competitive advantage, has alluded to. Secondly, this battle is not just about the hardware and software anymore, as all three companies go after our hard earned cash. Even Apple overtook MS, in terms of revenue this year.

Microsoft is a giant in the software world and one of the penalties it is paying for its enormous success is that:

1.        Its products are now so diverse that only IT experts can make any sense of them. Need convincing. Ask any non IT personnel to visit any Microsoft site and ask them to explain a particular Microsoft site’s products and what they can actually do for them.

2.        Sheer confusion. As a business owner, for my Microsoft IT system, where do I start? Microsoft Licensing and its payment model – Again, this is an open challenge to Microsoft. How many Microsoft employees can explain Microsoft licensing without referring to a price model manual? The correct answer should be at least half its workforce. Why? You cannot sell what you don’t understand (Microsoft have actually done remarkably well then!). Ah, would an employee be able to explain it all in a pub, though?

3. Microsoft’s entire business model is built on desktop/laptop client installation and as long as it has enough businesses that utilise that legacy because they have no other option, for the short term, it faces no financial problem. Office365 is a step in the right direction but unlike Google, MS products were never designed to ‘run in the cloud’ whereas as Rajen Sheth, Google’s senior product manager for Google Apps said, “It will be tough to build up the cloud expertise that’s been built into Google’s DNA since day one.”

So, where does that leave Google, Microsoft and Apple? They should all acknowledge their key strengths, concentrate and focus on those and licence each other’s products. That can be hard to acknowledge by ‘massive’ organisations such as these three but the reality is that sometimes other organisations just do it better than you can.

Let’s take a brief trip down memory lane. Novell was the King of network software, had the opportunity to licence its NDS to MS for its Active Directory, failed to strike an agreement and MS ended up killing its business because they could do it better. So, in hindsight, an effective licensing agreement by Novell would have been better. Then, we have Apple. MS Office is one of the best sold software for its desktop/laptop equivalent and Apple decided years ago that it would not concentrate its efforts on a ‘war’ to decide who could create a better office type software suite. Google became the king of search and MS decided to ‘take it on.’

I would argue that all of these companies need to innovate more. Apple and Google innovate, quite successfully. I would argue though that as innovation is stifled at MS, MS have not released a single innovative product in 201o. MS did finally catch up with Apple (iPhone) and Google (Android) with a WM7 marketplace though! We even saw new releases of old software, such as Windows Mobile 7 and for those who want to argue and labour the point, did anyone release anything groundbreaking as Apple’s iPhone equivalent in 2007 or the iPad this year?

Oh and let’s not forget, Office365 still has no marketplace equivalent!

For more:

What is Cloud Computing? Its Pros/Cons and making it work

Microsoft announces Office 365 beta: test new cloud-based Office one year before its launch

Office 365 Beta: a first look

Steve Ballmer speech at UW: “We’re all in” for cloud computing

Microsoft Straightens Out Cloud Strategy — Finally

The 7 sins of Windows Phone 7

Apple iOS vs. Google Android

Top Tech Company of 2010: Apple

Will Google Apps survive Office 365?

The road to Office 365: The future

Office365 vs Google Apps

A guide to Office 365 versions and pricing

Windows Marketplace

Larry Ellison’s (CEO Oracle) management style and CIOs

Used iphone under a palm tree where I met android and formed a symbian relationship with a blackberry

Bill Gates (Chairman Microsoft) management style and CIOs

Choosing technology over customers

Google Apps – The myth, hype and reality.

Cloud based ERP. Fact or fiction?

Weather bulletin – Google Cloud and icy Microsoft downpour

Steve Job’s (CEO Apple) management style and CIOs

Back to basics Enterprise Resource Planning

Search wars – Past, Present and future – Bing, Google or new entrant?

Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality?

Microsoft and Apple Tablets, pens and swords

The wonderful world of FREE Windows 7 applications

Houston, Windows is counting down 10,9,8,7…

The future is bright but is it mobile?

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Larry Ellison’s (CEO Oracle) management style and CIOs

Oracle logo at the Oracle headquarters.

Image via Wikipedia

Updated 12.12.11

“Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win.”

Jonathan Kozol (1936 – ) Writer, Educator and Activist

Larry Ellison (1944 – ) Oracle Corporation’s Founder and CEO

Today’s article is the fifth in a series of articles (1st Steve Jobs, 2nd Michael Dell, 3rd Warren Buffet and fourth was Bill Gates), analysing current and past leaders to ascertain how Chief Information Officer’s (CIOs) can learn better management by applying the management practices of leadership, practiced by these leaders.

This article also follows my previous articles on ERP, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) – Past, Present, Future and successful implementation, Cloud based ERP. Fact or fiction?, Back to basics Enterprise Resource Planning – Blog version and Back to basics Enterprise Resource Planning – CIO.co.uk version.

Larry Ellison has led Oracle from start-up to ‘software giant’ with a style that many view as narcissist. “According to psychoanalyst Michael Maccoby, author of Narcissistic Leaders: The Incredible Pros, The Inevitable Cons, “What makes Ellison so successful, even though he’s a narcissist visionary and really not very good at working with people, is that he understands himself, and he understands who he needs to work with – Courtesy of Canadian Business.” Larry Ellison is both an innovator and visionary, I believe these traits will be his legacy, “When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for everyone telling you you’re nuts.” – Larry Ellison

PS: CIO is a generic term and other analogous titles are Head of IT, IT Director, Director of IT etc.

The Management Style

What can CIOs learn from Larry Ellison’s management style? Let’s investigate while allowing you to decide.  (In no particular order and a few other sources utilised):

1. Follow your instinct and develop a Clear Vision–and Stick to It: – Courtesy of Canadian Business magazine (with a few changes), ‘While Larry Ellison was employed at Ampex, a firm that did contracts for the U.S. government (mid–1970s), he got his first taste of database software while working on a project for the CIA with the code name “Oracle.” Around the same time, he read a paper published by IBM, which outlined a way to make it easier to store and retrieve data — a prototype for the first relational database. “I saw the paper, and thought that, on the basis of this research, we could build a commercial system,” Ellison, who solicited the assistance of fellow programmers Bob Miner and Ed Oates, recalled in a 1995 interview. “If we were clever, we could take IBM’s research … and beat IBM to the marketplace with this technology. Because we thought we could move faster than they could.” He was right. By 1984, the company he founded with Miner and Oates, originally called Software Development Laboratories, was logging nearly $13 million in annual sales. (Miner died in 1994; Oates retired in 1996.)’

Right from the outset, he dreamed of developing Oracle into a viable successful business. For CIOs this is one of the most important traits that MUST be part of the toolbox.

CIOs need to clearly identify to themselves and communicate to the environment that they work in ‘the vision’ that they have set out to achieve. They then need to have the confidence to deliver that vision.

2. ‘Image’ is everything. – According to People Soft Planet,Ellison has Oracle in his own image. Now in his late 50s, tall and trim, he has kept himself in excellent shape. His hair is still dark, running to reddish; he has brown eyes and a short beard that helps to camouflage his long jaw. Ellison radiates enthusiasm and charm. He’s animated and engaging on stage, at his best in informal Q&A sessions where he can rap with the crowd.”

According to Canadian Business, “A fan of, and expert on, Japanese culture, he sees himself as a samurai warrior. He also likes to quote a saying attributed to Genghis Khan: “It is not sufficient that I succeed. Everyone else must fail.” The incredible success that he has enjoyed is a marvel to anyone familiar with the accepted literature on what it takes to make a great leader, qualities like empathy, mediation skills and humility. By all accounts, he is a bad listener and a big talker, whose brash, take–no–prisoners approach tends to alienate employees and customers alike. Yet, in the past 35 years, the jet–flying, sailboat–racing renegade has built Oracle into one of the most important tech firms on the planet, with annual revenues of $27 billion — about a billion dollars shy of his personal fortune. (All figures are in U.S. dollars.) While many of his contemporaries have moved to arms–length positions or other projects, Ellison remains the driving force behind the computing juggernaut, continuing to fashion it according to his own design. After acquiring more than 65 tech firms in the past five years, the mercurial CEO announced in September that he would be “buying chip companies,” suggesting that Oracle is positioning itself for what Bill Tatham, head of Toronto–based enterprise software firm NexJ Systems, describes as “another level of world domination.”

But while it may be tempting to single out Ellison as the ruthless villain of high technology, “none of these guys are nice,” says Jeffrey Pfeffer, a business professor at Stanford University and author of Power: Why Some People Have It — And Others Don’t. Before his ousting from Apple, Steve Jobs is said to have become increasingly difficult to work with, refusing to acknowledge that sales were tumbling; since his return, he has often been criticized for his obsessive secrecy, and ruling the company with an iron fist. Meanwhile, it was Bill Gates’s attempt to snuff out the competition that led to antitrust allegations — and sent Ellison rooting through Microsoft’s trash. “It’s very unpopular to say in today’s world, where we have these Kumbaya theories of leadership,” says Pfeffer, “but it actually doesn’t work well.” If anything, Ellison is merely the poster boy for what it takes to thrive in an increasingly ruthless environment. His rare combination of hubris and self–awareness enables him to skid recklessly to the edge, stopping just short of the cliff. And his stunning trajectory offers a valuable lesson: in the cutthroat arena of big business, sometimes it pays to be a jerk.”

3. Be ‘shrewd’ and keep the team on its ‘toes.’ – LE “Years ago, I gave a speech that earned me the eternal enmity of the Netscape board. I said that the biggest problem with Netscape was that Microsoft could copy what they had very quickly. It was a clever product, but there was no technical barrier to entry. It’s much harder to copy a database like Oracle. There are millions of lines of code. It’s an incredibly difficult program to duplicate.

But a browser is not a difficult program to duplicate and I said, at the time, that my cat could write the browser. The board members were very offended by all this, but in fact Microsoft later did do exactly what I had predicted.”

4. Succession: LE – Courtesy of CNET magazine (with a few changes)”If Larry was incapacitated, the cult would dissolve,” former executive Marc Benioff says. “It’s unclear if Oracle is a sustainable enterprise without Larry, because his personality is so firmly entrenched.”

This is an area of weakness for the Oracle leader, as he has not planned effectively for a successor. As Larry Ellison approaches retirement, we will all have to witness whether he appoints a successor or leaves succession to the almighty.

5. Competitive advantage: LE – Courtesy of PeopleSoft Planet (with a few changes)Just because you’re good at R&D doesn’t mean you’ve commercialized R&D. The tragedy of Xerox PARC was that they had brilliant R&D but terrible execution in terms of turning that R&D into really wonderful products. Contrast that to IBM. During its glory days, IBM was fabulous at translating their innovation into products, into market domination.”

CIOs need to ask themselves how they can help the business through leveraging IT to create competitive advantage. I covered this in my post, Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality?

6. Follow your instinct: LE – Courtesy of People Soft Planet magazine “We are the leader in bio-informatics, and a lot of things there are exciting. Sure, Wi-Fi, even 3G, is fairly cool, albeit expensive. But the thing I’m most interested in is software as a service. That idea that every customer who wants to do accounting on computers, or every customer who wants to do inventory, or manufacturing, has to figure out what computer to buy, what operating system to buy, what Cisco router and switch to buy, what database to buy, is just nonsense.

Companies should be experts in their business, and computing should be available on the Net as a service. So more and more, our business is changing from selling our applications to our customers to: We buy the computers, we run the applications, and you use it. We’ll be the experts. And you just pay us a monthly fee. That really is utility computing.”

7. Talent acquisition – Hire ‘Action’ oriented employees: Courtesy of People Soft Planet magazine, “

Geoff Squire, who ran various divisions of Oracle’s world operations from 1984 to 1993, described the manner in which Ellison selected new programmers and salespeople as “clinical,” Squire attributes Oracle’s success largely to the premium he has always placed on choosing the right candidates. “He really did hire very, very good people,” says Squire. Though Squire acknowledges that Ellison could quickly turn on his charges — as he puts it, “He backs people until he doesn’t” — he sees Ellison’s willingness to constantly refresh the talent pool as a strength. “People who do a great job don’t just get to stick around in companies forever,” says Squire, who is currently the non–executive chairman of Kognito, a U.K.–based data management firm. Despite the fact that he was cut loose shortly before the last of his stock options would have vested, Squire harbours no ill will, insisting that the fortune and experience he amassed at Oracle “set me up for life.” Squire’s trajectory is not unique: Oracle is often credited with creating the most millionaires in Silicon Valley; many of those ousted by Ellison went on to head tech firms that competed in the same high–profile realm. (Incidentally, in the midst of the Hurd debacle, Lane was named non–executive chairman of HP.) ”

A CIO needs to trust their gut instinct, as one can only learn a certain amount in an interview. I think, the strategic fit, is a very good measure. How will a new hire fit into the culture of the company? Will they enjoy it here? Have they worked in a similar culture before? The danger is that the culture could be so alien to the new hire, that they find it difficult to adjust.

Larry Ellison has always hired the smartest people who can ‘get the job done.’ Hire your friends and past colleagues, as they will have loyalty to you and as you know them personally, an informed decision can be made on whether they have what it takes to realise your ‘vision.’

8. Spotting opportunities and innovation: LE – Courtesy of PeopleSoft Planet (with a few changes)When you’re the first person whose beliefs are different from what everyone else believes, you’re basically saying, “I’m right, and everyone else is wrong.” That’s a very unpleasant position to be in. It’s at once exhilarating and at the same time an invitation to be attacked.

There are really four phases. In phase one, everyone tells you you’re crazy and it’s the stupidest thing they ever heard. In phase two, they say, “There is some merit to the argument. It’s still crazy, but there’s some merit to it.” Phase three is, “Well, we’ve done it better than they have.” And phase four is, “What are you talking about? It was our idea in the first place.”

It’s fascinating as we continue to innovate and lead the way in both the application space and the database space. In the very beginning, people said you couldn’t make relational databases fast enough to be commercially viable. I thought we could, and we were the first to do it. But we took tremendous abuse until IBM said, “Oh yeah, this stuff is good.”

We were the first company that said all the applications had to be on the internet and not client/server. Everyone said that was a bad idea. That was 1995. Now everyone has moved all their applications to the internet.

And now we’re saying you have to have a suite—that this best-of-breed approach is crazy. You can’t sell parts that were never designed to fit together. They’re still saying we’re crazy about that. But it’s interesting, SAP and PeopleSoft are now advertising they have suites. Everyone has started using the “suite” word.

And so the four phases repeat over and over again. As long as we continue to innovate, I don’t think that’s going to change. When you innovate, you’ve got to be prepared for everyone telling you you’re nuts.”

The lesson that can be learnt is that within IT we need to spot opportunities for improvement. It is not enough, however, just to spot them, the onus is to spot them and then to create an environment to leverage that opportunity and to make it happen.

For More Info:

Oracle – Larry Ellison Interviews by PeopleSoft Planet

Can Oracle survive Larry Ellison

Larry Ellison – The Source of Oracle’s Wisdom

Larry Ellison’s one man show

What Larry Ellison said about Cisco and Corporate Culture<

CIO 20/20 Honorees–Innovator’s Profile: Lawrence J. Ellison of Oracle Corp.

Top CEO: Larry Ellison / Convinced that the future in high tech depends on consolidation, Oracle’s founder refused to give up on a PeopleSoft takeover, no matter what the obstacles

About.com –Larry Ellison

Hackers take up Larry Ellison’s challenge

Larry Ellison Slams HP Board: “Worst Personnel Decision Since The Idiots On The Apple Board Fired Steve Jobs Many Years Ago”

Choosing technology over customers

“Only buy something that you’d be perfectly happy to hold if the market shut down for 10 years.”

Warren Buffet (1930 – ) World’s most successful investor

I recently received a blog post from Software Advice on – Why the Technology Matters – An Analysis of Consona’s Acquisition of Compiere. That blog post made me think about my recent posts over the last few months on Cloud Computing and Google Apps etc in May, June, my blog post last year on ERP and this year’s – Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality? The ERP blog post covered the recent acquisitions that had happened within the competitive ERP arena and Leveraging IT for Competitive Advantage – Myth or Reality? attempted to address whether competitive advantage could be realised through effective use of IT.

Now, as we all know from the blog post, Warren Buffet’s (World’s most successful investor) management style and CIOs, the technology business is not considered a viable investment by him as he admits that he doesn’t understand technology and considers technology too volatile.  So, when Don Fornes wrote that he thought Consona had acquisitioned Compiere ‘because the Compiere product is built on a very modern technology stack and is designed to run in a cloud computing environment’ it made sense.

This was also confirmed by a quote by Consona’s CTO, Steve Bailey, ‘Compiere is the world’s leading open-source ERP solution and the products are brilliantly architected. They run on a fully open-source stack (e.g., Java, Linux, JBOSS, Postgres), utilize a browser-based AJAX UI based on the Google Web Toolkit, and are fully operational either on premise or on a utility cloud platform like Amazon…’

Don went on to say, ‘While Consona has acquired a number of software companies based on this model, that doesn’t seem to be the strategy behind the Compiere deal. Compiere brings only 130 customers to Consona and I doubt Compiere’s open-source business model was generating big profits. Instead of buying customers and profits, Consona seems to be thinking ahead about how they can lead the market in the next generation of technology. The acquisition is more about growing organically – selling more Compiere systems – than it is about harvesting customer support contracts.’

‘Why is this all relevant to software buyers? Because there is a big shift underway from client/server systems installed “on premise” to cloud-based or software-as-a-service systems that are hosted in a secure data center and accessed through a web browser. Moreover, the open source movement is producing underlying technology that is not only free, but increasingly really good stuff. Software vendors that don’t make the transition will wither on the vine.’

‘To highlight the significance of this model, consider that a bunch of brilliant Google engineers built some cutting edge user interface technology (Google Web Toolkit) and open sourced it. Compiere turned around and used it in their products. Google did a big part of Compiere’s engineering for free…and will continue to do so. Now that’s efficient development.’

‘Compare that to an application software company that has to pay ongoing royalties to an infrastructure software company for the privilege of developing on its outdated database or development tools. The smart engineers long since left both companies so they could work on cooler projects at more modern software companies. The mediocre engineers that remain are having a hard time developing new features on old code. Sales are declining and customers are defecting (albeit slowly because it’s hard to switch).’

‘You don’t want to be that customer that is trying to defect but fears the switching costs. You want to be the delighted customer that loves their software because it works today and will work tomorrow, regardless of what new requirements emerge.’

As we are constantly bombarded by marketers and pushed towards cloud computing models, please remember that (as Marcela Cueli said in his article),

‘For a start, cloud computing is not a technology but a model of provision and marketing IT services that meet certain characteristics. Cloud is all about computer services, not products:

* The infrastructure is shared. Multiple clients share a common technology platform and even a single application instance.

* The services are accessed on demand in units that vary by service. Units can be, for example, user, capacity, transaction or any combination thereof.

* Services are scalable. From the user’s point of view, services are flexible; there are no limits to growth.

* The pricing model is by consumption. Instead of paying the fixed costs of a service sized to handle peak usage, you pay a variable cost per unit consumption (users, transactions, capacity, etc.) that is measured in time periods that can vary, such as hour or month.

* Services can be accessed from anywhere in the world by multiple devices. The cloud model leads to basically two different kinds of clouds: private and public. The public clouds are those that offer IT services to any customer over the Internet. Private clouds offer IT services to a predefined group of customers, with access through Internet or private networks. You might have also heard about internal and external clouds. The former are a subgroup of the private clouds, and provide services within the same company or corporate group. The latter may be public or private and provide services to other companies.’

To conclude, this is exactly what I have been discussing in my blog posts over the last year or so. Don’s thoughts are increasingly reflective of the technology blogosphere as technology writers’ such as Don and I understand the repercussions of the effects of cloud computing on traditional client/server models and associated revenue streams, licensing etc.

There are many facets that I have covered over the last year or so that lead companies to be in this vulnerable position where they have to resort to acquisitions to remain contenders within their marketplace. My blog posts mentioned earlier have considered these, so apart from the above posts, I will leave you with some other posts that should help companies and their management become successful.

What is Cloud Computing? Its Pros/Cons and making it work

Lawmakers question the security of cloud computing

Can IT Management failure be caused by a deadly disease? Part I

Can IT Management failure be caused by a deadly disease? Part II

I listened, you spoke but did we communicate?

IT benchmarking

The CIOs agenda and memberships

Challenges facing CIOs at the UK’s leading companies

 

Cloud based ERP. Fact or fiction?

“Don’t do what you know. Do what you don’t know about what you know.”

Mile Davis (1926 -1991) American Trumpet Player, Bandleader and Composer

Following my post on 19th May, Cloud based ERP is fast establishing itself as an increasingly dominant force within the ERP arena. Ubiquitous Internet connectivity combined with access to more bandwidth at affordable prices, both by businesses and consumers have propelled cloud based solutions as being commercially viable. Cloud based ERP solutions are also challenging existing licensing models. The larger providers such as SAP and Oracle are struggling to compete with this new model and are looking at ways to combat this new threat to their established revenue stream. Newer established entrants within the mid tier market continue to embrace cloud computing and are increasingly vying for competitive advantage.

In my view, Google Apps will increasingly challenge established players providing enterprise systems, such as Microsoft. The likes of Google Apps will also challenge established ERP players as more offerings become available. For example, Netsuite will soon be available on Google Apps and My ERP seems like a credible solution for smaller businesses and is FREE for the first two users! One of my readers, Houston Neal, recently had a roundtable discussion on the state of the manufacturing ERP software industry, including solutions popular among small and medium enterprises that provides an interesting insight into many facets of ERP software.

Cloud based ERP providers available at the moment are: Acumatica, Agresso, CDC Software, Consona, Compiere, DataXstream and virtualised SAP, DSP managed services – advisors for Cloud based Oracle E -Business suiteDynacom, Epicor, Global Shop Solutions, IFS, Intaact, IQMS, Lawson, Microsoft, MyERP, Netsuite, Oracle Cloud Computing Centre, Openbravo, Plex systems, Sage, SAP Business by Design, Salesforce and Glovia Cloud Solution, Syspro

ComputerWeekly, recently ran an interesting and complete 4 part Buyer’s Guide to ERP software that discussed quite intensely both the traditional and new, cloud based ERP models. Following are excerpts that I have used from part 1, glued together to form the following and then I will list articles that provide further in depth analysis and reading, courtesy of ComputerWeekly and others:

In Part I, Cliff Saran wrote, ‘The idea behind enterprise resource planning (ERP) is to provide the business with a single product that provides software to support the main business functions in a company. The major products such as SAP and Oracle claim to encompass the best ways to run business processes. But since they cater for large complex businesses, such systems are often too sophisticated for smaller organisations that may not have the same requirements in terms of scale and complexity of business operations.

SAP and Oracle may be great for providing enterprises with industry-standard business processes, but standardisation erodes the unique selling point in smaller businesses. George Lawrie, principal analyst at Forrester Research says, “SMEs are worried by the high maintenance fees and complex implementations associated with major ERP software.”This is why a market has grown for ERP aimed at SMEs. “Mid-market ERP tends to offer vertical specialisation,” says Lawrie.

Suppliers such as Salesforce.com have made it possible to put customer relationship management (CRM) systems in the cloud, but core enterprise resource planning (ERP) has so far remained untouched. If IT departments can make considerable savings switching from in-house systems to cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS), why stop at CRM? Businesses should consider using the cloud for ERP.

Andrew Vize, who as propositions director runs Computacenter’s CIO panels, says, “The efficiency of services from Google and Amazon is superb. They offer the lowest power costs and are five to 10 times cheaper than traditional small datacentres.”

It makes sense for an IT director, but the major ERP suppliers have been reluctant to move to cloud computing. SAP has been touting its Business ByDesign SaaS suite for smaller companies.

Meanwhile, Oracle offers its middleware and database products on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), but does not recommend putting E-Business Suite ERP software in the cloud.

Oracle states in a blog post, “Since Amazon EC2 uses a virtualisation engine that is not supported by Oracle and has not been certified with E-Business Suite, this environment is not supported for production usage of E-Business Suite. Using Amazon EC2 for hosting E-Business Suite may be suitable for non-production instances, such as demonstrations, test environments and development environments.”

In fact, it is far from clear how the major ERP suppliers will charge for cloud-based ERP. The significant ongoing revenue they receive from annual software maintenance from on-premise applications makes it harder for established ERP companies to offer considerably cheaper software licensed on a monthly subscription basis.

However, smaller software companies are making cloud ERP float.

Cloud computing company NetSuite has unveiled workflow management software, SuiteFlow, which enables users of cloud computing business suites to automate and streamline complex business processes. NetSuite says SuiteFlow allows businesses to customise workflows to support the way they need to work.

Companies can use SuiteFlow to develop and deploy new business processes. NetSuite says it can be used to support processes such as contract renewal workflows with tasks, reminders and customer notifications, sales processes that include mandatory data entry, follow-up tasks and rep notifications, and customer support processes, including inactivity reminders, escalations and service level agreement (SLA) enforcement.

Lawson Software, which has mainly focused on traditional ERP, has moved into the cloud by offering its core Enterprise Management Systems and Talent Management suite on Amazon EC2 infrastructure. The products will be included in the Lawson External Cloud Services offering, which is part of the company’s Cloud Services portfolio.

Lawson’s cloud ERP service is targeted at mid-sized companies and organisations looking for a more affordable, flexible and agile deployment option for full-function enterprise software.

“We are making it easier for our customers to license, use, keep current and even pay for Lawson full-function enterprise software. This should be great news for CFOs and CIOs who worry about lengthy and complex on-premise installations, the cost and inefficiency of their datacentres, the best way to allocate IT staff, and the complexity and difficulty of maintaining software versions and upgrades,” says Jeff Comport, senior vice-president of product management at Lawson Software.

Similarly, open source ERP provider Compiere, which is used by companies such as Specsavers, has developed a version of its product that works on Amazon Web Services in the cloud.

Some experts believe it is unlikely ERP will move wholesale into the cloud. The major ERP systems tend to be architected as large homogenous IT systems, which may not be such a good fit for delivery via the internet cloud. Licensing major ERP systems to deploy via the cloud is still immature. Instead, niche software companies are likely to build cloud-based services that do many of the functions of ERP.

“We will have much more specialist systems that do a slice of ERP,” predicts David Bradshaw, IDC research manager for software and services in Europe.’

Cloud-based ERP could be the way forward for small- and mid-sized companies. Both Oracle and SAP offer products aimed at smaller businesses such as JD Edwards from Oracle and SAP Business ByDesign. These may have a better fit with certain organisations, But implementing on-premise traditional mid-market ERP systems will be the most likely approach businesses take until cloud computing has matured.

Gartner sees an increasing availability of software-as-a-service (SaaS) ERP systems, and, unlike in large enterprises, where SaaS ERP use is limited, SaaS ERP is playing an increasingly important role in both back- and front-office applications for mid-market companies. Cost reductions in implementation and operation are one of the important drivers for SaaS ERP, and SaaS offerings avoid the need for upfront capital expenditures because they can be funded as an operational expense. However, when analysing the total cost of ownership of SaaS ERP over five years, Gartner finds that SaaS is not necessarily less expensive than on-premises ERP.

NetSuite is the largest example for a SaaS-based ERP suite. It offers a broad range of application modules, including financials and accounting, purchasing, payroll, order management, inventory control, and employee management, as well as built-in integration with its CRM and e-commerce capabilities on the same platform. Gartner has spoken to customers that expressed a high level of satisfaction with NetSuite’s offerings.

Other notable SaaS ERP players are Plex Online (previously Plexus Online) and Glovia. SAP has also announced an on-demand ERP solution called SAP Business ByDesign.

Open source has been used extensively in infrastructure components, but it has a limited impact on ERP at this point. In the past two years, however, some new open-source software ERP suppliers have emerged with a focus on leveraging open source software to reduce the total cost of ownership of business applications, and to enable customisations that would be difficult to achieve without access to source code. Although we have doubts as to whether open source software business models actually confer these advantages on open source software ERP, these early stage offerings are nonetheless promising and should be evaluated. Examples for open source software ERP suites include Compiere and Openbravo.

Although increasing in importance, none of the SaaS or open source ERP solutions met the inclusion criteria for this Magic Quadrant, because of their number of sales or product focus. Gartner’s ERP Magic Quadrant, (2010 Quadrant) criteria do not explicitly exclude SaaS or open source packages. The analyst firm is actively tracking their progress and expects their inclusion in future versions of its Magic Quadrant.’

For more:

Detailed research lists from the largest USA ERP installations

Search Manufacturing ERP

Part I Buyers Guide to ERP: Alternatives to SAP and Oracle ERP suites

Part II – Buyers Guide to ERP: the mid-tier market

Part III – Buyers Guide to ERP: Agile ERP

Part IV – A guide to ERP for small and large businesses

Putting ERP in the Cloud

How to achieve ERP success: part 1 – the A-Team

How to achieve ERP success: part 2 – the software

ERP software suppliers – Essential guide

Buyers Guide to ERP: Midlands Co-op case study

Make your ERP rollout succeed

Lawson’s New Amazon Cloud-Based ERP Supports Customization

Epicor Takes the Wraps off Cloud-based ERP Solution

Amazon.com Offers Compiere Enterprise ERP via the Cloud

ERP and Cloud Computing trends

Lawson Software Introduced Cloud-Based Services

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) – Past, Present, Future and successful implementation

Brief History and introduction

ERP’s origins can be traced to the beginning of the Database and Material Requirements Planning (MRP), in particular, relational databases and its founder Edgar Frank “Ted” Codd. Good current examples are SAP, Oracle (Click for Oracle Database History) and Microsoft Dynamics. The concept has evolved around Data warehouse functionality. ERP software attempts to link all internal business processes into a common set of applications that share a common database. It is the common database that allows an ERP system to serve as a source for a robust data warehouse that can support sophisticated decision support and analysis.

Data Warehouse design can also involve a process of Extract, Transform, load (ETL) that allows business intelligence software to perform its queries and predictive analysis.

Recently, Business Intelligence (BI) has driven the adoption of ERP systems due to its ability to sit on top of a data warehouse and perform intelligent querying of data through Data Mining, OLAP and Business Performance Management (BPM). In particular, it is the BPM aspect that MDs/CEOs utilise the most as it becomes a decision support system, providing dashboards for all sorts of performance indicators allowing management quick synopsis of any given situation, allowing quicker decision making.

For more information on ERP design, Click here

For more information on Data Warehousing and ERP, Click here

Current Consolidation, who owns who and how it will affect the future of ERP

The IT market is undergoing significant reshuffle and consolidation. This has led to a great deal of confusion on who owns who, especially if you are not actively following the IT industry. For the uninitiated and for the benefit of everyone, I will now clarify. ERP system supplier consolidation has meant that Microsoft has bought Navision and Great Plains. SAP now owns BI vendor Business Objects (BI). Oracle is the supplier that is the most influential as far as acquisitions are concerned as it has bought, Sun Microsystems, PeopleSoft (Therefore JD Edwards), Siebel, Primavera and Hyperion (BI). I will also mention that IBM bought Cognos (BI) as it is software for business intelligence (BI).

How this consolidation will affect ERP and the IT market in the future is uncertain at the moment. For example, Oracle has acquisitioned over 100 businesses in the last few years; the test for Oracle will be on how well it can leverage all these acquisitions for competitive advantage. Even with all this consolidation, a newcomer arriving with a new product that upsets the applecart is all too common within the IT arena.

The businesses of the future will be very different to the businesses of today and will have to think long and hard about other areas as well such as a mobile workforce and mobility (Smart phones), social networking and Cloud Computing.

Lessons learnt that allow future successful implementations

While challenges may exist, project leadership can mitigate risks with a strong plan that remains focused on the buyer’s goals and objectives. A spirit of cooperation between the vendor and buyer for mutual benefit is often quoted as the single most important factor for success. It is interesting that on average an ERP implementation takes approx 20 months and that only 7% of projects finish on time while 68% took “much longer” than expected.

I have studied many successful/unsuccessful ERP implementations, interesting statistics and as there is a body of existing knowledge, I am concluding this article by suggesting that a new ERP implementation is done by splitting the project into three discrete areas. Planning, Change and Review. The areas below will on occasion be conducted in parallel. Successful ERP is best done when the focus is to do it right, first time as in many cases by the second round the damage is often irreparable.

Planning –

The business needs to appoint a steering committee to conduct a thorough SWOT and STEP (PEST) analysis with a view to setting up an ERP capability. It can then be used to identify gaps that need to be addressed. For example, if the STEP analysis highlights that politically, many departments aren’t interested or do not know about the new ERP implementation, it needs to be addressed. It also needs to be recorded in the SWOT analysis as a threat. This will highlight how prepared the business is for the required change and the next step can take these findings and ensure:

  1. A senior Executive is appointed – Ensure project is top driven (Senior exec – CEO etc) and not bottom up (IT driven)
  2. Business strategy is clearly defined.
  3. IT ERP system fits within that strategy.
  4. Definition of goals/objectives of introducing the ERP system (Ensure questions such as what do we hope to achieve at the end? How will we know that we have arrived? – are answered, i.e. clearly define business requirements in detail and set realistic business benefits to manage expectations better.
  5. Processes in 6, 7 and 8 need to be aligned to the overall business/IT strategy by involvement from both senior managers of functions and experienced users who understand the processes.
  6. Processes are analysed for alignment to business vision and business/IT strategy and fixed accordingly.
  7. Processes that are not captured by existing systems are captured.
  8. Processed are improved.
  9. Resources both human and technical – Ensure miscalculation of time/effort is minimised, manage delivery timeframe expectations.
  10. The above steps have been completed and a realistic budget is assigned.
  11. ERP Package selection is according to business requirements/process mapping.
  12. ERP software is aligned to user procedures (May require new procedures)

Change –

  1. Ensure that all interested parties are engaged and feel involved (Business buy in) and that resistance to change is reduced and addressed accordingly. (This can be accomplished by creating a steering committee that has reps from both senior management (each function) and a super user who understands current processes. The super user needs to have taken the time to create his/her steering committee to analyse current processes and suggest improvements (See item 5 under planning).
  2. How do we communicate that this change is required (Education)? – On going communications with all stakeholders.
  3. How will training elements be addressed? What is the current process (Manual/IT based system and if it is an IT system, are there any problems in the way that the system is used?
  4. Reviews, for example, Gateway Reviews should be conducted to deliver a “peer review” where independent practitioners from outside the programme/project use their experience and expertise to examine the progress and likelihood of successful delivery of the programme or project.

Review –

Once the project has been delivered successfully, a yearly review should be conducted to enhance or improve the system allowing for continuous improvement. Minor modifications, tweaks and fixes can be performed as business as usual.