An ERP system is an all encompassing software system that touches (read – integrates) all the business functions of an organization. Integration is the keyword, and removing silos is the objective.
The very first ERP systems were mainframe based, and were quickly discarded around the turn of century for various reasons. Around the same time, the client-server ERP software solutions were floated, and gained good ground.
Now, after about 15-20 odd years of launch of the first versions of the first client-server, ERP products, we are going to do a bit of market analysis to see who is the top shot today, got the most customers and provides the best features. A typical ERP suite has some prominent sub-areas which can be looked at for its overall quality –
- Supply Chain Management (SCM)
- Human Resources
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
- Epicor is one of the oldest players in ERP software market based on Microsoft Technologies. They boast of a SQL Server based SOA driven architecture, which has been deployed to more than 20,000 customers across 140 countries in 30 languages. They have a strong brand name with multiple other solutions, which allows businesses to stick to a single vendor for multiple solutions. They also have a strong customer service. In addition to being a Microsoft based system, which is relatively cheap compared to many other competitors, they are on the lower end of the pricing spectrum, making their offering all the more attractive. They currently are offering their product through the Value Added Resellers (VAR) model, although there are plans on moving to SaaS offering as well.
- Infor is another player who has a large customer base. Infor claims 70,000 customers in 125 countries. Infor has different offerings for different types of businesses, making them unique in a way. They have a relatively stronger product offering towards Supply Chain Management (SCM) though their lean manufacturing offering is also interesting. Infor is also priced towards the lower end of pricing spectrum.
- Microsoft, being the market leader that it is, enjoys more than 83,000 customers for its ERP solution. They have targeted the Small and Medium Businesses (SMB), who often times buy the complete package from MS, i.e. the OS, the office suite, the DB, and now ERP solution as well. As is obvious, their offering is stacked on top of SQL Server and dot net architecture. Having a strong sales distribution channel helps, and Microsoft have used their existing VAR channel to handle sales for this product too. Going for the volume push, Microsoft has kept this product on the lower end of pricing spectrum.
- Oracle the market leader in databases, also have their own ERP product and a pretty successful one at that. They enjoy about 37,000 customers across the globe. Having been a successful player in the database market for such a long period, they have a brand image, and helps their ERP business for sure. They have recently tweaked their architecture to include SOA specific features. Being Java based, Oracle’s product is highly flexible and customizable. Oracle has kept their product in the premium segment, and have priced it accordingly, in the higher bracket of pricing spectrum.
- SAP is probably the only undisputed leader in ERP software space. Having claimed more than 35,000 customers spanning 120 countries, they have very strong Accounting,Payroll and Supply Chain Management modules. They were the pioneers in client-server ERP software market. SAP uses a diverse set of technologies to complete its product offering, which is hugely popular. SAP has also positioned its product on the higher side of the pricing spectrum.
Both SAP and Oracle claim to be #1 in CRM business, though we cant verify that bit, we are convinced that both the products are very effective and impressive. Oracle might perhaps pass by in customizations allowed area.
Although its been around 20 years since the ERP wave hit the world software market, and perhaps about 10+ years since client-server ERP systems became the default, the evolution of ERP systems is still on.
With the advent of cloud computing, a completely new area has come up, Software as a Service (SaaS). With many a products already available in the market, its only a matter of time that we’d see yesterdays market leaders coming in this market segment too. Some of the SaaS offerings have been hugely successful, including Salesforce.com. Perhaps that would act as a reckoner for the rest of the market.
Where’s the open source solution?