Consulting firm Eval-Source has updated its ERP Cloud and SaaS Buyer’s Guide due to the explosion of offerings in the market.

Managing director Keean Persaud said the guide has been reformatted to accommodate twice as many vendors as the original 2011 version. There’s also more detail in the vendor profiles, updated research on trends affecting the enterprise resource planning market, and case studies that walk the reader through the acquisition process, Persaud said.

The guide also breaks down cloud and software-as-a-service ERP vendors by category.

“Under the big umbrella of ERP, there are a lot of disciplines,” Persaud said. For example, Plex has a strong offering in manufacturing, whereas Agresso focuses more on services companies.

“These are key areas you should understand when you’re staring your process,” Persaud said.

Cloud and SaaS ERP vendors see opportunity in the small and mid-sized business space. Larger companies have already committed to on-premise ERP, so they might only evaluate a cloud or SaaS ERP solution as a result of expansion or acquisition – a two-tiered system, with a SaaS or cloud offering plugging into the monolithic on-premise ERP system of head office, eases integration and regionalization, Persaud said.

The report outlines a number of trends affecting the cloud and SaaS ERP market, chief among them social networking and mobility. Social is not the same in the business-to-business market as business-to-consumer; “it’s mainly in the collaboration space.” And ERP suppliers don’t necessarily have to integrate social collaboration elements right out of the box; systems can easily be adapted and upgraded. And the ability for end users to log in remotely to the system “wasn’t possible two years ago for a lot of these implementations.”

The flexibility of ERP vendors also improves in a cloud or SaaS environment. In the past, on-premise ERP vendors tended to impose processes on the customer to suit the system, Persaud said. “Vendors are listening more to what the needs of customers are,” he said. “When that happens, (the market) becomes more competitive.”

And in the online environment makes ERP systems more agile. Whereas in an on-premise system, updates and changes have to be rolled out across the organization, SaaS and cloud vendors can change the system overnight. “Vendors are a lot more able to adjust to change for end users,” Persaud said.

Other trends noted in the report:

* Hybrid systems are a lower-risk method for companies to experiment with cloud ERP, for example, building cloud ERP functionality around an on-premise customer relationship management system with data collected over many years.

* Organizations are using SaaS and the cloud for their business intelligence initiatives, aggregating the data in a cloud environment and using the companies own backbone or cloud-based BI applications to analyze the data.

* Companies should educate themselves about the many tenancy options that exist for cloud computing. “Many new deployment models are now available that previously were not. Cloud now comes in different configurations and has different ROI and TCO implications,” the report says.

The report can be downloaded here.

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