Posts Tagged ‘ERP’

Microsoft Dynamics Partners Mull Their Role in an Azure ERP World

March 9th, 2012

Microsoft will deliver what’s expected to be a comprehensive update on its plans to bring the Dynamics line of ERP (enterprise resource planning) software to its Azure cloud service during its Convergence conference, which starts March 18 in Houston.

To date, Microsoft’s four ERP software lines have been sold as well as hosted exclusively through partners. In moving the software to Azure in order to gain benefits of elastic scalability, rapid deployment and integration with other cloud services, Microsoft is also faced with bringing these partners along for the ride as painlessly as possible, lest it damage relationships that will remain crucial to the health of the Dynamics business.

At last year’s Convergence conference, Microsoft executives first revealed their cloud plans for Dynamics, telling showgoers that all of the product lines would end up on Azure, beginning with NAV.

During this year’s show, Microsoft will provide timing and pricing details for the availability of NAV on Azure, said Mike Ehrenberg, technical fellow and CTO for Microsoft Business Solutions, in a recent interview. It will also update the Azure road maps for Dynamics GP, AX and SL, he added.

For Dynamics ERP, Microsoft is following the same strategy as with its CRM (customer relationship management) software, which uses the same code base for both the on-premises and on-demand versions, Ehrenberg said. “We think that’s an important differentiator of what we do in CRM. Pick your product, pick your deployment model. And it’s even more important on the ERP side.”

Many customers will pursue hybrid deployments, and others won’t immediately be interested in Azure at all, Ehrenberg said.

“The large on-premise business won’t magically change overnight, but we’re doing a lot of engineering to get the cloud right.” This work is going to improve the performance of future on-premise and hosted Dynamics deployments as well, according to Microsoft.

While Microsoft may deliver development and engineering muscle to the Dynamics software, its partners own much of the relationship with customers, not only for sales and implementations, but hosting. Microsoft has carefully considered how to help them transition into the Azure age, Ehrenberg said.

“We spent a lot of time with those partners,” he said. “First of all, they are not a shy group about sharing the things that make them hard for them to deliver hosted capabilities. Most of them don’t love actually having the infrastructure. They really are more about serving the customer, and the infrastructure was a necessary evil.”

Microsoft is pushing the idea of consulting partners developing add-ons for Azure-based ERP deployments, but the way forward doesn’t seem as clear for pure hosting companies. For example, Microsoft is not planning to let hosting partners run the Azure software fabric in their own data centers.

Microsoft is well aware of the need to assuage partner concerns, Ehrenberg said. “We have to do a great job with that. I don’t think we completely got that when we first launched CRM Online,” he said. “We went to school quickly at the academy of CRM. It’s always good to go second.”

Overall, there’s still going to be “a vibrant market for hosting in a more traditional way,” Ehrenberg added. For example, a customer may be in a region where laws require a single-tenant architecture, with dedicated servers for each customer, or they may desire a greater level of customization than possible with Azure, he said.

One veteran Dynamics hosting partner expressed little concern over Azure’s potential impact on his business.

“I believe there is a fit for what they’re going to be providing,” said Tom Doerner, president of WatServe in Waterloo, Ontario. “We’ve been doing this for five years, we’ve learned what the market is looking for.”

“The low end of the market, which is where I believe they will start, typically is the [customer] who is looking for something more than QuickBooks,” Doerner added. These customers are looking for systems with under 20 users, few integrations and very simple environments overall, he said.

“We play a lot in the larger market,” Doerner said. WatServe counts large, multibillion dollar companies among its clients, with Dynamics implementations running as high as 1,000 users, he said. “They wouldn’t even dream of running on Azure. They’re connecting from China, in some places they speak German, French and Italian. Who’s going to support that at Microsoft in those languages, 24-7?”

Many of WatServ’s customers also run a series of third-party applications in conjunction with Dynamics, he said. “How is Microsoft going to support all these other products?”

He cited the example of a software package for trucking companies that runs only on IBM’s DB/2 database. “How many DB/2 experts do you think Microsoft has?”

Overall, “I don’t see any threats to our main bread and butter, to our large enterprise customers,” he said. However, “Microsoft’s strength is they get in, they learn, they adapt. They’ll do a fine job at the small end of the market, and over time they will go up-market.”

“We’d be naive to think Microsoft won’t play a factor in our future,” said John Robb, director of strategic alliances at WatServ. “They are definitely the 800-pound gorilla in the marketplace. We just have to make sure we’re aligned with their goals.”

The upcoming launch of NAV on Azure has more immediate relevance to Jon Cooper, director of technology for AVF Consulting of Baltimore, Maryland.

“Really, all that we do is NAV, delivering the best that NAV can be to our customer base,” he said. AVF has been using various Microsoft technologies to run a NAV hosting business for some time now, Cooper said.

But Cooper is ready and eager for the arrival of NAV on Azure.

“Even though we’ve already invested a lot in our own hosting infrastructure we feel that’s a real plus for us,” he said. “We went through the extra onus to get all that off our customers’ hands, but that’s not what we really want to be doing either.” AVF wants to focus on being a value-added reseller and consulting practice, more than a hosting provider, he said.

“If Microsoft is saying, here’s an official hosting solution for NAV that we’re supporting, then we’re totally on board with that,” Cooper said.


ERP software specialist SAP edges closer to cloud expertise

December 30th, 2011

Leading enterprise resource planning (ERP) software manufacturer SAP has moved one step closer to excelling in the cloud market as a result of a lucrative merger.

The company is waiting to complete a proposed $3.4 billion (£2.2 billion) acquisition of SuccessFactors, which it believes will allow it to move forward in the cloud sector.

SAP has confirmed that the US Federal Trade Commission has used the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act to grant an early termination of the waiting period usually required prior to such deals going through.

A tender offer of $40 per share was previously submitted by SAP and remains in place subject to certain conditions being passed, such as the approval of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

Cloud Pro recently predicted that the tie-up with SuccessFactors will allow SAP to make significant advances in the cloud market in 2012.


ERP software provider SAP identifies ‘four pillars’ of customer satisfaction

December 30th, 2011

An executive at SAP, one of the world’s leading providers of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, has revealed the company has picked out four pillars it believes contribute to the satisfaction of its customers as they bid to offer a great experience to their own users.

Vinay Iyer, vice-president of CRM global marketing at SAP, told these are all based on trust.

He noted it is important to offer reliability that will allow users to achieve their ambitions and meet expectations.

Another of the pillars is responsiveness, as it is critical that the provision of information is instantaneous, while the third is relevance.

Mr Iyer went on to reveal the fourth is convenience, as there is little point in firms running systems and technology that are not easy to use and reap the benefits of.

His words tally with those of SAP co-chief executive officer Bill McDermott, who recently told talk show host Jim Cramer that one of the ERP software manufacturer’s key aims is to make the lives of its customers easier, reported Forbes.


ERP software specialist SAP ‘sees future in data analytics

December 22nd, 2011

SAP, one of the world’s leading providers of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, has had a positive year and made progress in many areas.

The completed and proposed acquisitions of other companies and the release of new products are highlighted by ComputerWeekly as key moments of success in 2011.

However, the firm is not one to rest on its laurels and will instead drive forwards in 2012 in a bid to grow further and enjoy even more significant prominence in the technology market.

The publication suggested it sees its future expansion lying in the area of data analytics – something that is “no surprise” for a company that excels in ERP at such scale.

It identified the UK government’s midata project as one area in which SAP solutions could be crucial, as more data will require management.

A report by Cloud Pro recently explained that SAP is expected to push on with plans to progress in the cloud in 2012.


Customer Sues Epicor After ERP Software Project Attempt Ends in ‘big Mess’

November 30th, 2011

A would-be Epicor customer is taking the ERP (enterprise resource planning) vendor to court over a “big mess” of a software project that it says ended up battering its bottom line instead of improving operations.

In January 2010, commercial outdoor furniture seller ParknPool began looking for a system to supersede QuickBooks, which it had been using for some time with success, according to a lawsuit filed Nov. 23 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia. The suit also names an Epicor partner, EstesGroup, which performed systems integration work on the job.

“QuickBooks was still working for us, it’s just there was no growth potential,” said Jim Fonner, administrative manager of the Lexington, Virginia, company, in an interview. “We were getting to the top of what QuickBooks could do.”

ParknPool, which has about 20 employees, evaluated a number of systems and the final choice came down to Epicor and a product from Sage. Epicor got the nod after ParknPool came to believe it had a more tightly integrated system, he said.

An Epicor representative also told ParknPool that its current hardware setup would be sufficient and that a fully functional system could be installed fairly quickly, but neither promise held true, according to the company.

“Epicor said they could do it in seven weeks. We gave them seven months, and we got zero,” Fonner said. “I couldn’t even look at a profit-and-loss statement. We couldn’t process orders. We were saying, ‘QuickBooks is so much better than this’ and we were paying $3,500 a year for it.”

ParknPool is a “drop-ship” operation, wherein it acts as a type of middleman, keeping no items in stock. Instead, manufacturers, sometimes a number of them, ship orders once they are placed.

“Because we’re a drop-ship business, we need to invoice our client after the last item ships, because they could ship from multiple locations,” Fonner said. “The Epicor system couldn’t deal with that.”

Another snafu led to doubled commission payments for ParknPool’s sales representatives, he said. ParknPool let the salespeople keep the extra money rather than deal with the morale problems taking it back would cause, according to Fonner.

Epicor also performed something of a bait-and-switch with ParknPool, initially saying that the company’s need would be met with a specific set of software modules, but then saying that more were required after the project started, Fonner said.

For example, “we had to buy the manufacturing module in order for the payroll to work,” he said. “We don’t do any manufacturing. It was just a big mess.”

Compounding matters was the fact that ParknPool was getting into its busiest season and needed a system in place by March of this year, according to the suit.

In February, ParknPool expressed its concerns about that deadline being met and in response, EstesGroup workers told them that the software being installed was an “untested and unapplied version” that had to be modified to accommodate ParknPool’s drop-ship distribution model, according to the suit.

EstesGroup told ParknPool that it had the ability to complete the system, but also asked that it “close its contract with Epicor” and deal with it directly, the suit states. ParkNPool then signed a contract with EstesGroup but the company was unable to complete the job, it adds.

EstesGroup did not respond when ParknPool sent it a list of problems with the system and ultimately ceased working on it altogether, according to the suit.

ParknPool managed to get through its busy season despite the problems, partly because it had kept running QuickBooks in parallel with Epicor, but “it was a pretty scary time,” Fonner said.

ParknPool’s suit is asking for US$250,000 in damages along with attorney’s fees and other monies. The company has spent at least $250,000 on the Epicor project, according to Fonner. “It’s in excess of that, but then you get into those costs you can’t measure.”

The company’s bottom line has been impacted as a result, he said. “We’ll definitely take a loss this year.”

Epicor “strongly denies the allegations made by ParknPool in its complaint,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. “Our products, consulting personnel and partner performed well, all of which Epicor believes will be borne out as we defend our position in any proceedings, including counterclaiming for amounts rightfully owed by ParknPool.”

ParknPool is still using QuickBooks and has no immediate plans to try another ERP project, according to Fonner.

“Since then, we’ve learned different ways of programming against QuickBooks, and kind of set our sights a little bit lower,” he said. “It’s not that we wouldn’t do an ERP again, but that was such a bad experience, my staff here needs some time to get over being wounded like that.”

Troubled ERP projects seem to be an unfortunate fact of life in the IT industry.

That said, there are multiple sides to the story in a given project failure, said Michael Krigsman, CEO of Asuret, a consulting firm that advises companies on how to run successful IT implementations.

In the case of ParknPool and Epicor, it’s a “massive change to go from QuickBooks accounting system to an ERP system,” he said. “Epicor is not QuickBooks — they’re going to function differently.”

“What is clear is that neither Epicor nor the SI nor the customer entered this deal for it to fail,” he added. “Assuming all parties are basically honest, there was a mismatch of expectations about what the system would do. Unfortunately, lawsuits like this present a highly one-sided version of the truth, and in most cases there’s plenty of blame to go around.”


Connexin Software, Inc. Receives Strategic Investment from Bluff Point Associates; Deal Will Accelerate Growth and Leadership Position of Pediatric EHR Software Provider

November 17th, 2011

Connexin Software, Inc., publisher of the industry-leading Office Practicum(R) pediatric electronic health records (EHR/EMR) and practice management (PM) system, today announced that it has received a multi-million dollar strategic investment from Bluff Point Associates, a Connecticut-based private equity firm.

“Connexin has always enjoyed excellent recognition and growth in the pediatric sector, but ARRA (American Recovery & Reinvestment Act) legislation and Meaningful Use initiatives have spurred physician interest in EHR adoption beyond all our prior fifteen years of experience,” said Fredrick R. Pytlak, Connexin CEO. “We look forward to building on our market leadership momentum and are pleased to have Bluff Point on board for our next stage of growth.”

As part of the transaction, Bluff Point Managing Director Kevin P. Fahey will join the Connexin Board of Directors. “Bluff Point looks for several things when we add a company to our portfolio: strong management, positive earnings, and great technology products with growth potential,” he said. “Connexin has all of these attributes. We look forward to working with Fred and his team to build on the company’s success, further develop their offerings, and grow the business from its well established core competencies.”

Michael J. Matlack, Connexin President and COO, appreciates that vote of confidence. “Our training and support teams have more than doubled over the past year,” he said. “Bluff Point’s investment will allow us to continue growing aggressively and increase the quality of services we provide as we help pediatric practices adopt new EHR technologies.”

Health information technology standards are still evolving, which keeps the research and development team busy. Gregory H. Anderson, Connexin CIO, who led the company’s ONC Meaningful Use Certification and serves on CDC and other industry workgroups, said HIT is still in its infancy. “New immunization registries and health information exchanges are coming online constantly. Recent adopters are demanding enhanced usability and a variety of deployment models. The additional resources of the Bluff Point investment will help us extend our competitive advantage in all of those areas.”

About Connexin Software, Inc.

Connexin Software, Inc. is the leading provider of electronic medical records and practice management systems for use in pediatric clinical settings. Since 1995, its Office Practicum product has provided innovative solutions to hundreds of medical practices in over 40 states and throughout the Caribbean, ranging from solo providers to hospital-based clinics. The privately held company maintains primary offices in New York City, suburban Philadelphia, and central California.


ERP software provider SAP ‘on track to meet green goals’

November 4th, 2011

Users of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software from leading provider SAP may be delighted to learn the company on track to achieve its sustainability targets for 2011.

In its quarterly update, SAP revealed that it made 112 kilotons of greenhouse gas emissions in the third quarter of 2011 – up by two per cent on the same period in 2010.

However, this is explained by a rise in the number of employees the firm now has – and emissions per individual member of staff fell.

During the three-month spell, SAP put its name to the Corporate Value Chain Standard, which will see its performance in all environmental areas studied and assessed.

It is said that, since 2008, the ERP software manufacturer has avoided approximately €195 million (£168 million) in costs it would have incurred had it not been so eco-friendly.

SAP this week details plans to launch innovation services that will help users of its products realise the benefits even faster.


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