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August 17, 2015

Migrations can lead ERP onto new aaS

Social ERPHP 3000 companies have already cited many reasons for moving onto another server and operating environment. I remember one CAMUS manufacturing user group meeting where an IT manager at a Gulf Coast company was eager to move away from MPE and his MANMAN. "I'd been wanting to get us off that stuff for awhile," he said. "It's old enough to get in our way."

That company's catalyst for change was adopting new features and functionality. They must've been essential to meeting new business needs; it's a long-standing rule that companies will struggle to fund nice-to-haves, but they'll pay for gotta-haves. That IT manager was speaking up in a CAMUS meeting of more than four years ago. By today, there's a lot more functionality out there to trigger the journey away from MANMAN, if the business needs are genuine. Today's new features flow from cloud computing.

A new white paper by analyst Cindy Jutras details what an ERP migration can deliver if you're paying attention to platforms. Platform is one of the -asS categories. The asS stands for As A Service. The first such solution was Software as a Service (SaaS) followed by Infrastructure as a Service, Desktop as a Service, Backend as a Service, and finally, Platform as a Service. We've used the word "platform" here to mean OS-plus-hardware. But there's another platform definition, one that Jutras details: a software-based platform, such as Salesforce1.

Terry Floyd, whose company The Support Group has been advising 3000 MANMAN shops since the early 1990s, says he worked alongside Jutras in the early 1980s at ASK Computer Systems. MANMAN was shiny and new in that time, and ASK had only been formed in the mid-70s by Sandy Kurtzig as CEO. Kurtzig's made a return to the ERP market by helping to found Kenandy, and the white paper by Jutras explains why a platform like the one Kenandy utilizes makes a big difference when replacing ERP solutions like MANMAN.

Any company making an ERP purchase today, she says, should be cognizant of not only the features and functions being delivered, but also the platform on which it is developed. "Ask the tough questions about platform of any prospective purveyor of ERP."

  • Does it take advantage of the latest technology that has brought us into the digital age?
  • Are mobile, social and analytics built in?
  • Can it support cloud, the great enabler of standardization and growth? In other words is it a platform “as a service?”
  • Is it a platform that supports configurability over invasive customization?
  • Does it easily facilitate any customization that truly is required?
  • And finally... how popular is it? Will you be searching for developers or searching through a large marketplace of add-ons and extensions?

As a business leader, you may not understand the nitty gritty technical details of PaaS, but you shouldn’t let that limit your expectations for ERP. After all, it must keep up with you in running your business in the digital age.

Of course, those "nitty gritty details" are in an HP 3000 IT manager's wheelhouse. Those who have a migration on the boards are now looking at the cloud as a new platform. Jutras says that Salesforce1 has some built-in application services.

  • Support for a multi-tenant SaaS environment, which we previously noted as a key enabler in delivering more innovation, faster
  • A workflow engine, access and identity management
  • Other rapid developer services include Salesforce standard user interface templates, (business) object orientation and built-in mobile support
  • The ability to tie “social” online chats (through Salesforce Chatter) directly back to business objects
  • Embedded analytics with Salesforce Wave, a cloud-based data platform as well as a data-analysis front end designed to analyze not just Kenandy, but also any third-party app data, desktop data, or public data you bring in

The typical ERP solution of the past saw a major upgrade every 12-18 months. That looked like a new version of MANMAN, for example, or maybe a Customizer revision, in-house, using MM/3000 (the software that became eXegsys in the late '90s). Jutras tells the story of how ERP upgrading worked, before Platform as a Service.

If you requested such a change (and your vendor agrees to it) before the cutoff for the design of the new release, you might wait 12 to 18 months. But timing is everything. If you miss that window of opportunity, you might have to wait for an additional cycle. So in reality you would wait 12 to 36 months, and perhaps longer if you were unwilling or unable to jump right on the newest release. Meanwhile your window of opportunity could close on that new business model and you could well be on the road to being the next Blockbuster store, disrupted into failure by Netflix.

A platform like Salesforce1, though, is used by 100,000 organizations, supports 3 million users and a processes a billion transactions a day. "If you find an ERP solution built on a platform that attracts a lot of developers, you are very likely to find a lot of extensions developed that can complement your solution," the white paper reports. "Salesforce estimates the platform speeds development by a factor of five, and cuts the cost of development in half. This translates to benefits for the customer in more innovation, at a faster pace."

Jutras points out that Kenandy — a Salesforce1 solution that the Support Group has been studying since 2013 — takes full advantage of the ready-made, easily personalized wheels of object-oriented computing.

While any solution built on the Salesforce1 platform has the potential of enjoying these benefits, Kenandy goes one step further in how it has architected the solution on top of that platform. It has developed a unified data model that takes full advantage of the power of business objects, by adding new dimensions to otherwise very familiar “objects” like orders, invoices, customers, and product. And Kenandy prides itself in saying it can personalize with “clicks, not code.” This means adding fields, changing workflows, rearranging the screens without the disruption and expense of invasive code changes.

It sounds a great deal like the functionality that Customizer used to offer, without the essential need for coding. The full Jutras white paper is definitely worth a read — if only to see what cloud computing can do for a mainstream application in the 3000 community like ERP. In the earliest days of the Kenandy campaign, the company was calling the product Social ERP.

07:29 PM in Migration | Permalink

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