Wrapping up the ERP discussion

Lise Hagen, research manager: software and IT Services Africa, IDC, opines that cloud-based ERP potentially gives SMEs access to technology that has typically only been within the reach of large corporates. However, she notes that someone from a corporate environment might be used to having every aspect of every facet of the business at his fingertips.

Delivering that functionality to smaller organisations raises questions for Hagen, primarily: how do you scale it? How do you get such rich functionality at a lower level and at a price point that is sensible?

Daniel Hall, VP sales and marketing, Magic Software SA, perceives cloud to be about economy, about trying to provide systems to customers at a price that they can afford in these tough economic times. He asks: “If that’s not what it’s about, how do we then actually resolve it?”

UCS Solutions’ executive for projects Reg Barry is even more succinct: “My take on cloud and mobile is that cloud may be cheaper but mobile is doing more,” he says.

Rudie Raath, chief technologist and country pre-sales manager, HP Enterprise Group, agrees in principle, but with a caveat: cloud is making it cheaper but mobile makes it feasible and real, because without that mobile piece, we’re still not getting the full value out of it. “It’s not getting the reach, it’s changing the way we interact with data,” he adds.

Hagen agrees: “It’s not just rewriting something and putting it on a different platform. The whole thought process, the whole business organisational set-up needs to change,” she comments.

Johan Hanekom, business unit manager for ERP at Datacentrix, doesn’t entirely concur: it’s fine to say it’s a different presentation, but to a large extent it’s the reach as well. “It doesn’t have to be fancy stuff and it doesn’t have to look different. It has to be practical and must drive the business processes, but it’s extending the reach [of the system] in real-time,” he explains.

Pricing pressures

Ian Huntly, MD of Rifle-Shot Performance Holdings, is convinced the advent of mobile ERP is going to drive the cost per user dramatically lower. “It’s what people are expecting, especially with $10 front-ends on the market; they’re not going to pay $1 000 and they’re expecting full functionality [regardless],” he opines.

Simon Griffiths, product and industry marketing consultant at Syspro, believes the arrival of younger people in the workplace will have a major effect on uptake. “The younger generation is going to have a much different opinion and much different perspective on things and what they’re required to do,” he says.

Hall offers another useful thought when he says customers are clearly interested, but the industry must get to the point where it can offer solutions that provide value at the right price. It sounds quite simple, but, as he adds: “How do we actually do that? How do we offer the client value at our price? Often our price and the right price are two different prices.”

Raath agrees: “The playing fields have changed; we no longer set the price for our service. Our price is set by the consumer base out there. And the perceived value will become one of the worst nightmare words we like to ignore moving into this new [era] of mobility and cloud,” he says. Brand or supplier loyalty, he contends, will become a thing of the past when a customer can change in an instant.

Lizelle Pauw, project director at Barnstone Corporate Services, is adamant that ERP doesn’t have to take two years to deploy and cost R50 million. “[The technology] has changed a lot in the SME environment,” she says, “where you can actually put in a very nice ERP system at a good price and it doesn’t take that long to do and it actually works afterwards.”

In typical fashion, Jeremy Waterman, MD, Sage ERP Africa & Middle East, reintroduces a dose of reality. Certain kinds of users want very powerful systems and more than one of them, he says. “And rightly or wrongly, the project starts off complicated and gets more complicated. Very seldom does it start off simple,” he concludes.

By Brian Bakker, journalist.

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