Delivering Integrated ERP Solutions

The evolution of the ERP software market in the Middle East has continued w. ith solution providers increasing their focus in this segment. While ERP software automates a broad range of activities that help a business manage its responsibilities such as order management, accounting and human resources, having too many of these systems can present challenges in ERP consolidation and integration.

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Delivering Integrated ERP Solutions
By  Piers Ford Published  August 22, 2014

The global ERP market has reached a stage of major transition as organisations focus on the value and flexibility of their investment in strategic software and its ability to provide a fully integrated, multi-dimensional view of the business. Larger customers are looking for ways to open up their lumbering legacy ERP systems to take advantage of the benefits of cloud computing and service-based software delivery.

At the same time their SMB counterparts are increasingly attracted by the accessibility and variety of ERP packages emerging from a new generation of cloud-based vendors who don’t have the individual clout to challenge players at the top of the league, but who collectively threaten the long-term dominance of household names in this traditionally big-ticket market.

According to Gartner, the global ERP sector picked up in 2013 after a sluggish period, growing in value from $24.4bn the previous year to $25.4bn – a rate of 3.8%. And the market is still led from the front by the big five: SAP, Oracle, Sage, Infor and Microsoft. But with ERP consolidation now a major driver in the face of newer, leaner business models, they are under constant pressure to adapt to a new set of market conditions and opportunities.

In the Middle East, this state of flux is much in evidence and poses some significant challenges for resellers and systems integrators as they extend their range into ERP consolidation and integration projects.

Jawad Squalli, regional vice president, Middle East, Africa and India at vendor Epicor, said there is still a long way to go.

“Every region and business is unique, and that is one of the major factors driving integration and consolidation,” he said. “Concepts like the consumerisation of IT, BYOD and Web 2.0 are also working as catalysts and forcing ERP vendors and VARs to provide systems and applications that can be deployed on smartphones and tablets, and can integrate seamlessly with point solutions and third-party solutions.”

Squalli said the ability to adapt to these new technologies and trends will be a key differentiator for ERP solution providers.

“Businesses today are looking for ERP solutions that are flexible, provide the agility to deliver immediate results and be more responsive to customer needs, are compatible with mobile devices and tablets, simple to use deliver real-time business intelligence regardless of location, and are quck to integrate with other software systems.”

Naturally, the major vendors will all say they are meeting these requirements – mainly by capitalising on cloud delivery model. And their focus is on helping customers achieve competitive edge – a key marketing message for resellers and partners to take out into the field.

“In order to transform IT to being a core enabler of the business and driver of competitive differentiation, a higher effectiveness of the ERP solutions and the business processes enabled by them is a prerequisite,” said Frank Forndron, director – head of quality management for SAP MENA & EMEA emerging markets.

“By changing the way companies consume and use technology, cloud computing is playing a crucial role in this context as a foundation for driving consolidation and innovation.”

Forndron said the ongoing need for organisations to be able to do more with less makes a strong business case for ERP consolidation, leading to reduced TCO, and the establishment of a “single source of truth” which speeds up decision-making and enables consistent business processes.

“In a nutshell, achieving higher integration and consolidating the ERP landscape is a very obvious approach for a CIO to drive down cost while at the same time enabling them to enhance business value and competitive edge.”

The shift from on-premises to cloud solutions means that channel partners will have to work differently, suggested Forndron.

“Cloud applications are designed to be simpler, hence require less professional services and eliminate to a large extent the lower value services. At the same time, however, this trend enables opportunities for higher-value services and becoming the trusted resource to bring new cloud capabilities in a continuous way while helping to transform customers to use these solutions most effectively,” he said.

This also means that channel partners must feel confident when it comes to core integration issues, as the focus continues to move away from single-vendor, best-of-breed platforms to a pick-and-mix service that helps customers – particularly SMBs – to navigate this complex and heavily-populated market.

“Channel partners play a prominent role in ERP consolidation and integration projects,” said Jawad Squalli. “Regional requirements mean there may be niche solutions that are needed to address fiscal or legal regulations, and these may be obtained externally.”

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