Big Vendors Deserve Some Respect


Fall is a busy time for software industry analysts. It’s a season filled with vendors’ user conferences and some industry conferences. Throughout the course of attending these events I’ve come to the realization that big vendors are often considered the Rodney Dangerfield of the software industry: They get no respect. What I mean by no respect is revealed in snarky social media comments, less enthusiastic coverage by tech media than smaller vendors get and a general sense that big vendors don’t do anything new with their development efforts. However, I suggest this is a shortsighted view of the software world. Smaller vendors serve a valuable function as a source of innovation for the industry, but they get a disproportionate share of attention. I suggest the big vendors deserve businesses’ attention, too, when they consider new software purchases.

If we define big vendors as those with at least US$1 billion in annual revenue, the list of analytics and data management software platform vendors includes companies such as IBM, Informatica, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, SAS, Teradata and TIBCO. Each of these companies generates 10 to 100 times the revenue of even the most successful startup organizations. There are a handful of other large software platform vendors with revenue up to $1 billion such as Information Builders, MicroStrategy, Qlik, Splunk and Tableau. While the newer ones in this group still have some of the “glow” of their startup days, as a whole this group also suffers disrespect similar to the largest companies.

The fundamental problem is a mismatch in expectations. As an industry we should not generally expect groundbreaking innovations from the largest software companies. Sure, there are exceptions, but the focus of the largeventanaresearch_technologyinnovationawards_2016_white vendors’ research and development efforts is primarily on integrating various capabilities, often the result of an acquisition, and hardening those capabilities to stand up to mission-critical requirements. I recall working for a smaller “innovative” vendor that had hundreds of customers and tens of millions of dollars in revenue; the goal there with respect to workload management was to emulate one of the billion-dollar vendors above. It was considered “the gold standard.” So while the company had some innovative technology, we recognized that enterprises needed the features that larger, longer established vendors had been providing for years.

I’ve written about the interrelationship between large and small software vendors before as I described the software industry ecosystem. Small vendors often bring new technologies to market. Big vendors make things work, often in less obvious but also innovative ways. Both of these efforts are indispensable.

We kept this symbiosis in mind recently in completing our 2016 Ventana Research Technology Innovation Award Winners. In this list you will see a healthy representation of companies both large and small. Each has a role, so let’s give the big vendors some respect for the value that they provide.

Regards,

David Menninger

SVP & Research Director

Follow Me on Twitter @dmenningerVR and Connect with me on LinkedIn.

SYSPRO Advances with Collaboration and CRM


SYSPRO is a 35-year-old software vendor that focuses on selling enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to midsize companies, particularly those in manufacturing and distribution. In manufacturing, SYSPRO supports make, configure and assemble, engineer to order, make to stock and job shop environments. The company attempts to differentiate itself through vertical specialization and its years of ongoing development, which can reduce the need for customization and cut the cost of initial and ongoing configurations to suit the needs of companies in these industries, thereby reducing the total cost of ownership. Worldwide its targeted verticals include electronics, food, machinery and equipment and medical devices; in the United States, SYSPRO adds automotive parts (original equipment and after-market) and energy. The company’s development efforts follow a design philosophy that balances its target customers’ need for software capabilities that are on par with larger enterprises with their resource constraints (chiefly limited financial resources and technical staffs).  Its software can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud.

The ERP system is a pillar of nearly every company’s record-keeping and management of business processes. It is essential to the smooth functioning of the accounting and finance functions. After a decade of stasis, the evolutionary pace of technologies that shape the design of ERP systems began accelerating over the last couple of years, as I have noted. Reflecting this trend, SYSPRO recently introduced new capabilities to

  • Facilitate business process collaboration and information retrieval
  • Provide integrated customer relationship management functionality
  • Enhance the user experience
  • Expand its Web hosting offerings.

Because almost all business processes require collaboration, users of ERP systems need to work with colleagues in performing some functions within the application itself. In the past this typically required using email or a third-party instant messaging service, but recently vendors have started to incorporate collaboration services in their application suites. To this end, SYSPRO has added Harmony, a cloud-based platform that enables internal and external collaboration (the latter to interact with suppliers and channel partners). Harmony also facilitates the use of data analytics and reporting, which is helpful because it hasn’t always been easy to get information and insight directly out of ERP systems. In our Office of Finance benchmark research fewer than half (48%) of companies said they find it easy to get information from their ERP system. SYSPRO has added new predictive search capabilities to quickly provide the most relevant answers. Its vr_office_of_finance_21_information_access_in_erp_updatedWeb “robot” enables users to interact with SYSPRO’s applications using a natural language approach. For example, writing “Show me all invoices from ABC Co. over the last 12 months” will retrieve those records.

SYSPRO’s new CRM application enables companies to manage pipelines and marketing campaigns as well as handle service contracts. It also integrates with Microsoft Outlook to facilitate contact management. In its initial release the capabilities are basic, but it will likely meet many companies’ customers’ requirements. It has the advantage of being an integral part of the system so its total cost of ownership can be lower than that of similar systems. It is available as a cloud-based, multitenant offering or can be installed on-premises. The mobile version has a responsive user interface design that adapts to the specific device on which it’s running.

Keeping with an industry trend, SYSPRO has worked to simplify its user interface. Its Workbench UI is designed to make it easier for companies to tailor screens to the specific needs of individuals based on their roles or tasks without the help of a professional developer. Self-service configuration is an attractive capability for midsize companies because it reduces the cost of ownership and provides the application with greater flexibility when roles or processes need adjusting to meet changing business requirements.

SYSPRO provides customers with two basic cloud options. Its BusinessLive software as a service is a subscription offering that fully outsources the operation of the application and requires no capital outlays. Customers also can use SYSPRO to host their licensed software and avoid having to perform routine software maintenance or take care of hardware and security. SYSPRO recently added Microsoft Azure as an option for managed service in addition to Amazon Web Services.

As I’ve noted, deciding when to replace an ERP system can be complicated. Usually, companies need to do it because the business has outgrown (or will soon outgrow) its capacity to handle transaction volumes. Another trigger can be when it becomes too difficult to configure it to specific requirements because the company’s business model has changed significantly, it had to adjust its go-to-market strategy, added a new product line, expanded geographically or made an acquisition. I recommend that companies that operate in SYSPRO’s target industries and are considering replacing their existing ERP system evaluate the company’s software. Its ERP suite is functionally rich, and the company has demonstrated a commitment to protecting its customers’ investments by its dedication in applying technology advances to its applications.

Regards,

Robert Kugel

Senior Vice President Research

Follow Me on Twitter @rdkugelVR and

Connect with me on LinkedIn.