In the last couple of weeks, in very different settings I have seen the future of ERP.
Invited to be part of UNIT4/FinancialForce’s sales kickoff in Madrid, Spain and that of Plex Systems in Troy, MI, I saw wildly enthusiastic sales teams, fluent about cloud computing but very focused on specific verticals and geographies. These are usually close knit events, and I was honored to be invited as an outsider to be part of both
Both vendors see huge opportunity in replacing previous generation on-premise ERP. In SAP Nation, I profiled Middlesbrough Council in the UK which is replacing SAP with UNIT4’s Agresso. Several other UK local governments are doing similar around their previous SAP and Oracle implementations. UNIT4 is focused on people centric, services-oriented industries.
Plex, on the other hand, is squarely focused on specific manufacturing industries – auto, aerospace/defense with a increasing focus on process sectors. In SAP Nation, I profiled Inteva which has replaced SAP upon its spin off from Delphi and reports significant economic and functional benefits.
There was plenty of cloud computing talk in both settings – but a nuanced version of cloud. UNIT4 emphasizes “cloud your way” sensitive to privacy settings in its target government sector. FinancialForce is built on the Salesforce platform and is much more vocal about that cloud. mobile, social technology. With Plex, the conversations easily drift into next-gen shop floors with wearables, robotics and 3D printing,
The UNIT4 gathering was impressively global with just about every European accent and plenty of UK/US representation in its FinancialForce unit. Plex showed off a graph about customers who have deployed its software in plants and other locations in 20 countries.
Beyond the “rip and replace” opportunity both chase, I was pleased to see both also talk about “two-tier” and “surround” opportunities. UNIT4 told me of several installations of their T&E and consolidation tools. HP, Lexmark and several other companies have implemented FinancialForce’s Professional Services Automation while continuing with older ERP for other functions. Plex described couple of large customers who are deploying its functionality at plants while continuing with other ERP for corporate functions.
In both cases, I also saw a new breed of investor. Both have private investors who have allowed them to invest heavily in product development and in expanding their field.
Both also have savvy CMOs. Ivo Totev of UNIT4 coached his sales team to become better “social ambassadors”. Heidi Melin of Plex is one of the most analytical, digitally savvy CMOs I know off in the software industry with all kinds of lead gen, and other sales funnel metrics.
I also got a much more realistic sense of partnering from both sets of executives. They are cautious about systems integrators, outsourcers and hosting firms which ran previous generation ERP. Both have seasoned services executives in their leadership teams and that should help insulate customers from the excesses of the past.
Neither of them has the brand advantage of their Silicon Valley SaaS ERP brethren, but their vertical and geographic reach make them formidable competitors.
In December, I wrote a Sand Hill column “There will be churn”. I doubt the audiences either in Madrid or Troy had read my column, but the enthusiastic vibe in both validated the theme of my column.
It’s going to be a really exciting 2015 for the ERP marketplace.