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Which ERP solution?

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is used by organisations going through their digital transformation to manage day-to-day core activities and processes; align departments and improve workflow. It simplifies key business functions, enabling a company to manage all the moving parts of their organisation in one place, and bringing a number of benefits to the digital change journey. There are a number of ERP options on the market, with two of the market leaders when it comes to full feature, all-in-one solutions being SAP Business One and NetSuite. SAP is a name synonymous with ERP as it was one of the pioneers in the space, but the advent of cloud technology allowed competitors including NetSuite to catch up by originally offering a low-cost subscription model, forcing SAP to also offer a cloud option to maintain its status. So how does a business choose between these two and how different are they? Purpose: SAP: for SME’s to help streamline and manage their businesses, with analytical tools and all major business functions in one place. NetSuite: for larger organisations, but used by everyone, it automates front and back-office processes and provides full reporting. Hosted: SAP: can be onsite or hosted in the cloud, or a hybrid of the two, with offline work syncing later an option. NetSuite: in a remote shared data centre, it is wholly hosted in the cloud, with no associated hardware. Both solutions are mobile device friendly and offer an app, and are therefore accessible to users from anywhere. Customisation & Scalability: SAP: Easy to customise from the dashboard widgets, enabling users to only see what they need to see, from a core foundation of full financials, operations, CRM, warehousing, inventory, payroll, purchasing and more. NetSuite: Full editing ability from forms to appearance, meaning you can integrate whatever features you need, though scalability comes in the form of third party written add-ons. External Integration: SAP: Transparent access to the database, for companies who want to examine the data with their own reporting tools. All industry-level requirements are met with SAP-certified solutions. NetSuite: Good integration and compatibility with third party systems, using add-ons to accommodate this, though these come with the associated cost of manual coding to integrate them. Analytics: SAP: Real-time access to data and reporting functions, though some may require separate licences. NetSuite: the SuiteAnalytics solution is very user-friendly, providing everything from KPI information to reporting. System updates: SAP: You can choose when to have your upgrades installed, avoiding any critical business times. NetSuite: Automatically updates twice a year to all customers simultaneously, which isn’t always convenient to users. The majority of feedback and reviews online have SAP shading NetSuite in terms of the user experience, though any decision on adoption should be centred around the specific needs of the business and which software can be adapted best to suit.

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What you can look forward to in wave 2 of Dynamics 365 in 2020

Microsoft Dynamics 365 is used by organisations across a range of industry sectors to integrate back-office functionality with in-store and online customer experience, as well as content and digital asset management. With its products also available in the Azure cloud, it has long been considered a best-in-class, secure, reliable, affordable product. October 2019 is set to be a busy month for Microsoft with some sweeping changes to the Dynamics 365 pricing and licensing coming at the same time as its wave 2 release. Microsoft is moving away from its current approach, the one-size-fits-all plans, to a base licence model with the ability to add further apps as and when needed. Given the diverse nature of the customer base, Microsoft believe that a more bespoke Dynamics 365 product that addresses the unique requirements of each organisation, with mix-and-match additional software to serve various functional roles, will be more desirable. So, its entry level Customer Engagement plan will form the base licence that can be augmented and the former next level plan, Unified Operations, will be split into separate apps – Finance, Supply Chain, Talent and Retail. At the same time, over 400 new capabilities, feature updates and cloud application enhancements will come to Dynamics 365 with its wave 2 release – one of its largest ever updates. Microsoft’s PowerApps and Flow products are also moving into a per-app pricing model. Microsoft is also taking the opportunity to roll out new AI-powered insights applications for business users, including Dynamics 365 Product Insights, Commerce, and Connected Store, as well as launching Dynamics 365 Commerce, an expansion of Dynamics 365 for Retail, to help retailers manage their business online. 365 Commerce will enable brands to create personalised product web pages, see customer reviews, and communicate with customers post-purchase, giving users the chance to harness artificial intelligence, data analytics and IoT tech to measure what's selling, who's buying and how to increase sales.

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How will Oracle grow in 2020?

2019 has seen Oracle downshift and downsize away from its legacy hardware business to focus on its higher-margin subscription cloud applications, such as NetSuite and Fusion. The ongoing process has had a net impressive impact on its Q4 results, with earnings of $3.7 billion and the highest non-GAAP operating margin in five years of 47%. A strategic alliance with Microsoft has also helped bring its cloud services and licence support revenue to $6.8 billion, with on-premise sales of $2.5 billion. The deal with Microsoft, in response to demand from customers who want to continue running both platforms when they move to the cloud, recently expanded to the UK, meaning that London is now in one of the two zones where Oracle and Microsoft customers can move applications to the cloud down a single pipe. Oracle has also announced a deal with key cloud technology player VMWare, making it easier for organisations using VMWare to move to Oracle’s cloud services. Cloud forerunners may cite Oracle’s conversion as a belated one, but Oracle has major plans in the cloud space, announcing a 15-month plan to open a new cloud region every 23 days, resulting in a total of 36 Oracle cloud infrastructure regions by the end of next year. To put this in perspective, one of the leading cloud service providers AWS is in 22 regions. They’re not stopping at infrastructure growth either, with a range of new services launching, including the introduction of a new free tier giving users a limited version of its Autonomous Database, an AI-powered digital voice assistant, and the first OS in the cloud to deliver automated patching and updates without any human intervention. The free tier is a clear move by Oracle to sign up the large number of organisations yet to move to the cloud, as well as attract the next generation of developers to build on the Oracle cloud, using its global academy programme to promote the new free services. With such a solid transitionary 2019, analysts are predicting Oracle’s 2020 revenue to be in excess of $40 billion.

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Why did SAP wait to embrace the cloud?

SAP is a name synonymous with ERP as one of the pioneers in the space and was a market leader for many years until the advent of cloud technology. SAP was a latecomer to the cloud and though it may have lost some market share to earlier adopters, its delay in embracing the cloud gave it an opportunity to audit the landscape and develop its own strategy. SAP pursued two routes into the cloud space back in 2012. Firstly, it showed its intent by gaining any lost ground through several high-profile acquisitions of companies with cloud products, notably Concur, Success Factors, Hybris and Ariba. Once a foothold was established, SAP brokered partnerships for infrastructure services with the likes of IBM to sell its own cloud-based solutions. Secondly, it learned from others, developed its internal capabilities, and came up with its own propositions to not only retain a market leader status, but also be innovative and disruptive, building its own cloud platforms, most notably SAP HANA. As a further extension of SAP HANA, it developed HEC, the SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud, which gives its customers the option of a private, fully managed cloud environment, run from secure data centres hosted by SAP. This not only affords the typical IaaS offerings but adds managed services by SAP HANA experts into the mix. Run on a subscription model, SAP HEC is a unique, bespoke option for HANA users. However, realising that every customer has different requirements, SAP’s cloud solutions don’t stop there, with the company evolving and simplifying its stance on cloud technology all the time to stay ahead of the curve, collaborating with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud to help organisations using SAP HANA move to the cloud through other means. A business that was deemed relatively late in cloud technology, SAP continues to make bold moves in the space. Capitalising on the recent demand for cloud-based data warehouse software, it has recently launched its own Data Warehouse Cloud repository in beta, with a view to rolling out it out in 2020, as well as a new native version of SAP HANA built specifically for the cloud.

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How to avoid ERP implementation failures in the planning stages

The estimated figures may vary wildly depending on the analyst, but it’s clear that a high percentage of ERP implementation projects ultimately fail, with some high-profile companies getting it publicly wrong over the years. Some experts suggest it’s around 60%, others have it as high as 75%, but they all concur on one thing: that the project failures are not brought about by the software itself in action, but instead are caused way before then, at the planning stage. Hasty, uninformed decisions made in the initial phases will almost always doom a project from the outset, rather than result in the desired increased efficiency and productivity. As a reminder to slow down to get it right, think S.P.E.E.D: Strategy A successful ERP implementation is all about creating enough time in advance to do sufficient planning and having a project strategy that is in line with your core business objectives. Put together a project team from across the business functions to hone requirements; do some competitor analysis; and construct a detailed RFP. You can’t spend too many hours on this part of the process. Partner Sending out an accurate RFP will solicit responses from those vendors that should be the best fit for your project requirements. You may need sector expertise from a partner, or have specific growth or customisation plans to accommodate, and this will help narrow your choice down until you can confirm the best vendor for your transformation plans. Expertise Most organisations don’t have the in-house expertise to guide a company through an ERP implementation and it’s important to understand that while IT departments will of course be heavily involved, they cannot undertake this project alone. There are plenty of project management specialists out there and investment in this talent, on an interim basis, is wise. A consultant will be able to anticipate issues based on previous experience and ensure that timescales and budgets remain on track. Engagement Every ERP implementation needs total buy-in from all stakeholders, especially those whose role will change with the new tech. The end goal needs to be communicated from the outset as well as the journey to get there explained. Too often this true engagement is missing, with employees simply informed about new processes or systems, rather than involved throughout the process. In general, people are wary of change, so the positive benefits need to be highlighted to bring everyone on board. Double check Training users on the new technology or processes isn’t enough to go live with an implementation. It’s vital that day-to-day work is able to continue with no downtime when the software is upgraded, so it needs to be rigorously tested in advance, not just on simulated tasks, but under real conditions. Having the vendor test offsite is not the same as having a first-time user attempt their new working processes under normal conditions. Double checking everything will ensure a smoother implementation day.

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