Why is it that technology vendors declare they are ERP agnostic like it’s a good thing?

Why is it that technology vendors declare they are ERP agnostic like it’s a good thing?

Posted by Pete Loughlin in Dynamic Discounting 13 Jun 2012

Don’t tell me your solution is ERP agnostic. I’m a believer in my ERP system and I want to deal with fellow believers. I don’t want to hear that you sit on the fence.

It’s a familiar dilemma for vendors. They’d like to please everyone – be all things to all men – or women for that matter. Sales people are always asking product development teams for more functionality, new connectors, compatibility with new standards and so on in order to be compatible with all possible scenarios. So being ERP agnostic – from the vendors point of view – seems like a good thing. Right?

Purchasing Insight logoI’m not a vendor. I’m a customer – and I only have one scenario – that’s the one I want you to be compatible with. Your ability to sell to all of my competitors and non-competitors in my industry and every other industry is as interesting to me as your share price. I don’t give a fig. (I use the word fig advisedly.) I want to know that your product is the best possible product for my circumstances and hearing you say that you’re are agnostic is like saying you don’t care about me.

I read a great article this week with a marketing message that really hits home. It was an interview in Business Software with Markus Ament from Taulia. In it, Markus makes it plain: “We focus ourselves. We are not ERP-agnostic — we’re an SAP solution. That sounds like a limitation, but it’s not. Roughly 70% of the spend of the Global 2000 runs through SAP systems”

If I’m an SAP house – that’s what I want to hear. I don’t want to hear that there’s an SAP connector. I don’t want to hear about integration layers. I want a native solution thank you very much.

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  • Paul Turner June 16, 2012 at 7:10 am /

    G’day Pete,

    Here in Australia (like many of the political systems based on the Westminster system of Government) during ‘question time’ in our Parliament; every second question comes from one side of the House directed to another Member on the same (political) ‘side’. It’s a question which has been approved in advance. The recipient of the question has prepared a ‘set answer’ in advance – in one sense the question is designed to evoke a certain response…It is called in our system, a “Dorothy Dixer”.

    I suspect your comments above are a “Dorothy Dixer” – designed to evoke a response. from those of us who don’t work for ERP vendors! 🙂

    Despite this suspicion I can’t help but respond anyway, you’ve got me hooked! (And if that IS what you’ve done – I want to leave you with an ‘ancient’ Aussie curse…

    “May your chooks (‘Chickens’ for those that don’t talk “Aussie”!) turn into Emu’s and kick your Dunny (Dunny = ‘Toilet’ in Aussie slang) door in!”

    Your comments certainly reflect the views of a large number of customers; but not a majority by any means – I know this for a fact! But how can I be so sure?

    I can be sure because unless I’m in a parallel universe; I’m working for an organization which has ‘bet its business’ for the last 25 years on customers wanting a ‘Best-of-Breed’, Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) solution, and one that is NOT from their ERP vendor. In this parallel universe, I must be imagining the 1,500,000 users of ours!)

    Whilst I can’t be so sure about WHY customers choose solutions from other than their ERP vendors, I suspect that their reasoning is reflected somewhere in the ‘menu’ of reasons like:

    A) “…I’m not a vendor. I’m a customer – and I only have one scenario – that’s the one I want you to be compatible with…”?

    Really? But hang on a second “…My ICT people tell me that we have an Oracle ERP system in our South-East Asian operations, a SAP system in North America (and they also tell me we have multiple ‘instances’ of SAP, one of them is a different version too), we’re running PeopleSoft is South America, and two different versions of JD Edwards in Europe. I don’t just have “..one scenario…” I have a dozen of them (and by the way don’t even think about suggesting we bring all the systems together onto one platform! Even I as a business user know a thing or two and read a thing or two about global organizations trying to do this, spend three years and tens of millions of dollars doing it…and for what? It’s just a license to our ERP vendor to…well…print more licences!!!”)

    B) “…I want to know that your product is the best possible product for my circumstances and hearing you say that you’re are agnostic is like saying you don’t care about me…”

    In many cases a Best-of-Breed product IS the ‘…best possible product…”.

    It’s very much ‘horses for courses’ Pete. In some scenarios the ERP vendor solution is best. In others it isn’t. For example, if there is only one ERP in place, one ‘instance’ of that ERP and one version of it…I’d buy whatever the vendor is selling me! (and by the way, the Forrester Wave analysis says exactly that anyway.)

    C) The “…couldn’t give a fig…” reason?

    Pete, I for one don’t run about like a headless chook telling my prospects and customers “Hey, buy me! I’m ERP agnostic you know!?” If I started to do this as a professional sales consultant I’d sack myself – unless I decided to ‘end it all’ first if I resorted to that!

    I seek to understand the problems that my clients and prospects are experiencing and only after I understand these do I even start to engage in discussions about the merits of certain approaches.

    I’m working with a CFO of a very large organisation whose CIO told him “…look, we’ve researched this and there is only one technically viable solution – the ERP vendor solution…”! (Which by the way, is actually offered by another software vendor anyway!)

    If that really is true then I must be in a parallel universe because my last 5 customers are using the same ERP and similar environment and architecture.

    The point is that being bloody-minded about “…it must be the ERP’s solution…”, is still bloody-mindedness whichever way you slice it. The aim of the organization should be to get the best solution to suit their particular needs and business problems – sometimes it is NOT the ERP vendors.

    D) Another reason why some organizations choose a solution other than the one their ERP vendor is offering is that they don’t want to increase their reliance on just one vendor. i.e. “…our ERP vendor has the bulk of our enterprise software spend now. Do I want to become even more reliant on them by pushing our P2P solution spend to them as well. And anyway, what if we merge with another organization with a different ERP? With a best-of-breed product we can just plug in the new ERP as well as the original one, and we’re back up and running!”

    Your Blog Pete is certainly thought provoking – on the other hand, you’re just repeating word-for-word what some of my prospects tell me. I think it’s silly saying “…I’ll have any solution as long as our vendor is selling it…”.

    Surely it’s better for organizations to evaluate their needs and choose the solution that ‘works’ best isn’t it?

    Cheers, Paul

  • john mardle June 21, 2012 at 11:56 am /

    Great post Paul and totally agree with all your comments but as you would expect from us Poms we just want to send out another ripple across the ‘ponds’ between us and the ‘continents’ by saying the following:
    Behind the ERP systems are, in many cases, ‘legacy’ systems. In front of the ERP systems are excel spreadsheets for ‘management reporting’ purposes and ‘Statutory reporting’ ie FRS/GAAP etc etc Therefore it requires both an ERP system and other apps to make it all click. However if one focuses purely on cash and deliver strategies regarding cash and deliver fully functional financial supply chains then one has to to say an agnostic approach is probbaly best…..although SAP buying Ariba is a big game changer in our books!

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