Techaisle’s latest Cloud Computing Adoption study, a survey of 2,675 SMBs shows that CRM and ERP are approaching somewhat similar levels of adoption but are facing very different growth trajectories. Further analysis of the data from the survey shows an intriguing connection between the two applications.
Techaisle analyzed the extent to which use/intended use of each of these applications is connected with other applications captured in the survey. We found that SMBs using/planning to use both CRM and ERP have some common characteristics: in each case, buyers are looking to deploy vertical applications, Business Intelligence, project management – and the other solution (i.e., those using/planning use of CRM are also likely to be adopting ERP, and those using/planning use of ERP are also likely adopters of CRM).
This helps illustrate the importance of the types of suites that leading vendors like SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and NetSuite have assembled: buyers are consistently looking for a combination of capabilities, and will likely look as well for integration across these applications. The CRM side of this equation shows that marketing automation is an important attached application for CRM, which highlights the importance of recent investments in this area from Salesforce.com, Oracle, Microsoft and IBM, and the probable need for competitors to invest to match this offering.
Techaisle believes that the figure above (from the survey) helps illustrate the go-to-market challenge faced by SaaS suppliers. Buyers will certainly shop for individual applications, but will also look to cluster these applications into broader systems that integrate multiple requirements. We expect to see suppliers address these issues in one of three ways:
- Through acquisitions, enabling core solution providers to bolt on needed extensions
- Through alliances linking providers of complementary applications
- Through adherence to standards allowing for integration between individual applications.
At present, Salesforce.com’s Force.com is a clear leader in the third category (and we are seeing acquisitions within the Force.com community – such as FinancialForce.com’s purchase of Vana Workforce – indicating expansion across functions within the standards-led community). It will be interesting to see if other development platforms emerge to challenge Force.com in this area.
NetSuite Changing the Conversation to management of Customer Relationship
We all know that NetSuite is a clear leader in Cloud ERP solutions category. However, not many (beyond some of the users and customers of NetSuite) know that it also has an integrated CRM solution. Zach Nelson, CEO, NetSuite took the opportunity in his keynote address at SuiteWorld 2014 to emphasize that NetSuite’s solution enables any business to manage the entire customer-lifetime-value-cycle from lead generation to order fulfilment. His keynote certainly succeeded in shifting the conversation in two different but converging directions.
First shift in conversation: introducing NetSuite’s Suite Commerce Advanced for the omni-channel world, Zach Nelson emphasized that NetSuite (with its integrated ERP/CRM) helps a business manage complete customer relationship irrespective of the customer’s point-of-entry: online, in-store and/or catalog/call center. NetSuite is therefore putting equal importance to both being a Cloud ERP and CRM supplier. This is definitely the most vocal shift in conversation yet from yester-years. Granted that there are several important pieces missing such as marketing automation but current popular solutions such as Marketo, SilverPop (now IBM) and Act-On have already built integrations with NetSuite. And in all fairness, marketing automation in its present form will most likely go through a transformation as evidenced in Techaisle’s SMB Marketing Automation Adoption Trends study.
Second shift in conversation: NetSuite raised the question on the traditional definition and usage of CRM as we all know it, making the definition narrower rather than more-encompassing. CRM in NetSuite’s view is akin to SFA (Sales Force Automation). There is nothing wrong with this view except that this is not how most SMBs view their customer facing applications. CRM is the core application for SMBs and we have already seen that Sales Force Automation and Marketing Automation functions have been quickly incorporated along with Business Intelligence. All of these provide a 360 degree view of the sales and marketing process. After the SMB CRM base has been built (or simultaneously), the order of implementation depends on the SMB’s focus but survey data shows that it is usually Financials, HR/Payroll, customer service, ERP, fulfillment (SCM), industry vertical applications such as retail, communication, manufacturing, etc. The SMB buyer for applications is also moving increasingly toward the department that is responsible for delivering business results and Cloud CRM usually gets placed in middle of the SMB cloud application stack as sales revenue becomes the focus rather than tight cost control enabling rapid growth and agility.
NetSuite may have the Last Laugh
Irrespective from where the cycle starts, from CRM to ERP or vice-versa if there is a single unified database (with little requirement for data integration) that powers different application blocks: front-office driven by a single view of the customer (leads, sales, and service), tying these to accounts, billing and fulfillment, along with resource planning, materials and supply-chain management will make for a compelling value proposition for NetSuite. But NetSuite has a long way to go to convince a new customer base to be the Cloud CRM vendor of choice.
Most SMBs that have used CRM, SFA and ERP systems within the past few years are familiar with the dashboards that are available with many of these applications, either embedded or purchased separately. Dashboards continue to evolve and be dynamic in several ways; the way they use data from subsystems like ecommerce and other real time feed sources, the way users can personalize the layout of their dashboards and the ability to build KPIs “on-the-fly”. While several SaaS vendors allow this kind of metric building and start the user at a dashboard, we have yet to see anything targeted to the mid-market or SMBs that connects front office, production, fulfillment and customer service the way that NetSuite does almost out of the box. NetSuite is on the right but a long winding path.
With NetSuite’s growing market share its applications have also become complex to support the requirements of multi-country global businesses. NetSuite started from a base of SMB customers but over the years has moved upstream making inroads into enterprises. The implementation timelines, although not in years, is still counted in several months not exactly suitable and palatable to a large majority of SMBs that are planning to adopt cloud ERP and CRM. Even the channel partners that are currently offering and planning to offer ERP/CRM solutions do not have the necessary skill-sets and the manpower to provide support. The SMB ERP market is still open and available. Question is how NetSuite will address this market segment. Fear is if this is even a priority for NetSuite.