ERP vendors bolster SMB offerings

With Fortune 100 companies becoming a saturated market for ERP (enterprise resource planning) vendors, it is inevitable that these players have set their sights on bringing the same ERP functionality to the SMB (small and medium-sized business) market. In the hope of expanding their customer base, a slew of ERP vendors launched their SMB-targeted products in Singapore recently.

Last week, SAP AG launched its Business One integrated solution for the small and mid-size business market. With this new offering, SAP has a comprehensive two-tiered strategy for the SMB sector in the form of mySAP All-in-One and SAP Business One, said Chan Wai Leong, managing director, Singapore, SAP Asia.

PeopleSoft has also announced its World Express suite, which is designed to let SMB customers deploy the software quickly. The software will provide predefined business process templates for PeopleSoft World Financials, PeopleSoft World Distribution, PeopleSoft World Manufacturing, PeopleSoft World Human Resources, and PeopleSoft World Project Management.

Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS) is also slated to release its Great Plains ERP software version 8.0 later this year. Microsoft applications target the SMB market as well and it has been reported that customers can expect more than 120 product enhancements focused around manufacturing, distribution and project accounting capabilities.

SAP Business One is the entry-level standard horizontal integrated solution that offers standard functionality and is suitable "for any SMB that needs to buy and sell products", said Sim Yew Meng, director of Saber Information Services, a SAP Business Partner. SAP Business One evolved from software developed by a small Israeli company called TopManage Financial Solutions, which SAP acquired in 2002.

MySAP All-in-One also targets SMBs, whose sizes range from five to 250 employees, but it is differentiated from Business One by being vertical specific. This is achieved by providing specific functionality for different All-in-One packages. An example is the All-in-One ABC Semiconductor Solution which provide functionality specifically for the semiconductor manufacturing industry.

Chan acknowledged that SAP has an image of being more expensive as it has been providing ERP solutions mostly to Fortune 100 enterprises. However, with the availability of SAP Business One and mySAP All-in-One, he hopes that perceptions will change.

According to Chan, in the first quarter of 2004, SAP acquired 100 new mid-market customers, of which 60 were emerging enterprises.

As for PeopleSoft, its World Express offering was developed exclusively on the IBM iSeries platform and is targeted at SMBs with annual revenues of between US$20 million and $100 million.

The new solution includes PeopleSoft World enterprise applications, configured with 31 industry-specific business processes, including Returning an Item to a Supplier, Performing Product Costing and Item Introduction, Purchasing an Inventory Item, and Managing Accounts Receivable Balances from certified channel partners.

These embedded business processes enable small businesses to implement the solution quickly with a rapid return on investment. The solution is available for industrial manufacturers, wholesale distributors, and construction companies.

Microsoft, on its part, unveiled the product of its biggest ERP development effort with the release of Great Plains version 8.0. This follows a 7.5 extension release last year. Version 8.0 aims to streamline business processes, improve visibility and offer better integration with Microsoft Office.

In addition to the usability features, 8.0 release will also focus on distribution features. This is in response to the gaps in functionality in previous versions and areas where manufacturing needs to get fully integrated. Usability is the main focus for version 8.0 release, said Microsoft.

Acquired in 2001, Great Plains is one of four ERP offerings Microsoft owns under its Business Solutions unit. The application focuses on the financial aspect of resource planning and management and features three key elements: financial management, allowing for accounting and finance operations; supply chain management, featuring manufacturing and procurement capabilities; and analytics for business reporting.

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