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Monday, January 20, 2014

Four Cloud ERP Providers on the Salesforce Platform

As cloud ERP solutions mature, they are becoming viable alternatives to traditional on-premises and hosted ERP systems. Dreamforce 2013, the annual conference of Salesforce.com users in San Francisco last November, offered a good opportunity to review the progress of four such cloud ERP systems—all built on the Salesforce.com platform.

Salesforce1: The Next Generation Salesforce Platform

During the conference, Salesforce unveiled the latest iteration of its platform, now dubbed Salesforce1, as shown in Figure 1.  The platform has a lot going for it.
  • It provides a complete applications development environment (a platform-as-a-service, or PaaS) running on Salesforce.com’s cloud infrastructure. Developers building on Salesforce1 can interoperate with any of Salesforce.com’s applications, such as its Sales Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud, as well as other third party applications built on the platform. 
  • It includes social business capabilities. Developers can incorporate Salesforce.com’s social business application, Chatter, as part of their systems. 
  • The platform puts mobile deployment at the center, allowing apps to be written once and be deployed simultaneously on a variety of user platforms, including desktop browsers, tablet computers, and smart phones. In support of the so-called "Internet of Things," Salesforce1 can even be deployed on connected devices. 
  • Finally, the platform provides a way for developers to market and sell their applications, by means of Salesforce.com’s AppExchange marketplace. 
For a detailed view of Salesforce1, see this review by Doug Henschen over at Information Week.

With Salesforce.com now the market leader in CRM, it is no wonder that its platform has become more and more attractive to developers. Building on this platform, third-party developers become, in essence, an ecosystem around Salesforce.com, with strong network effects. The more popular the platform becomes, the more it attracts developers. In return, the more developers build on the platform, the more attractive it becomes to other developers. It is a virtuous cycle.

In our consulting work at Strativa over the past three to five years, I’ve seen several cases where organizations first implemented Salesforce.com’s CRM system, then based on that success started looking to see whether they could replace their existing on-premises ERP system with a cloud-based solution. And, when they search the AppExchange, they find four cloud ERP providers: FinancialForce, Kenandy, Rootstock, and AscentERP.

I’ve been following these four providers for several years, and this post serves as an overview and update, based on briefings and interviews I conducted with these four vendors during the Dreamforce user conference.

FinancialForce

As the name implies, FinancialForce started in 2009 as an accounting and billing system. It was formed as a joint venture between UNIT4 and Salesforce.com. The company expanded into professional services automation in 2010 with the acquisition of a PSA system from Appirio, built on the Salesforce platform, and by building out its own services resource planning (SRP) functionality. More recently, Financialforce developed offerings for revenue recognition and credit control on the new Salesforce1 platform for revenue recognition, pushing these functions out to sales and services users in the field.

The company lists 50 customer case-studies on its website, an impressive number for a vendor that is only four or five years old.

At Dreamforce 2013, FinancialForce took two more steps to expand its ERP footprint. First, it announced acquisition of another AppExchange partner, Less Software, which provides configure-price-quote (CPQ), order fulfillment, service contracts, inventory management, and supplier management modules. Founded just two years ago, Less Software was already partnering and doing joint deals with FinancialForce, so the acquisition does not appear to acquire much if any integration work. FinancialForce refers to Less Software as having supply chain management (SCM) capabilities, but I would view that as somewhat of an exaggeration. There are some light warehouse management capabilities, but no transportation management or supply chain planning functionality that I can see. Less Software has had particular success in selling to value-added resellers, such as Cisco resellers, as well as to industrial distribution organizations and one manufacturer of children’s furniture.

The second step, announced during the conference, was the acquisition of Vana Workforce, a human capital management (HCM) software provider—which is also built on the Salesforce platform. Vana's HCM functionality includes core HR, talent management, recruitment compensation, time management, and absence management. Payroll is not provided, but the system can connect with a number of popular payroll systems. As with Less Software, Vana Workforce was already partnering with FinancialForce, so the integration effort, again, would appear to be minimal.

Organizations in the professional and technical services sector should take a look at FinancialForce, as well as anyone needing a financial management solution. With its acquisition of Less Software and Vana Workforce, FinancialForce now qualifies for the short list for distribution and light manufacturing companies. There were hints during my briefings that FinancialForce may continue with an acquisition strategy, so it is likely that additional industry sectors may become potential targets for this solution provider.

Kenandy

I covered the launch of Kenandy back in 2011, when I interviewed its CEO Sandra Kurtzig. Sandy was the original founder and CEO of ASK Group, the developer of the well-known ManMan ERP system. Her coming out of retirement to launch a new ERP system made a big splash at Dreamforce 2011, where she appeared on stage with Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff and Ray Lane, former Oracle President and now Kenandy board member representing investor firm, Kleiner Perkins. Salesforce.com is also an investor in Kenandy.

Since that launch, Kenandy has been rapidly adding functionality. It has its own financial systems, including general ledger, invoicing, accounts receivables, and accounts payables. Multi-company and multi-currency support were added earlier this year, with up to three reporting currencies. According to Kenandy executives I interviewed, the system also supports multiple plants with multiple locations in a single tenant. There is a full MRP explosion. Lot tracking and serial tracking allow Kenandy to sell into foods and other industries that require track and trace. Item revision levels are tracked with multiple revisions allowed in inventory.

Only three years in existence, the installed customer base is small but growing, with some impressive wins. During Dreamforce, Kenandy touted its recent win with Del Monte Foods, which implemented Kenandy for its acquisition of Natural Balance, a pet food manufacturer. I spent some time one-on-one with the Del Monte project leader, who provided quite a bit of insight into the dynamics of the implementation. Del Monte was able to implement Kenandy’s full suite—financials, customer order management, and distribution—in just three months. This included integrations with third-party systems for EDI, warehouse management, and transportation scheduling.

He also shared with me that he wrote a trade promotion management (TPM) system on the Salesforce platform, integrated with Kenandy, in just six weeks—and he did it by himself. He had previously built a similar system integrated with Del Monte’s legacy system, but that effort took seven months with a team of seven developers. Even discounting the fact that his previous experience might have made development of the second system easier, by my calculations this is about a 50 to 1 improvement in productivity, illustrating the power of the Salesforce platform.

Del Monte is not finished with Kenandy. The firm reportedly plans to eventually move all of Del Monte’s ERP processing from something like 60 internal systems to Kenandy.

More information Del Monte’s experience can be found in a case study on Kenandy’s website.

Rootstock

Rootstock Software is another manufacturing ERP provider with an interesting history. The management team, headed by CEO Pat Gerehy and COO Chuck Olinger, has decades of experience building manufacturing ERP, most recently at Relevant. Following the sale of Relevant to Consona (now Aptean), the team embarked on a new venture to build a manufacturing cloud ERP system from scratch. They developed their first iteration of Rootstock on the NetSuite platform in 2008, interoperating with NetSuite for financials and customer order processing. In 2010, however, they disengaged from their NetSuite partnership and rewrote Rootstock on the Salesforce platform. (That the Roostock developers could build a complete system so quickly on the NetSuite platform and then again on the Salesforce platform speaks to the power of these modern cloud platforms for rapid software development.)

As a result of the replatforming on Salesforce, Rootstock developed its own customer order management product and now partners with FinancialForce for its accounting systems. It also has good functionality for purchasing, production engineering, lot and serial tracking, MRP, MPS, and capacity planning, shop floor control, manufacturing costing, and PLM/PDM integration. The system can support multiple companies, multiple divisions, and multiple sites, all within a single tenant on the Salesforce platform.

On its website, Rootstock highlights an impressive list of 25 customers. These include Astrum Solar, a residential solar provider with operations in a dozen states in the US. EBARA International, a manufacturer of pumps and turbine expanders in the energy industry, with 77 subsidiaries and 11 affiliated companies worldwide.

Over the past year, Rootstock has been gaining traction. After the Dreamforce conference, it announced four more wins in the month of November: Microtherm, a business unit of ProMat International; Proveris, which provides testing protocols for drug developers; Source Outdoor, an outdoor furniture manufacturer; and Wilshire Coin, a coin dealer.

Buyers looking for strong manufacturing functionality, including hybrid modes of manufacturing, should consider Rootstock. Project-based manufacturing is also a sweet spot.

AscentERP

AscentERP approaches manufacturing ERP from the execution side of the business. Its co-founders, Michael Trent and Shaun McInerney, have a long history in warehouse management and data collection, and it shows in the capabilities of the product. Built from the start on the Salesforce platform, AscentERP supports production modes of build-to-order, assemble-to-order, and configure-to-order along with repetitive manufacturing capabilities. It can take opportunities from Salesforce.com and convert them into sales quotes and into sales orders in the production system. The system supports the complete manufacturing process from master planning, purchasing, production, and shipping. Reverse logistics is also supported through an RMA process.

Like Rootstock, AscentERP supports the accounting function through partnership with FinancialForce. In addition, the system also integrates with Intacct, another SaaS financials system. For smaller companies, Ascent created an integration with Quickbooks.

During Dreamforce, AscentERP announced advanced manufacturing functionality, including workflow and alerts, multi-plant and multi-location support, production scheduling and tablet computer data collection using the new Salesforce1 platform.

Reference accounts include Chambers Gasket in Chicago and All Traffic Solutions, a manufacturer of electronic roadside signs. Both of these customers use FinancialForce for financials. Other reference accounts include The Chia Company in Australia, the world’s largest grower of Chia seed and products, so familiar during holiday season, and SolarAid, an international charity that provides access to solar lighting.

Buyers may want to short list AscentERP if they are looking for a nuts-and-bolts production system with good support for warehouse management and data collection. Smaller companies may find the Quickbooks integration an interesting option, allowing them to implement ERP without having to give up Quickbooks.

One sales strategy I wish more enterprise SaaS providers would follow: AscentERP offers a free 30 day free trial on its website.

Cast a Wide Net

All ERP systems have their strengths and weaknesses, and these four are no exception. For example, all of these systems are relatively new. Although they are rapidly building out their functional footprints, there are still gaps in their functionality. Buyers that insist on having every box checked on their RFPs may not like this, but those buyers who are willing to do some system enhancements on the Salesforce platform may find that the advantages of speed and flexibility outweigh any short-term gaps. It all depends on whether buyers are viewing pure cloud deployment as a strategic advantage.

The four vendors outlined in this post are not the only cloud ERP providers in the market. Buyers should also consider other providers, not built on the Salesforce platform. These include established cloud players such as NetSuite and Plex, as well as newer entrants, such as Acumatica. Finally, some of the traditional providers of on-premises ERP systems, such as SAP, Oracle, Microsoft, Infor, and Epicor, offer hybrid cloud deployment options that may be alternative to these cloud-only providers.


Choosing the right ERP system—whether cloud, hosted, or on-premises—can be challenging. Those looking for more in-depth analysis and independent advice in navigating the process should consider our software selection consulting services at Strativa.

Related Posts

Kenandy: A New Cloud ERP Provider Emerges from Stealth Mode

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by Frank Scavo, 1/20/2014 10:05:00 AM | permalink | e-mail this!

 Reader Comments:

Great coverage of a very interesting part of the ERP market.

Kenandy and FinancialForce appear to have the largest customer penetration at this point (though, to be fair, I haven't seen comparative numbers on install base--so it's just an anecdotal guess). What's interesting about these two solutions imo is that the development strategy seems pretty clearly focused on most aggressively targeting professional service firms. While it's true that neither product lacks in basic supply chain management functionality for product driven companies, the manufacturing capabilities are comparatively lighter than the norm for solution type. (For instance, while both solutions have some MRP type functionality, neither goes so far as to natively include what could fairly be termed a full manufacturing execution system). On the flip-side, each of these products do include native project management systems--which can be absent in some of the more traditional, SMB-oriented solutions.

I wonder if you agree with the analysis of these solutions being intentionally positioned as solutions designed to most aggressively target the service firm market. Or, perhaps these developers simply believe that the need to integrate a 3rd party manufacturing system just isn't a significant competitive liability given the fact that products like Rootstock exist and can leverage the same underlying technology platform. In either case, I suspect more developers--and especially those with cloud-based solutions--will be entering the mainstream SMB oriented market willing to bring ERP solutions to the table without completely covering traditional manufacturing capabilities in their module suites.

 
Hi Adam, thanks. Many of the cloud ERP players have been targeting the professional and business services market, including FinancialForce, NetSuite, Intacct, and SAP Business ByDesign. Kenandy, which you mention at the beginning, does not. And FinancialForce, which you also mention, partners with Rootstock for heavier manufacturing industry prospects.

Then, of course, you have Plex, which is one of the oldest cloud-only ERP players, and it focuses exclusively on manufacturing companies.

As cloud ERP matures, you are going to see more industry sectors being covered. It's just a matter of time, IMO.
 
Hi Frank, thanks for the response.

I've seen the same service-firm targeting with some of the other cloud providers you mentioned as well (Intacct, NetSuite, By Design).

The Kenandy case is interesting to me. I'm less familiar with this provider than the other ones that were discussed. I was more-or-less working backwards from their module set in assuming they also heavily targeted service firms. But looking at their customer case studies at their site, it seems pretty clear the focus is definitely on manufacturing customers. Given their support of engineering, BoM, work orders, MRP, but the lack of a full production management/execution system, maybe they are simply more focused on made-to-order and job shop manufacturers? (But again this doesn't mesh entirely with their customer case studies.) I can't help but wonder if they have a preferred 3rd party solution for customers seeking production management/statistical quality management type functionality. Or maybe I'm just missing native functionality covering this in their online marketing materials!

In any case, thanks again for the excellent summary of the various developers working at the intersection of ERP functionality and the SalesForce platform.
 
Adam, Kenandy's largest customer is Big Heart (formerly Del Monte), so hard to say they are focused on MTO and job shops.

All of the providers I mentioned in my previous comment are relatively young (except Plex), so yes, they do a lot of partnering, and a lot of it is "opportunistic" (i.e. to address needs of a specific deal).

In fact, in nearly all cases, these vendors are developing a lot of their functionality in an opportunistic way--to address needs of specific new deals.
 
Absolutely. Looking at the published Kenandy customer list, in fact, it's mostly process manufacturers. I don't know if I see anything that could be labeled job shop or made-to-order. I guess I was just wondering aloud if some of the production/quality management functionality was coming from a 3rd party system or from a Kenandy application I was missing in my reading on the Kenandy solution.

It's also a point well-taken about the on-the-move development efforts to address large client needs. Perhaps upcoming Kenandy press releases will even answer my question about how some of the functionality was provided (in-house or 3rd party).

In any case, thanks again for the interesting reading.
 
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