Enterprise System Spectator blog: ERP and enterprise system vendor evaluation, selection, and implementation.

The Enterprise System Spectator

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Microsoft as the Good Guys

I spent a good part of this week at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Los Angeles, and I came away with this thought: in enterprise IT, Microsoft is turning into one of the "good guys."

When Microsoft ruled the world

First, let's turn back the clock. Around the turn of the last century, Microsoft had a lock on personal computing, especially with its Windows desktop OS and its Office productivity suite. Apple was in a far distant second place. Netscape had a head start with a Web browser but was soon crushed by Microsoft's Internet Explorer. Linux made inroads at the server level but never gained traction on the desktop. Microsoft on the desktop was like IBM in the data center in the 1980s. It was commonly said, whatever market Microsoft chooses to go after, it will soon dominate. The US Department of Justice and European Union pursued Microsoft on antitrust grounds, like the US did with IBM years before. But these actions seemed to do little to slow Microsoft's momentum.

But, what a difference a decade makes. The desktop is rapidly losing ground as the center of personal computing. Smartphones and tablet computer usage are exploding, and Microsoft has a tiny market share on both. Apple still has a small market share for desktops, especially in the enterprise, but it is now the choice for all the "cool kids." Microsoft still has a majority and growing share of the workload in corporate data centers (over half, even in large organizations, per our research at Computer Economics), but it is late to the game in cloud computing, which threatens the very reason-to-be for corporate data centers, long-term. Its search engine, Bing, has some interesting technology, but faces an uphill battle against Google, which dominates the search ad business. Therefore, in many markets, Microsoft is the underdog.

So, it was entirely fitting that the WPC Tuesday keynote this week began with a version of Coldplay's song," whose first line is, "I used to rule the world:

I used to rule the world
Seas would rise when I gave the word
Now in the morning I sleep alone
Sweep the streets I used to own

I used to roll the dice
Feel the fear in my enemies' eyes
Listen as the crowd would sing
"Now the old king is dead, long live the king!"
One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castle stands
Upon pillars of salt, and pillars of sand

There were signs of humility in the keynotes, such as Steve Ballmer remarking that the market share of Windows Phone had gone "from very small to very small." Even in touting success, such as with the roll-out of Windows 7 and Office 2010, there was none of the bluster we too-often see from certain enterprise vendors. Ballmer even had a hard time getting the partner audience to give a good hiss at the mention of a competitor.

So, as I'm listening to keynotes and conducting one-on-one interviews with Microsoft executives and partners, I'm getting the feeling that Microsoft is losing its place as everyone's favorite punching bag. In fact, it has a real opportunity to be the good guys in the enterprise IT marketplace.

I see this in three ways.

1. Offering safe platforms

Microsoft takes a lot of criticism for its proprietary technologies--especially from open source advocates (of which, I am one). I still believe that open source technologies, such as Linux, AJAX, and others, are a great foundation for building enterprise software. But, increasingly, independent software vendors (ISVs) are seeing Microsoft as another safe alternative.

It is not generally known, for example, that SAP--the granddaddy of enterprise software--is using Microsoft Visual Studios as the platform for scripting custom logic in its new Business ByDesign (ByD) cloud-based ERP system. SAP formerly did nearly all development in its proprietary ABAP language as well as in Java. But now, SAP apparently feels that Microsoft's C# is a better choice, at least for ByD. When I asked SAP about this a few months ago, an SAP executive told me, it's because most of the target market for ByD--small business--is already using Microsoft technologies.

This week, at the WPC, I ran into an executive of a Tier II ERP vendor, which competes with Microsoft Dynamics. I was surprised to see him at a Microsoft event. Why was he here, I asked. "Because, we're a Microsoft partner," he replied. "We use .NET, Lync, Sharepoint, and Microsoft's business intelligence capabilities as part of our product strategy. We're also using Azure to build cloud-based mobility apps."

Later in my one-on-one interviews with Microsoft executives, I asked about this. How can you compete with these enterprise software vendors in your Dynamics business, yet turn around and support them with your technology? The answer, in so many words, is that in the big picture, Microsoft will be more successful by being a safe platform provider for other vendors, than it will be by hoarding its technologies only for use by its own applications business.

So, at a time when other enterprise software vendors are questioning their commitment to Java, in light of Oracle's acquisition of Sun, Microsoft is starting to look like one of the good guys.

2. Focusing on cloud-value

Despite Steve Ballmer's talk about being "all in with the cloud," Microsoft's actual progress has been slow. From this perspective, Microsoft is seen as a laggard, falling behind cloud infrastructure providers such as Amazon, as well as SaaS providers, such as Salesforce.com and NetSuite. This has been my view for some time, and I still feel this way.

But from interviews with Dynamics executives, it's clear that there is some deep thinking going on about the cloud. Specifically, what is the value of cloud computing to customers? Is it only in cost-savings through outsourcing the infrastructure to a low-cost platform? Is it with all workloads equally, or with certain workloads? Are there parts of the enterprise suite that customers will more likely want to retain in-house, or with a trusted third party hosting provider, while moving other parts to a shared multi-tenant environment? What scenarios favor multi-tenant as the preferred architecture, due to the relationship between the tenants?

With many enterprise IT vendors today, where you stand on the cloud depends on where you sit. If you are a NetSuite or Salesforce.com, the only valid strategy is to have everything delivered as a pure multi-tenant SaaS offering. If you are a Larry Ellison, SaaS is a myth, or if you are a Harry Debes, the SaaS industry will collapse in two years.

But, with Microsoft there's no such dogmatism. Rather, it is thinking hard about where customers find the most value in cloud computing and is working to prioritize its migration to the cloud to focus on those value propositions. I just wish they would get there faster.

3. Enabling entrepreneurs

The third way in which Microsoft is the good guy is in the opportunity it offers to entrepreneurs. We all know that Microsoft's sells a lot of products to small and mid-size businesses. But Microsoft is also small-business-friendly in its partner channel. Attending the WPC is a real eye-opener: thousands of partners, mostly small businesses, many entrepreneurial, enabled by Microsoft's channel program. During these economic times, when everyone is championing small business as the key to economic prosperity, Microsoft is enabling thousands of entrepreneurs and small businesses worldwide to grow and compete successfully. In fact, IDC recently estimated the total 2010 revenue of the Microsoft partner ecosystem at US $580 billion. Compare that to Microsoft's revenue of approximately $60B, and you can see that every dollar Microsoft makes results in about 8 or 9 dollars of revenue for its partners. That's a big opportunity for Microsoft's 640,000 partners worldwide.

My interviews with three Microsoft partners also gave me insight into how these small businesses are winning in these difficult times. I interviewed Jeff Geisler, owner of Socius, a traditional CPA-type partner, which is growing steadily through the recession by acquiring smaller firms. I also met with Steve Thompson and Jim Sheehan from PowerObjects, a Microsoft CRM partner with strong development capabilities. Finally, I had a sit-down with Paul Tilling and Bob Hadingham at LexisNexis. Paul and Bob's group is an independent software developer in the UK that has taken its software for law firm practice management and is migrating it to Dynamics AX as its underlying platform. These three businesses have different focuses, but each is betting its business on Microsoft's partner channel.

With some other enterprise IT vendors, being a partner is a risky bet, as you sometimes find yourself competing against the vendor's direct sales force. Or, the vendor has a shifting strategy on where it wants to allow its partners to do business. Microsoft, by running 95% of its revenue through the channel, has no such conflict.

A closing thought

The choice of venue--Los Angeles--was entirely suiting to this theme. The city has seen hard times over the past several years. The glow is off the Golden State. The land of opportunity has been slow to recover from the recession. Our state budget is deep in the red and the business climate is going from bad to worse. It's a microcosm of most of the nation.

Microsoft could have chosen San Francisco or Silicon Valley, where it would have been just one more tech conference. Instead, it chose Los Angeles, where it could make a difference. In fact, I'm told, this was the largest business conference ever in Los Angeles, and was estimated to bring $45 million for local businesses.

So, once again, Microsoft is the good guy.

Related Posts

What’s new with Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012
Update on Microsoft Dynamics products and plans

by Frank Scavo, 7/14/2011 10:42:00 AM | permalink | e-mail this!

Read/post comments!

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The IT Spending Recovery and Implications for Enterprise Software

Computer Economics has just published its 22nd annual IT Spending and Staffing Benchmarks study. The latest data, based on our survey from the first half of 2011, shows that the US and Canada have emerged from the IT spending recession of the past two years. At the same time, the recovery is weak and organizations have not returned to the IT spending growth rates of the middle part of the previous decade.

That said, some industry sectors are showing IT spending growth rates well above the median 2.0% for the composite sample, as shown in the accompanying figure. The insurance sector leads the way, at 5.0% growth in IT operational spending, followed by wholesale distribution, discrete manufacturing, high tech, healthcare, and process manufacturing, which all beat the composite median.

To no surprise, the sector dragging the averages down is government. Median IT operational spending by governments is falling 3%, the second year in a row that IT organizations in the government sector have reduced spending. The retail and banking and finance sectors also continue to show below-average growth in median IT spending, at 1% and 1.1% respectively.

Other key findings include:
  • IT operational budgets as a percentage of revenue is 1.6% this year, down from 1.8% of revenue in 2010, as revenue gains outpace investment in IT.
  • In a continuation of a six-year trend, IT operational spending per user this year is declining to $6,667, down from $7,002 the prior year, on an inflation-adjusted basis. The long-term trend is indicative of improving IT operational efficiency but is being pushed further by the cost-cutting of the past three years.
  • After three years of zero growth, IT capital spending is up 1.8% at the median. Discrete manufacturing, energy and utilities, and high-tech sectors show the strongest growth in capital investment.
  • The modest increase in IT spending this year is not reflected in IT hiring plans: only 34% of organizations are increasing IT headcount, while 27% are reducing staff levels.
A free 40+ page executive summary of the IT Spending and Staffing Benchmarks study is available, along with a description of the full report.

Implications for Enterprise Software

The recovery in IT spending is certainly good news for enterprise software buyers and sellers. The stronger-than-average recovery in the manufacturing and distribution sectors is especially welcome, as these sectors were hammered hard early in the recession. In our soon-to-be-completed technology trends survey, we are already seeing signs of increasing interest in expanding ERP systems, replacing legacy systems, and new investments in CRM, supply chain management, business intelligence, and mobility applications.

At the same time, our data shows the recovery is weak. Although many organizations are now willing to spend, they still have one foot on the brake, ready to cut back or postpone new spending initiatives if the recovery slows. Fear of a double-dip recession is far from over.

This cautionary mood means that sellers should expect buyers to negotiate hard on price. Flexibility in payment terms, with milestone payments instead of cash up front will also be well received. With its subscription-based pricing and avoidance of large up-front costs, software-as-a-service (SaaS) will continue to be an attractive option for many buyers. Finally, many buyers will be looking to add new functionality to existing systems, rather than completely replace them. Vendors that are able to play well with others will benefit the most in this environment.

Related Posts

In defense of incremental innovation
Take our Technology Trends survey, and share in the final report

by Frank Scavo, 7/07/2011 12:55:00 PM | permalink | e-mail this!

Read/post comments!

Powered by Blogger

(c) 2002-2018, Frank Scavo.

Independent analysis of issues and trends in enterprise applications software and the strengths, weaknesses, advantages, and disadvantages of the vendors that provide them.

About the Enterprise System Spectator.

Frank Scavo Send tips, rumors, gossip, and feedback to Frank Scavo, at .

I'm interested in hearing about best practices, lessons learned, horror stories, and case studies of success or failure.

Selecting a new enterprise system can be a difficult decision. My consulting firm, Strativa, offers assistance that is independent and unbiased. For information on how we can help your organization make and carry out these decisions, write to me.

My IT research firm, Computer Economics provides metrics for IT management, such as IT spending and staffing benchmarks, technology adoption and investment trends, IT management best practices, IT salaries, outsourcing statistics, and more.

Go to latest postings

Search the Spectator!
Join over 1,700 subscribers on the Spectator email list!
Max. 1-2 times/month.
Easy one-click to unsubscribe anytime.

Follow me on Twitter
My RSS feed RSS News Feed

Computer Economics
IT Spending Ratios by Industry and Company Size
IT Spending as a Percentage of Revenue by Industry, Company Size, and Region
Outsourcing Statistics
IT Spending and Staffing Benchmarks
IT Staffing Ratios
IT Management Best Practices
Worldwide Technology Trends
IT Salary Report


2014 Best Independent ERP Blog - Winner 2013 Best ERP Writer - Winner Constant Contact 2010 All Star Technobabble Top 100 Analyst Blogs

Key References
Strativa: Business strategy consulting, strategic planning
Strativa: IT strategy consulting
Strativa: Business process improvement, process mapping, consultants
Strativa: IT due diligence
Strativa: ERP software selection consulting and vendor evaluation
Strativa: CRM software selection consulting and vendor evaluation
Strativa: Project management consulting, change management
StreetWolf: Digital creative studio specializing in web, mobile and social applications
Enterprise IT News: diginomica

Spectator Archives
May 2002
June 2002
July 2002
August 2002
September 2002
October 2002
November 2002
December 2002
January 2003
February 2003
March 2003
April 2003
May 2003
June 2003
July 2003
August 2003
September 2003
October 2003
November 2003
December 2003
January 2004
February 2004
March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009
December 2009
January 2010
February 2010
March 2010
April 2010
June 2010
July 2010
August 2010
September 2010
October 2010
November 2010
December 2010
January 2011
February 2011
March 2011
April 2011
May 2011
July 2011
August 2011
September 2011
October 2011
November 2011
December 2011
January 2012
February 2012
March 2012
April 2012
May 2012
June 2012
July 2012
September 2012
October 2012
December 2012
January 2013
February 2013
March 2013
May 2013
June 2013
July 2013
September 2013
October 2013
December 2013
January 2014
February 2014
March 2014
April 2014
May 2014
June 2014
July 2014
August 2014
September 2014
October 2014
November 2014
December 2014
February 2015
March 2015
April 2015
May 2015
June 2015
July 2015
September 2015
October 2015
November 2015
February 2016
May 2016
June 2016
July 2016
August 2016
September 2016
October 2016
January 2017
February 2017
May 2017
June 2017
October 2017
January 2018
April 2018
May 2018
January 2019
February 2019
Latest postings