Gartner Group introduced the term “ERP” in 1990. Twenty years later, it applies to far more than manufacturing and management of the resources needed to produce particular goods.
Gartner was trying to express the evolution of MRP (Materials Resource Planning) to a more encompassing expression: ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning). The key change was significant. “Materials,” which implies a linear management of raw materials to finished goods, also implies that the software’s primary purpose is in manufacturing – thus limiting it to only a portion of the corporate software using universe.
Evolving the phrase to Enterprise afforded us the opportunity to re-cast the software as a much more dynamic and encompassing solution. The only problem was that in 1990, only the Tier 1 applications like SAP and its million dollar price tag actually fulfilled this grand promise. To be fair, the middle market probably was not ready for ERP 20 years ago. Most of us were still trying to figure out word processors and fax machines, much less an Enterprise system.
Still, the need remains. Today, we are faced with a much more globally connected world. There is no longer the technical need to build or buy an SAP solution. Most importantly, the middle market end user is far more computer savvy. There is an expectation of a fully integrated complete solution that can go from basic GL to complete corporate management, no matter your business. Sadly, there are only a handful of applications in the middle market that come close to ERP utopia.
Microsoft’s Dynamics AX is a good solution, though the Microsoft marketing oversells the actual feature set. Epicor gets a nod as well.
Sage’s ERP X3 is still the most complete end-to-end solution and the only application that is 100% web-native. Its biggest drawback is that of the over 5,000 customers worldwide, only a couple of hundred are in the United States. This is due to the fact that, until recently, Sage mostly sold the product in North America directly through a handful of sales reps out of its Pittsburgh office.
Now that this product has been opened up to value-added resellers (VARs) in the states, I suspect that it will start gaining momentum, and others will finally make good on the promise of ERP.