There are only two Tier 1 ERP vendors – Oracle and SAP – but there are several Tier 2 vendors (and Microsoft is a Tier 2 vendor in the ERP space, despite what some say). If your company is a large or international business, you don’t have much choice and the chances are high that you are a Tier 1 ERP customer. If, however, the business is a small- or medium-size organisation, or if you have de-centralised divisions, you have a much wider choice of ERP vendors.
In June 2009, the analyst group, Gartner, published its “Magic Quadrant for Midmarket and Tier 2-Oriented ERP for Product-Centric Companies”, which is their evaluation of some major Tier 2 ERP vendors based on two criteria – Ability to Execute, and Completeness of Vision. For some consulting research I was asked to do, I had the opportunity to review the Gartner report and some of the comments that were made about it:
Tough to retire in this economy
The One and Only Choice in SMB ERP: Microsoft Dynamics AX
Gartner Mid-Market ERP Magic Quadrant: Should Have Stayed in Retirement
Gartner’s conservative mid-tier ERP Magic Quadrant
Leaving aside the comments about “where are the SaaS vendors?”, it interested me how analysts, all based in northern hemisphere, 1st World countries, were surprised why some vendors were placed where they were. For example, Frank Scavo’s amazement that:
QAD and Syspro show a better "ability to execute" than any SAP or Oracle product
Epicor Vantage shows a better "completeness of vision" than any SAP or Oracle product
The point is that these vendors have dealt with mid-market customers since they started and understand how those organisations operate and think. As I have mentioned in a previous blog, the super-size IT vendors have such a bloat of bureaucracy that they discourage the smaller, more nimble companies. The only way the Tier 1 ERP vendors can approach small- and mid-size companies is via a reseller channel which can communicate with that market in the appropriate way.
Gartner’s report classed only one Tier 2 ERP product as a leader, Microsoft Dynamics AX (Axapta has it used to be called). This surprised a number of bloggers, including me. The problem is that AX does not have a large customer base, and is more complex to implement than some of the other Tier 2 products. There has been a spate of comments on the ITToolbox ERP selection site about AX, for example, here; finding good and experienced AX implementation partners and consultants is not that easy, compared to a number of the other Tier 2 vendors.
Some people think that, because Microsoft is the global leading brand when it comes to desktop and server software, its ERP software must have the same attributes. Except for the CRM product, its ERP products were acquired – GP (formerly Great Plains) because it was strong in the US and UK, and NAV (Navision) and AX because of their presence in Europe. But as Dennis Howlett noted:
The reality is that Microsoft’s acquired products … don’t travel well. When they do, they travel inconsistently.
Another problem with Microsoft’s Dynamics division is the inconsistency of regional management; to some extent Microsoft is still dominated by a desktop and server marketing and sales mentality.
The Tier 2 vendors to watch are the Challengers as they “have broad and mature ERP systems” – SYSPRO, QAD, Oracle’s JD Edwards Enterprise One (formerly JD Edwards OneWorld), and Infor Syteline. I remember being told some time ago that it was the Challengers that have the best chance of becoming leaders, rather than the Visionaries.