While much of our work at Ultra is in the manufacturing or distribution sectors, we also have clients in service industries. In fact, nearly 10% of our clients are in the service sector.
When working with service organizations, we’re amazed to find how much of their process is performed using stand-alone spreadsheets or multiple disconnected systems purchased for a single purpose.
The Proverbial Patchwork
To illustrate this scenario, one client recently described their evolution of disparate, stand-alone systems as the old farmhouse, where a new room was added on when a new child was born. The end-result is that each new room’s floors, walls, and architecture are a kind of piecemeal patchwork – and do not match the rest of the house.
During the ERP selection this company is in great need of an IT roadmap, a five year plan of systems and architecture to meet up with the plans of the organization.
The Service Business Process
Ultra’s work with BPI (Business Process Improvement) is that of a lean office, and therefore a great fit for service industries as the service sector is all about the office (no manufacturing, no distribution, and no retail).
In our work, we have found the business processes of the service sector to be more complex than that of a typical manufacturing company. The needs of the service sector are more complex, require more ERP users, and in most cases are crying out for project management.
Yet, the numbers of ERP vendors who can meet these needs are much fewer than you would think.
There are point solutions with in most service segments. However, these solutions offer a much greater risk of business as they typically fall behind in technology given client’s lists of less than 100. The larger ERP players have 1000’s of clients paying 20% annual maintenance fees. A large war chest for R&D.
ERP Solutions for the Service Sector
In our work to date we have found the following eight software products that offer service companies the benefits of a fully integrated ERP. All of these vendors have large manufacturing or distribution segments, but also offer service companies the project management and project accounting functions that many service companies desperately need.
SAP and Oracle of course lead with their solutions; however, the price of these solutions given the number of users vs. revenues of service companies may make these solutions prohibitively expensive. Epicor, Microsoft Dynamics AX and Microsoft Dynamics NAV, Infor, NetSuite, and soon Sage all offer fully integrated project management solutions for these mid market service organizations.
The NetSuite offering is the most thorough, and considering the ten year cost, potentially the most expensive.
With Microsoft (AX and NAV) and Infor, it is all about finding the right partner, who has experience in the service sector. In Epicor, after wading through all the “job” jargon (for manufacturing), it also works very well in project management. And Sage has purchased a new project management tool which should be fully integrated in 2013 with X3.
To learn more about our work in the service sector, please email George Trudell, Ultra Partner at email@example.com.