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Hosted ERP Software Selection Complete
I recently assisted a client with a software selection project and thought I would share several of the discoveries and things learned in this post. This company required accounting software (general ledger, budgeting, accounts payable, accounts receivable and cash management), distribution software (sales order, purchase order and inventory) and customer relationship management (primarily sales force automation (SFA), but also marketing and customer support). As the client has about 145 users dispersed throughout the US and Canada as well as a few dozen users in satellite offices in the UK, France and Greece, we decided that an on-demand or hosted ERP solution would provided the greatest connectivity at the lowest cost and restricted our software selection to hosted or software-as-a-service (SaaS) products. Here's some of the take-away's from our project.
We first looked at NetSuite. We began discussions with a NetSuite VAR (value added reseller), however, later a direct sales guy became our point of contact. We were impressed with the enterprise-wide software capabilities. NetSuite started off as an online accounting system, however, has since developed full CRM and an integrated e-commerce storefront. The system offers every component of enterprise resource planning software. We had previously heard a lot of rumblings regarding the system being difficult to use but overall I thought the system navigation was reasonable. Late in the sales process we were exposed to a number of "add-on" fees which had the potential to ratchet up the cost significantly. One of the project team members had a negative NetSuite experience at their prior employer. Add to that the high number of rants and negative NetSuite reviews floating around the Internet and you are left with a cautious (somewhat skittish) project team. However, the final nail in the NetSuite coffin was the ridiculous and unacceptable disregard for system uptime and safeguarding of client data. While the company does provide a Service Level Agreement (SLA), we stumbled upon numerous web sites that had extracted text out of NetSuite's recently filed S1 statement highlighting the fact that NetSuite has no backup for any of its services.
We then looked at Aplicor. A few members on our project team were aware of Aplicor, however, most on the team were not. Like NetSuite, Aplicor offers a full ERP software system which includes accounting, distribution, manufacturing, HR and CRM software. Aplicor also has an e-commerce storefront, but also like NetSuite it wasn't that impressive. As a side note, NetSuite and Aplicor were the ONLY hosted products we could find that offered both ERP and CRM. We came across a few other SaaS vendors making the claim to deliver both, however, their idea of ERP was not credible. Aplicor is a much smaller company than NetSuite. While some may consider this a negative, we positively verified their company viability and thereafter considered their size to be a strength in terms of forming a more meaningful vendor partnership. After demo's, the project team believed Aplicor's number one product strength to be ease of use. Other areas of advantage included simple (non-technical) customization, a workflow module to easily automate activities and business processes and really cool reporting. Aplicor also offers an SLA and actually backs up their claims of assured uptime with multiple redundant data centers.
- Lastly, we looked at Intacct. A decent product although our IT lead had concerns about the product's scalability and interoperability in large part because the product was developed in PHP (and not Java or .NET). He seemed to feel that PHP isn't an enterprise level development platform and had reservations about performing integration and customization to a PHP solution. Intacct uses IBM for their hosting facilities and we acquired a good level of assurance for uptime and security. The downside for Intacct in our selection was the fact that the company didn't have any CRM - which then required an additional third party CRM purchase from Salesforce.com's AppExchange - which then dramatically increased the total cost of ownership (TCO) to an unacceptable level. We were also a bit leery of the company's viability (4 CEO's in the last 4 years, not profitable and seemingly living on venture money).
In the end we chose Aplicor. We're only about 30 days into the implementation and while so far everything looks good, I'll reserve my final opinion until at least the first post-implementation review.
Posted by: Jeffrey on 10.15.07
Posted in: SaaS, NetSuite, Aplicor, Intacct
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