In the other blogs in this series, we’ve examined in detail how White-Label ERP solutions can deliver a world-class experience, and why personalization is key to fending off the challenge from the big ERP vendors. Now it’s time to turn the tables and look at the issue from a customer perspective.
Why do they choose to stick with one of the Tier 1 ERP solutions, or push the limits with an industry-focused solution provided by an independent software vendor? It’s not just a question of comfort zone. An off-the-shelf Tier 1 solution doesn’t always mean generic or familiar, and a local ERP solution isn’t always disruptive or exclusive.
What does distinguish global from local, however, is that local solutions can satisfy business needs that global solutions don’t accommodate by design. Customizing a global solution often comes with a hefty price tag and that’s without taking the levels of bureaucracy involved into account. Independent software vendors on the other hand have to be more nimble. They need to cost-efficiently craft their solutions in line with customer expectations to stand out from the crowd.
Today’s Customer is on the Move
Whether by choice or necessity, every business today is faced with the challenge of implementing a digital transformation strategy. Staying still is not an option as digital ousts paper, cloud replaces on-premise, and mobile overtakes desktop.
These are the structural elements, but there are also the challenges of serving customers who also expect a digitally connected, always-on, personalized experience.
The way businesses communicate, organize, distribute and sell is constantly evolving. An off-the-shelf or monolithic ERP solution launched or revamped just a few years ago could already be out of date.
Yes, vendors such as Oracle and SAP can release new functionality at regular intervals and consistently scour the start-up marketplace for disruptive solutions they can acquire and integrate into their ERP. But they can’t move fast, and that means they are inevitably lagging behind the pace of the niche verticals who choose a customized, often industry-focused solution instead.
IT is at the Centre
Today’s IT manager is no longer a peripheral, somewhat misunderstood figure in the business. Their insight and strategy are now integral to the overall business goals.
Independent software vendors can support them with solutions that get upstream of their next challenge. That means helping them extract maximum value from their data and turn into actionable insight, and empower their teams to collaborate across multiple devices, platforms and locations.
That comes down to the simple advantage that local software developers can foster personal relationships with their customers that fall outside the scope of the large global players. IT managers who work with an independent software vendor do not have to communicate through multiple layers or reseller channel partners as they do with the global vendors. Instead, there’s a number and a name to call.
An off-the-shelf solution can fulfil their drive for greater efficiency at a lower cost, but that’s not a business differentiator so much as good housekeeping. They are looking for a partner who understands their vertical, their challenges and their goals – opening up the procurement roster to independent software vendors with expertise in that sector.
Customized Solutions for Designated Verticals
Some mature industries can by their very nature select from a larger pool of vendors. Manufacturing, for example, with its big operational challenges and substantial budgets, has always been front of mind for big vendors.
Likewise, Finance, Supply Chain Management and HR all offer the scale and complexity that vendors of off-the-shelf solutions can get their teeth into at cost. These are the process-heavy sectors where an automated solution that can cut human input and error, streamline workflows and eliminate duplication will always establish an advantage.
But what about the verticals that have recently matured into ERP, and are more willing to consider a solution that isn’t from the Big 10? They may have dabbled with SaaS solutions or applications such as Hubspot, Salesforce, Xero, Shopify, QuickBooks, Magento, or other utilities on an unstructured, ad hoc basis, but are ready to integrate their functions into a single platform.
Independent software vendors can craft that single-platform solution, and it won’t be one that has the customary 20% of features used and the other 80% redundant. Neither will it have to be the same platform that their competitors are using. Personalized ERP solutions can adapt for local currencies, languages, regulations, individual nuances, and so on – or it can integrate seamlessly with other apps or software.
How White-Label ERP can facilitate localization
With the focus on localized solutions comes the incentive for independent software vendors to double down on their USPs through the support of a White-Label ERP partner. The White-Label solution takes care of the ‘heavy lifting’ – the broader functions that need a reliable, thoroughly tested solution. The independent software vendor has the ability to build onto that foundation, extend it, or integrate additional solutions without the need for upgrades or core code. As a result, the independent software vendor can bring a compelling, fully differentiated proposition to a highly localized market, even with limited or outdated development resources.
Independent software vendors should be aiming to dazzle their customers to the point where their jaws drop. That means proposing a solution to the challenges on their customers’ ‘To Do’ list.
Get to the Cloud
Independent software vendors need to be in a position where they can propose a solution that’s aligned to their customers’ needs. That could be a True Cloud solution but don’t forget the variations in between offer options and you are helping your customers by providing them with infrastructure options that are aligned with their business resources and objectives.
You’re allowing your customer to scale, stay flexible, be mobile, and secure their data. This will be a counter to the Global players who will force customers down the route that is most beneficial for them.
‘The future is mobile’ was yesterday. We’re fully immersed in mobile, from both a customer and employee perspective. Provide a business software application that easily and relevantly extends to mobile and your customers will be delighted.
As a specialist local vendor, you have the capacity to demystify technology that is still misunderstood, help your customers release the benefits, and point them towards processes and strategies they hadn’t considered.
What does the Dream ERP Look Like?
A vertical-focused solution can outflank the big ERP solutions without resorting to bells and whistles, gimmicks, or slick marketing campaigns. It can do so by targeting the add-on functions big ERP doesn’t cover. Whereas the traditional ERP was a system of record, log and reconcile payments or orders, today’s ERP needs to have an eye on the future.
Offer your customers the real-time insight to meet just-in-time schedules, or the data analytics for better forecasting and scheduling and they will become your evangelists.
Give them the role-based visibility to access data anywhere from any device, and you’re empowering them to synchronise supply and demand to the most refined degree. With every success, your solution gains an ambassador for your brand.
Trusted Advisers Make Great Vendors
The key piece in the jigsaw – beyond establishing a customized software solution that addresses business challenges – is to take the journey with the customer. That means not settling for being a software vendor but aspiring to be an implementation partner.
Customers will trust a thought leader in their sector, an industry expert who has the network contacts, experience and authority to offer insights that translate into value. They will put their faith in a new solution from a respected vendor as opposed to an ERP solution from an established brand if it comes with personal support, expert advice, and training, perhaps even the chance to call up the CEO when something important needs addressing.
Independent vendors focus on relationship building with a customer focus. Not just listing out their customer needs but helping them prioritise the functionality that will deliver the most immediate ROI.
Independent software vendors move to the drumbeat of customer-driven innovation, setting up their clients with the ability to tweak their own solution. They can get ahead on the apps and industry-focused features and functions that will not appear on the radar of the bigger platforms for a quarter or two, if ever. And they stay focused and move fast, twitching at any new developments or regulations in the sector and designing a solution that will be ready for when it becomes standard.
The irony of this article is that we’re arguing for a localized strategy in a globalized world. But it’s no paradox. Everywhere we encounter global platforms or services, they inevitably come with a battalion of cookies, checkboxes and preferences to customize and personalize our experience as quickly as possible in order to funnel us into a narrower category.
Our marketplaces are dynamic and responsive. It takes a localised approach to occupy the gaps the global players cannot reach.