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Clear Strategic SolutionIn my blog published last week, I provided some insight on what to expect from SAP and Oracle over the next several years. While this topic always generates a good deal of interest from many of our clients and prospects, some are more interested in the smaller, Tier II systems than they are the larger, Tier I ERP vendors.

Potential buyers of ERP systems have a plethora of options when considering alternatives to SAP or Oracle. Options range from SaaS ERP systems to on-premise solutions focused on specific industry verticals. However, according to the research data summarized in our Clash of the Titans Report, Microsoft Dynamics, Infor and Epicor are the most frequently purchased and implemented Tier II ERP systems in the market.

Here are a few criteria to consider when evaluating these three ERP systems:

Usability and potential employee acceptance of the software. When evaluating potential ERP systems, it can be easy to get caught up in requirements checklists, demo scripts and cool bells and whistles – all while forgetting how easy or difficult it may be for employees to adapt to the new system. Not all Tier II ERP vendors have invested equally in their user interfaces, so it is important to take a close look at the difficulty of using the software from an employee perspective. All three of these vendors, along with other Tier II vendors, are investing heavily in their user interfaces, navigation and in many cases, providing a social media look and feel that employees are used to. It is important to ensure that the product you ultimately choose fits the demographics and capabilities of your employee base.

Make sure you’re looking at the right product. One of more confusing parts of evaluating potential ERP software options is the fact that some vendors have multiple offerings for different customers or industries. For example, those interested in Microsoft Dynamics may consider Axapta, Navision or Great Plains, while customers of Infor may consider Syteline, Visual or M3. In other words, choosing a new ERP system is often not as simple as choosing which vendor you are interested in. To further complicate matters, different value-added resellers specialize in different products from the same vendor, so they may end up pushing a product in the vendor’s portfolio that isn’t necessarily the right fit for your organization. Whatever you do, be sure to take the time to ensure you are using an independent and technology-agnostic source to determine the most appropriate products for your team to consider.

Understand the viability of the vendor and their product roadmap. One of the unique aspects of considering Tier II vendors is that you aren’t necessarily dealing with the most stable vendors or products in the market. We regularly see upstart ERP vendors appearing at the same rate that smaller legacy vendors are running into financial difficulties or being acquired by competitors. In addition to the stability of a software company, it’s also important to look at the company’s product roadmap to understand which of their products are most likely to be viable in the long-term. For example, it helps to look at where they are spending R&D dollars, which products are likely to divest and which products are most likely to fit the longer-term needs of your business over time.

Where are the gaps in the software and what are you going to do about it? No ERP software is a 100% perfect fit for any organization. By their very nature, all ERP systems have their own strengths and weaknesses and simply can’t be everything to everyone within your organization. This dynamic is even more common among the smaller ERP vendors, which don’t have the same R&D budgets as SAP and Oracle. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is important to identify where the weaknesses are and identify how those weaknesses will be addressed. For example, will you bolt on a third-party system to address the gaps? Force the business to change to fit the software deficiencies? Customize the software to meet your needs? Whatever the answer, it is important to have a clear understanding of the software’s deficiencies and a plan to address them.

While the above may not give a simple and clear answer on which of the Tier II products are best for your organization, it should provide an overview of things to consider when evaluating Microsoft Dynamics, Infor, Epicor and other potential Tier II ERP systems for your organization.

Learn more by downloading our white paper, Clash of the Titans 2014: An Independent Comparison of SAP, Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics

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