ERP: Boxing clever

ERP (enterprise resource planning) 7 successful selection secrets

An announcement from Oracle heralds a faster, cheaper, better-performing ERP system. IT Editor Malcolm Wheatley finds out what it’s all about.

For small and medium-sized manufacturers, implementing a new ERP system can be a costly and unnerving experience. There is no guarantee that the new system will work as advertised: stories of ERP failure, requiring expensive re-implementations, are commonplace.

What’s more, the process is time-consuming. Project teams are set up, and implementation consultants crawl through the business, defining the workings of the business processes to be built into the new system. Meetings abound. Lengthy tests and ‘conference room pilots’ are needed in order to test the new processes and make sure that they work as planned.

And, almost inevitably, businesses must dig deep into their pockets for new hardware and other add-ons: a database, perhaps, or supply chain connectivity applications, or reporting and analytics software. Each must be expensively commissioned, tested, and finetuned in order to work with the new ERP system, adding further cost and complexity.

But, the good news is, it doesn’t have to be like that, according to an intriguing announcement from software vendor Oracle. At a stroke, savings of up to 60% in both implementation time and costs are possible, holding out the prospect of a turnkey implementation in just 120 days. And all with less risk, less testing, and a better hardware performance.

Christian Fronteras, Managing Director, Redfaire
Christian Fronteras, Managing Director, Redfaire

“It eliminates all the technical complexities of an ERP implementation. You’re getting a single vendor relationship – Oracle – from top to bottom, together with hardware and software chosen and pre-configured to run perfectly together” Christian Fronteras, Managing Director, Redfaire

Thinking inside the box

What’s happened is that Oracle has packaged together parts of its extensive offerings in a bundle that has been pre-selected and fine-tuned so as to be appropriate for the needs of small and medium-sized manufacturers.

Notably, the bundle also includes hardware, in the shape of the server running the new ERP system.

Termed ‘Oracle Apps in a Box’, the initiative is a global one, designed to transform the experience of installing and commissioning a new ERP system. Hardware and software together, each optimised for the other.

And for once, the marketeer’s favourite word – ‘unique’ – is entirely apposite. Oracle is the only major ERP provider to own a computer server and workstation business, Sun Microsystems.

Plus, Oracle’s industry-leading database application, Oracle Database 11g, and its powerful Oracle JD Edwards ERP system, is the same system used by manufacturers such as British Sugar, Linpac, Silent Night, and Morgan Ceramics.

In other words, Oracle is providing everything that a manufacturer needs in order to implement a new ERP system: the ERP system itself, the database and supply chain connectivity software, and the hardware on which the software runs.

Sean Jackson, managing director, BSM Consulting
Sean Jackson, managing director, BSM Consulting

“Businesses with reasonably standard business processes, wanting proven best practice alongside a reduced timescale, reduced risk, and reduced cost, should carefully weigh-up Oracle’s initiative”Sean Jackson, managing director, BSM Consulting

“It eliminates all the technical complexities of an ERP implementation,” says Christian Fronteras, managing director of Oracle platinum partner and JD Edwards implementation specialist Redfaire. “You’re getting a single vendor relationship – Oracle – from top to bottom, together with hardware and software chosen and pre-configured to run perfectly together.”

Better still, adds Redfaire technical lead Andy Smith, the combination of hardware and software doesn’t just work well with each other, it also works well with your business. When the server is delivered to your door, tested and pre-loaded with software, it also includes Oracle’s powerful set of best practice Business Accelerate Solutions.

“Business Accelerators are pre-configured business processes,” he explains. “Turn the system on, and it takes you through a series of questions which determine which particular processes will represent best practice for your business – which it then reflects in the operation of the ERP system.”

And, what’s more, that system, has been pre-designed to run in an optimised manner on the hardware in question, adds Wayne Gratton, SolutionsPath business development director of Oracle partner Avnet Technology Solutions, which handles the software installation at its configuration centre in Tongeren, Belgium.

“Thanks to virtualisation, what would have required several boxes in the past now just runs on the one server,” he explains. “And as delivered, it’s ready to run – so you’re using your Oracle implementation partner to add value, rather than fine-tune hardware.”

And what of JD Edwards, the ERP part of the offering and arguably its most important component?

JD Edwards was taken under Oracle’s wing when it bought PeopleSoft, and it’s probably fair to say that the JD Edwards’ offering lost some mindshare among UK manufacturers at that point, notes Sean Jackson, managing director of management and technology consulting company BSM Consulting. But those days, it seems, are past and JD Edwards continues to gain traction in North America and Europe. It comes in your size “JD Edwards is used by some of the largest manufacturers in the world, and also by some of the smallest,” says Redfaire’s Fronteras. “Globally, it’s become the preferred Oracle offering for the mid-market, as opposed to Oracle’s other ERP system, the E-Business Suite.”

Boxing Clever with ERP for the Mid Market

At an event in Solihull on April 26, Oracle formally launches Oracle Apps in a Box in the UK. Experts from Oracle, implementation partner Redfaire, and independent consultants BSM Consulting will deliver insightful presentations, and be on hand to answer manufacturers’ questions.

Topics under discussion:

  1. What effect does the changing ERP landscape have on infrastructure options for mid sized companies?
  2. How do you build an ERP business case in this new environment?
  3. Is there a better way to deliver sophisticated ERP business systems simply and elegantly?
  4. What are the merits of cloud v hosting v SaaS, or do you keep IT infrastructure on premise?

Places are limited, so register straight away. For more information contact: Stephen Fox (sfox@redfaire.com) on 07812 590289 or go to http://innovationtour.co.uk/redfaire.

In terms of a business’s IT budget, pound-for pound, JD Edwards offers more functionality than many competitors, adds Redfaire technical lead Smith.

“Irrespective of your company’s size, you’re using the same code set,” he stresses. “A manufacturer with 5-10 users has the same ERP as a manufacturer with 25,000 users. The functionality is there all the time, and you grow into it as you need it: you don’t need to upgrade, switch versions, or buy anything extra.”

In short, says BSM Consulting’s Jackson, a small or medium-sized manufacturer looking for a new ERP system can achieve considerable savings, and a reduction in implementation risk and timescale, by taking a long hard look at Oracle Applications in a Box.

“It isn’t for everybody,” he sums up. “Manufacturers with highly specialised requirements may not find it suitable. But businesses with reasonably standard business processes, wanting proven best or good practice alongside a reduced timescale, reduced risk, and reduced cost, should carefully weigh-up Oracle’s initiative.”