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   Nakul Patel 0  This document provides a comparison of the various cloud-based service offerings for ERP software based on the data collected from various internet sources. Soft-wares, in this report, are compared on the basis of general features such as pricing, support, etc. as well as on the basis of more specific features such as the supported modules and additional capabilities. In all, this assignment compares 7 of the industry perceived best cloud based ERP systems (viz., Plex Online, NetSuite, Epicor, Infor, SAP Business ByDesign, Microsoft Dynamics and Oracle) are described in detail towards the latter part of document. Software Package Comparison for Cloud-based ERP Systems Prepared by: Nakul Patel    1  CLOUD-BASED ERP SOFTWARE ANSWERING THE BIG WHY CLOUD ERP Cloud ERP is an approach to enterprise resource planning (ERP) that makes use of cloud computing platforms and services to provide a business with more flexible business process transformation. Enterprise resource planning is an industry term for the broad set of activities that helps a business manage the important parts of its business such as purchasing and inventory management. ERP applications can also include modules for the finance and human capital management aspects of a business. An ERP system integrates internal and external management information across the entire company, assimilating accounting, manufacturing processes, sales, and customer relationship management. ERP systems facilitate the flow of information between all business functions inside and outside the organization. In the cloud model, the software vendor houses and manages the software and buyers pay a subscription price for the software - typically on a monthly or annual basis. This removes the need for businesses to host and maintain the software and data on their own servers. This model is not to be confused with “web - enabled” software, which means that the software is still installed on-site but the data is accessible online. In both cases, system data can be accessed through an Internet connection, enabling employees to remotely access their business data through any device with online capabilities. To some industry experts, the promise of cloud computing is that it will provide an opportunity for business to completely transform how it uses and pays for information technology. For example, cloud-sourcing legacy ERP applications might eliminate the need for a business to purchase the necessary server and storage hardware and maintain it on site which, in turn, has the potential reduce operational expenditures (OPEX). Other industry experts, however, point out that the problems associated with ERP software deployments  –  such as integration problems between ERP modules a nd a company’s legacy systems –  would simply transfer to the cloud. THE CLOUD ERP SCENARIO   The wheels of a cloud based ERP system have started turning and it is expected that by the year 2015 global expenditure on cloud based ERP systems will have increased by 21% according to research carried out by Forrester!    2   According to a Gartner Forecast from late 2011, the SaaS-delivered ERP market will grow at a 14.7% compound annual growth rate until 2015. Manufacturing software vendors are moving their attention to the cloud and the market is divided between 4 major SaaS ERP players: NetSuite Manufacturing, Epicor Express for Manufacturing, Infor Industrial Manufacturing, and SAP Business ByDesign. The hope is that ERP software developed specifically for cloud computing environments will include new feature sets that were simply not possible using old technology. Until then, cloud ERP is seen as being good for startup organizations and new business divisions within an existing company. ADVANTAGES OF CLOUD-ERP The most common benefits of the cloud-based ERP systems are as follows  –  1. Minimized initial investment.  On-site ERP solutions require purchasing, housing and maintaining servers, then deploying, configuring, and maintaining the ERP software. The Cloud ERP solution does not require a substantial initial investment. The process of implementing, maintaining, and keeping the solution up to date is the responsibility of the solution provider. 2. Minimized technical staff implication.  By eliminating the costs and complexities of installing and integrating additional hardware to support the ERP, enterprises that use cloud-based solutions don’t have to hire additional technical staff to support the appli cation on an ongoing basis. 3. Increase ROI of the ERP application investment.  Cloud ERP solutions can easily be implemented and integrated faster into the enterprise’s day -to-day activity. 4. Increased scalability.  Cloud ERP systems are easily scalable to meet new business requirements. This benefit is particularly useful for enterprises with specific seasonal activities that need to quickly develop or integrate new functions to meet their business requirements. 5. Subscription benefits.  First and foremost, since all SaaS services are offered on a subscription basis, there are no unexpected costs. Customers know exactly how much the system will cost them this month, next month and every other month which is a very appealing prospect especially for smaller businesses whose funds tend to be considerably smaller. Even if the prices for the SaaS system do increase, they don’t tend to increase by a great deal.   FIGURE 1: BENEFITS OF CLOUD BASED ERP 6. Faster implementation.  Management and setup of an SaaS system are all the responsibility of the vendor so there no real setup or installation process. Most parts of the system will come preconfigured and ready to be setup integrate into your business. This results in a much faster and simpler setup process which ultimately lead to a faster ROI since initial costs are lower.    3  7. Lower initial costs.  Since an SaaS system requires very little in the way peripherals and such technology normally found in the average non cloud based ERP solution, the costs of running an SaaS system are much lower as well. The only maintenance cost to the customer would be the wage packet given to the employees using the software. What’s more, most ERP vendors allow for additional users to easily be added into the SaaS system without the need for any additional technology to be implemented so the system can expand easily if you ever need it to. 8. Fewer Responsibilities.  Running an in house system means brings with it the added responsibility of dealing with any problems that may occur such as on-site hardware implications, software problems and network issues which makes troubleshooting an error somewhat difficult. However, with an SaaS system all of this is the vendor’s responsibility so the customer does not need to worry about any problems that may occur. 9. Focus on what you are best at.  Possibly the major benefit of implementing any SaaS system is the freedom that the customer benefits from since many of the responsibilities of running and maintaining the system are given to the vendor so the customer can focus on doing what they do best  –  selling the products and services they offer.    4  A TYPICAL ERP SOFTWARE LOOKING CLOSELY AT ERP MODULES Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems integrate internal and external management information across an entire organization — embracing finance/accounting, manufacturing, sales and service, customer relationship management, etc. ERP software integrates all facets of an operation, including development, manufacturing, sales and marketing. The purpose of ERP is to facilitate the flow of information between all business functions inside the boundaries of the organization and manage the connections to outside stakeholders. ERP software consists of many enterprise software modules that are individually purchased, based on what best meets the specific needs and technical capabilities of the organization. Each ERP module is focused on one area of business processes, such as product development or marketing. Some of the more common ERP modules include those for product planning, material purchasing, inventory control, distribution, accounting, marketing, finance and HR. ERP SOFTWARE MODULES Different ERP modules cover common functional areas. Organizations implement the modules in ERP that are both economically and technically feasible and profitable. We will describe some of the common modules below. COMMON ERP MODULES    Finance &  Accounting  Supply Chain  Manufacturing  Materials Mgmt.  Sales  Project Mgmt.  CRM  HRM
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