Help! We Need ERP and CRM Software, But We Can't Afford It Right Now!

Enterprise software investments are make-or-break, long-term deals—huge outlays of capital that can span months or even years. Now that we're all living in a world of financial hurt, it's become apparent that the banks still left standing after this quarter won't be dishing out credit as easy as before.

So what if your company needs serious finance help with your intended software or services plans right now? One option, notes Paula Rosenblum, a managing partner at Retail Systems Research, is to look at software-as-a-service (SaaS) for tech investments. "Over the short term, capital may be hard to come by. SaaS allows a company to buy only the number of transactions and horsepower it needs," she writes in a recent RSR column. "Non-intrusive optimization technologies can often bring rapid ROI by taking sales and order information and spitting out better assortment and pricing plans."

On the other side of the fence, what if you're a software vendor, and you can't close any deals now because your customers can't get the necessary financing?

"Enterprise software and service vendors without proper access to credit lines may find themselves unable to close deals with clients shut out from the credit markets," says Ray Wang, a VP and principal analyst at Forrester Research.

Wang points to a deal that enterprise software-maker Infor announced in late June 2008. Infor now offers customers financing options through IBM's Global Financing arm, which is the largest IT financier in the world, according to the two companies.

The new financing relationship allows Infor's customers to "move forward with their technology initiatives while spreading up-front payments over time, conserving cash for other investments," notes the announcement.

Hmmmm, isn't this how we got into this mess in the first place?

Whatever you think of the "benefits" to the customer, Wang thinks the financial ability that vendors such as IBM, Microsoft and Oracle have to provide financing deals to their customers is critical, especially given the horrific state of the economy. "Vendor-led financing initiatives may prove to be the lubricant that keeps tech spending moving forward," Wang says.

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