by Thomas Wailgum

Wake Up People! Forget Twitter and iPhone Apps, and Focus on SAP and ERP Apps

Mar 12, 20093 mins
Enterprise Applications

Forget about Apple and Twitter and Facebook and the Kindle for a second. Can you? I know it’s difficult because they are everywhere.

Try a little harder.

OK. Now that I’ve got your attention, I’ll try to be brief (in less than 140 characters, even): Consumer electronics and smartphone apps and Facebook are irrelevant.

They are nothing more than a costly distraction, stealing your attention from the massive problems that you, your company and the business world now face: We’re in a deep recession (perhaps a depression), and your company’s core IT systems are going to be called on to do more and more (with less and less).

I know that the topic of “corporate IT considerations” is not as sexy as, say, the latest and greatest at the iPhone App Store, but in times of great business peril, this is when great business applications are absolutely essential—not farting iPhone apps, nor 140-character ramblings about your plans for tonight.

I’m talking about ERP. I’m talking about business intelligence software that actually offers users insights into why customers are or are not buying—and what you can do about it. Or supply chain apps that provide deep insight into blind spots in your logistics and inventory management.

Right now, the marketing group is powerless because everyone has shut down spending. Finance? What can they do except report on the fiscal carnage. And sales folk—well, they’re in tough shape too, with commissions now drier than the Sahara.

This is IT’s chance to be a hero.

And I actually don’t care whether you’re an official IT staffer or non-IT business user. It really doesn’t matter. We’re all in this mess together, and there’s simply no time for petty business-IT alignment dissonance. We’re all in business or out of business—either way, we’re together.

Now back to my original point: If only the business folk in this great nation of ours would obsess about business software and its vendors (Oracle, SAP, Microsoft and rival SaaS and open-source providers) as much as they fixate on consumer applications and devices.

Your companies are spending millions (and in some of the bigger cases, billions!) on these software packages and application suites that constitute the core, back-office systems that run everything now. And yet there seems to be a general ambivalence about enterprise software and about companies such as SAP.

But I would ask: Has there ever been a time when SAP, Oracle and the other enterprise software vendors that are essentially running your company have been more important?

A time when you should be grabbing legal and key managers to review all IT contracts and licenses with the utmost of diligence (how many seats do we actually need)? When you should be hammering your vendors on pricing considerations and SLAs and asking them exactly what kind of innovation you’re getting from paying their exorbitant maintenance fees? When you should be listening to—and not slamming the door on—SaaS vendors that can, in many cases, provide immediate wins and valuable business insight? When you should be ditching any corporate IT systems that aren’t adding value? When you should be strategizing about the cornerstone business applications—whether from Microsoft or Google—that will allow your company to emerge from 2009 and be ready for 2010?

Has there ever been a time when enterprise software vendors have been more important? No, I think not.