Managing ERP Ecosystems

The worldwide market is expected to climb to an estimated $55 billion for ERP-relatedsystems, support and services by 2000. These "ERP Ecosystems" are ERPimplementations that include ERP software vendors, systems integrators, systemsmanufacturers, distributors and IT infrastructure providers. For all parties involved, theideal situation is a customer-vendor relationship that ensures a successful execution.

Because implementing ERP causes organizations to make significant investments in anenterprise-wide project that is truly mission-critical (often uncharted territory forthose new to ERP), it often becomes a "life altering" experience for not only ITemployees, but the rank and file as well.


ERP projects generally include some kind of expansion: adding more users, implementingadditional core modules or embarking on data warehousing, supply chain management or salesforce automation. Adding to the complexity, these kinds of enterprise-wide projects rarelycome to an end. All of these factors make choosing the right reseller partners critical.

There is significant risk for customers implementing ERP because there are keyinfrastructure issues that -- if not planned for -- can easily stall or derail a project.First, the hardware and services associated with ERP implementations tend toward thehigher-end: multiple high-performance servers and disk arrays, backup devices andarchiving. In addition, the implementation services necessary for a successful ERP projectare complex-tasks such as high-availability, backup/restore and enterprise monitoring andmanagement.

Unfortunately, the level of expertise needed to guide customers through these issuesrarely comes from hardware-only resellers "selling boxes." The answer is for ITprofessionals to partner with infrastructure experts that not only resell but have teamswith proven success in the complex world of ERP.


This should include a commitment to developing quality business alliances and makinginvestments in the training and development of internal staff. And the willingness toprovide custom ERP programs and services designed to add customer value.

While that may be true for some of the players within the ERP Ecosystem, in reality,few hardware resellers have earned the status of true ERP implementation partners. Themissing link is the absence of value-added services.

True value-add is generated from the application of deep technical expertise which isrequired to architect, build and implement the IT infrastructure necessary to support thenew ERP Ecosystem and position it to deliver on expectations. This requires ongoinginvestments in ERP bolt-on software providers (those companies providing ERP applicationmanagement, ERP archiving, ERP backup/restore, ERP capacity planning, ERP network impactproduct providers); training programs offered by ERP software vendors as well as customtraining.


Another such value-added service which clearly benefits customers is a lab facilityequipped with the latest versions of leading ERP software packages and associatedhardware. This kind of facility allows for the test driving of applications in a risk-freeenvironment. And, of course, it's also wise for resellers to stay close to the industry'snew product offerings and enhancements through the ongoing participation in seminars andtechnical conferences.

Because of this, more and more businesses will be faced with the challenge ofidentifying ERP partners who distinguish themselves by demonstrating and optimizing truevalue. Doing the homework for choosing an infrastructure partner with the best combinationof options, expertise and alliances will set the stage for the ERP customer's satisfactionand success.

--Chris Wood, Alliance Manager, Forsythe Solutions Group,is a 14-yearIT industry veteran who has worked for Chrysler Motors, Sun Microsystems and SCO.