ERP vendors are continually improving their products with new features. In past years the focus has been on adding application function such as manufacturing planning, quality management, engineering application, and CRM. Recently the focus has changed from function to ease of use features.
At Ultra we noticed a couple of years ago that ERP buyers were focusing more on “ease of use” than function. One vendor, Epicor, has gained a significant advantage over its mid market competitors with its “ease of use” improvements. This has improved Epicor’s win rate to the point that competitors have taken notice.
In the last six months we have seen new releases from SAP, Lawson, and Infor’s Syteline that focus on “ease of use” capability. They have clearly seen the need to level the playing field in what industry veterans call the “beauty” contest.
The “beauty” contest focuses on things like navigation, personalization, integration with Microsoft Office, and quick access to information. Vendor sales consultants now are spending much of their time showing how easy their software is to use in these areas.
Why has “ease of use” become a dominant decision criteria? We can think of a few reasons:
- The business users in the buyer’s selection team translate “ease of use” into their own productivity improvement. They rank this highest in decision criteria especially when one product looks a lot easier to use than another.
- The application content of an ERP Implementation product far exceeds the expectations of buyers. Most vendors have the application content that goes way beyond what buyers have today, and the application function far exceeds the expectations. Therefore buyers are not using application function as a differentiating factor in selecting a vendor.
- The business users translate “ease of use” into easier to implement. This may not really be the case, but often we see buyers making that correlation.
- Easy to use also means easy to train new employees and easier to support. Again, buyers are placing more importance on these benefits than function.
At Ultra we think this is all good news for buyers. Increased user productivity is the significant business driver for these large ERP expenditures. Getting the vendors to focus more on ease of use will help companies improve their return on their investment.