Software as a Service and ERP Systems

Software as a Service

SaaS means Software as a Service has started picking up in last decade as Internet presence and usage continue to increase. Software as a Service is based on pay as you go concept. It allows enterprises to get software as a service and pay for their usage only and thus making it affordable to smaller and medium enterprises.

More and more SaaS is offered using Cloud services means the application is hosted in an internet enabled data center and can be easily scaled based on enterprise demand. The costing model for SaaS normally is usage based comprising of number of users, resources they would use like number of days, number of transactions etc. SaaS based systems can be accessed using web browser (thin client) and not PC installed fat client software hence saving any maintenance, update and client software costs for enterprises.

As per Gartner Group report of 2011, SaaS services revenue has reached $10 billion by 2010 and it’s forecasted to increase to $21 billion+ by 2015. TOP 3 ERP vendors SAP, Oracle and Microsoft have also invested and offering SaaS based ERP solutions.

SAP’s SaaS Offering – SAP Business ByDesign

SAP is one the Key ERP vendors with high market share. In second half of 2007 SAP announced launch of SaaS based offering addressing small and medium enterprises. It is called SAP Business ByDesign. In August 2010 SAP Business ByDesign 2.5 was released to the market which offered further improved scalability and flexibility of choices.

Key offerings

  1. The solution is hosted by SAP partner and managed by SAP.
  2. For use by small and medium size enterprises having less than 500 users.
  3. Even companies requiring a low as 10 SAP Business ByDesign users can subscribe and monthly subscription ranges from $89 to $149 based on type of offering selected.
  4. The Solution has built in business analytics as well as application support and services.
  5. The offerings cover wide range of business areas. The areas covered are, Marketing, Sales, Service, Sourcing, Purchasing, Product Development, Supply Chain Planning and Control, Manufacturing, Warehousing, Logistics, Project Management, Cash Flow Management, Financials, Management Accounting, Human Resources and Employee Self Service.

Modules

  • Customer Relationship Management: Includes supports processes that cover marketing, sales and service activities.
  • Financial Management:  Provides single, up-to-date view of financial condition by integrating core business processes and financials that cover Financials, Management Accounting and Cash Flow Management.
  • Project Management:  Contains an integrated project management solution.
  • Supply Chain Management: Includes Supply Chain Setup Management, Supply Chain Planning and Control, and Manufacturing Warehousing and Logistics.
  • Supplier Relationship Management:  Focuses on relationships with suppliers, procurement processes to perform self-service procurement.
  • Human Resources Management: Covers Organizational Management, Human resources, and Employee self-service.
  • Executive Management Support: Helps management with better decision making. Its customized real time data analytics allow managers to accurately track the most important aspects of business.
  • Compliance Management: Focuses on helping enterprises maintain compliance with changing laws and regulations and to meet regulatory standards.

Flavors

CRM Starter Package: Consists of tools that help sales people in the enterprise and covers market to order business processes. Covers marketing and sales business processes areas.

Financial Starter Package: Focuses on core financials functionality that includes cash flow management, financials and account management, Human Resources and Project Management.

Professional Services Starter Package: Focuses on offering most of Market to Order and Order to Cash business processes. It does not cover Idea to Market processes and modules. Areas covered are Marketing, Sales, Sourcing, Purchasing, Project Management, Cash Flow Management, Financials, Management Accounting, Human Resources and Employee Self Service.

Configured for your business: This option makes all modules and functionalities available and is configured by SAP based on business demand and needs.

All in all SAP Business ByDesign offers complete business process integration and automation solution to small and medium enterprises at lower costs of ownership and faster implementation, expansion and use.

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SCRUM AGILE Project Need and Execution

The world markets and business changes are getting more and more dynamic every day. This leads to continuous business change and expectation to have change deployed in the shortest and fastest time frame possible with required agility and flexibility of business processes.

Given the speed of change and the part Information and Communication Technology is playing we have seen the need for how IT system changes are dealt with and executed. Business is constantly asking IT to make the IT system changes faster and faster while still ensuring quality, cost and time needs are efficiently managed.

A major part of IT system change execution is related to how its programs and projects are executed. The traditional project management methodologies and IT projects water fall method of executing and delivering project outcomes are not helping. The key reasons for water fall approach not working are,

  1. Business changes are dynamic and time to get the change done is shorter means even business doesn’t have the complete idea of every details of the product. Hence requiring faster iteration of part of the product benefits to build on the next set of requirements.
  2. The waterfall method of executing IT projects lead to long project execution cycle that relies on 100% clear business change requirements and detailed product requirements. This requires longer time to get things documented, designed, built and then longer testing, fixing and deployment times.
  3. With traditional waterfall project execution there is lost opportunity for improving the product as the business gets to see the product only at certain stage of the project by when there is not much room for changes given the need for speed.
  4. In traditional waterfall projects the business is unable to make interim decisions stopping the project or changing its path at any stage of the project for better product creation by saving time and cost spending.

The above reasons lead to the need of a new IT projects/programs execution methodology. In 1990s a new methodology emerged called SCRUM which gives the required agility in any IT product delivery. The methodology was more tried and used in early 2000 and last decade by big software development vendors that continuously work on software product development and releases.

SCRUM focuses on products delivery by delivering its prioritised features in smaller (2 to 4 weeks) iterative cycles known as sprint. Each sprint delivers a set of working product features to the product owner for testing and releasing it to production. The whole agile development cycle continues as iterative sprints until the entire product with all its features are delivered to the product owner.

As each sprint (iteration) is of maximum 4 weeks, the product owner at the end of each sprint has authority to approve the next sprint or cancel and stop further product development. The product owner also has authority to change product priorities and add or remove features to the product and hence allowing the agility and flexibility of product development.

There are other positive points of SCRUM (Agile) way of product development. The sprint is delivered by a team working on that sprint. The team has required skilled resources that choose the activities themselves and create a complete sprint plan. The team appoints one of the team members as SCRUM Master who ensures that every single day the team members update each other and SCRUM Master help to remove any roadblocks for a successful produce delivery. The entire team is responsible for product delivery and if a sprint is successful then it’s due to the entire team and when it fails the team notes down the downsides and work on improving it in next sprint.

All in all SCRUM (Agile) way of doing IT projects can be successfully used for all the projects/programs that are planned to deliver products. It’s said that by 2015 at least 80% of IT projects would be using SCRUM (Agile) way of doing projects. So the earlier we start using the better. Even if 70% of IT projects are done in SCRUM (Agile) way then it would do wonders for business change projects.