Canadian Enterprises Go Vertical With ERP

Microsoft Dynamics customers discuss complexity challenges, and partners explain how they’re helping 3/12/2008 10:02:00 AM

By: Briony Smith

ORLANDO — Canadian customers gathered at Microsoft‘s (NASDAQ: MSFT) Dynamics-based Convergence conference in Orlando Tuesday to discuss their recent implementations of Dynamics NAV-based products, which executives said highlighted the popularity of vertical-specific ERP and updating old technology.

Kristin MacMillan, director of operations with the Vancouver-based name badge company Imprint Plus, said that the company has many large clients and, during its growth, has been focusing on customer care and customization, which includes crafting a software solution that allows customers to craft their own ready-made badges. The company turned to Vancouver-based consulting company Habanero Consulting Group, said client experience manager Tracey Santos, which recommended the Dynamics NAV solution.

“They were looking for something flexible and scaleable that would offer a holistic solution,” she said. “They needed e-commerce, business intelligence, collaboration, CRM and ERP, so they needed a product that would touch on a lot of different domains, and scaleability was especially important as they have had a lot of growth.”

Users aren’t just looking for the basics anymore, according to Marc Di Giorgio of consulting company and Microsoft partner Industry Built. “Most buyers of ERP are getting smarter. It used to be about pure functionality when they weren’t as schooled in ERP. Now they’re concerned with risk, and user adoption,” he said.

Industry Built is a vertically-focused business, which includes its JustFood products geared toward the food industry. One customer is the Toronto-based CanGro, a fresh-pack food processor. The company was divested from Kraft where, according to IT manager Kirk Southcott, “there was some semblance of an ERP system.” The complex, cumbersome system had a lot of interfaces between them, said Southcott, and required a $5-million to run per year. Once Kraft started divestment, CanGro was given the choice to clone the current operations or start from scratch.

Getting vertical business’ management to spring for a new ERP system can be a hard sell, said Di Giorgio. “People don’t want to get ERP. If they’re going to invest in something, they want increased capacity. They usually need a trigger event for a reason to invest,” he said.

But, after looking at SAP (NYSE: SAP), the company went with the JustFood platform, performing a $2-million, six-month implementation for 160 users in July 2007. The last seven months have seen drastic improvements, said Southcott. “There’s been much more transparency in the system and for looking at the data. Our reporting speed is better, and our GL updates have gone from eight days to three. Our IT budget has been reduced by 50 per cent, and we’ve simplified our business processes,” he said.

Such vertical-specific applications are becoming more and more popular, according to Tim Hickernell, an associate senior analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group. User adoption at Imprint Plus was helped along by the familiar look-and-feel of the Microsoft product, said MacMillan.

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Canadian enterprises go vertical with ERP