Cloud ERP systems come in various shapes and sizes. So different that some run super legacy backends as outdated as RGP. Replacing only their front-end layer, these vendors have tried to fake their way into selling a cloud ERP system. The others are so extreme that they might deploy an on-prem code base in their data center, arguing that the cloud is all about a “web link.” Some have even hired financial companies to translate their on-prem offerings into SaaS. The cloud term is so composite that you need a grid to measure and rank each factor.
To understand it better, let’s touch on the different benefits a cloud ERP system offers and how the cloud term may be used in each context. The benefits include: 1) financial translation of spend; 2) less reliance on IT; 3) mobility; 4) user experience, efficiencies gained through rearchitecting all layers for the modern stack. Most financial benefits are easier to productize — and understand. More challenging to articulate and realize are technology benefits, which some ERP users might intuitively understand. The others, on the other hand, generally struggle. Understanding only partially, even after using the system for many years.
This legacy experience adds to the training time and operational overheads with things such as 1) not being able to open the app in two tabs. 2) universal search being significantly limited with only searching data or menus. 3) limited traceability of transactions. 4) inability to have embedded experience with PDF reports with operational workflows. And you will only come to know how frustrating this could be once you start using a system.
- Definition of a Cloud ERP System. The richness of functionality in the cloud. How cloudy is the experience? Financial? Operational? Technical? All? Replaced only the front end? Or the whole stack? User experience modernized for the cloud interfaces?
- Overall market share/# of customers. The higher the market share in the cloud, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Ownership/funding. The more committed the management to the product roadmap in the cloud, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Quality of development. The more cloud-native capabilities, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Community/Ecosystem. The larger the community with a heavy presence from cloud users, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Depth of native functionality for specific industries. The deeper the publisher-owned out-of-the-box cloud-native functionality, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Quality of publicly available product documentation. The poorer the product documentation, the lower it ranks on our list.
- Cloud market share (and documented commitment of the publisher through financial statements). The higher the focus on the cloud, the higher the cloud ERP system ranks on our list.
- Ability to natively support diversified business models. The more diverse the product, the higher it ranks on our list.
- Acquisition strategy aligned with the cloud-native strategy. Acquiring legacy products to wrap in a fancy marketing package? The lower it ranks on our list.
- User Reviews. The deeper the reviews from cloud-native users, the higher the score for a specific product.
- Must be an ERP product. It can’t be an edge product such as QuickBooks, Freshbooks, Xero, Zendesk, HubSpot, or Salesforce. It also can’t be an add-on owned by ISVs or VARs that sits on top of other accounting platforms.
Odoo is a cloud-native system that targets small to medium-sized businesses. Born in the cloud, it has a consistent design throughout screens and modules. Include it on your list if a cloud-native experience is the most critical for you. But expect limited operational capabilities out-of-the-box for organizations over $50M in revenue.
- Designed for Global Companies. Fit for smaller companies that might have entities in many different countries. Regions such as Europe and South America are likely to benefit from Odoo. Why? These regions typically have multiple entities in many countries.
- User Experience and Consistent Design. Expect one of the best UX and consistent design patterns across screens and modules.
- Open Source. Save some costs in the licensing. But if you accounted for all the costs, including maintenance, hosting, etc., overall costs might be similar to comparable paid offerings.
- Out-of-the-box Capabilities to Support Larger Organizations. Due to the open-source nature, developers and IT departments have a tendency to over-customize. And that results in an inferior product experience, despite the cutting-edge UX of the core product.
- Limited Business Consulting Expertise. Consisting primarily of developers, the ecosystem doesn’t have a seasoned program, change management, and business consultants to keep the large programs on track.
- Limited Last Mile Capabilities. The last-mile capabilities for specific micro-verticals are limited and may require significant customization for their work with specific industries.
Overall, a great cloud ERP system for startups under $50M. And the best way to be successful with Odoo is to hire a seasoned business consultant. The consultants who have experience managing ERP implementations and integrations. But avoid the tendency to over-customize it to get the best experience from it.
Born in the cloud, Plex targets automotive, F&B, and industrial manufacturing verticals. Best fit if MES experience is critical for you. Not the best fit if you care for the deep ERP layers to gain operational efficiencies by decoupling process steps. Also, not suitable if you care for mixed-mode manufacturing.
- Born in the Cloud. Built from the ground up for the cloud-native experience. Consistent design and architecture across screens and modules.
- Manufacturing and MES. Designed from the perspective of automotive OEMs. Contains supply chain and quality processes tailored for specific micro-verticals.
- Automotive Capabilities. Built out of the box are the Toyota and Ford compliance and quality capabilities. Expect substantial efforts to enable similar capabilities with other similar products not tailored for automotive.
- Ecosystem. Plex approaches its implementations in the hand-off mode. And the consulting options might not be as prevalent due to the limited install base.
- Limited Focus on the Solution. Great for pure-play automotive companies. But it might not work for diverse business models, even within manufacturing.
- Not the best fit for Companies Growing Through M&A. Not the best fit for companies in the M&A cycle, whether planning for carve-outs, mergers, or acquisitions. Primarily due to the uncertainty of the to-be business model.
Overall, great fit for pure-play companies looking for a cloud ERP system in the Toyota and Ford ecosystems with up to $1B in revenue, starting from $50M. And suitable for? Companies with traceability and supply chain as part of their business model, such as F&B. But not the best fit? For diverse business models. Vet carefully not only your business model as of today. But also how your business model is likely to evolve.
Unique in its positioning, IFS targets mid-to-large project– and field-service-centric organizations that are asset-heavy. Ideal fit when you need best-of-breed field service and asset management capabilities, even as standalone offerings on top of SAP or Oracle. Not the best fit for? Mixed-mode manufacturing companies or companies that might have diverse business models or companies involved with the M&A cycles.
- User Experience and Interface. One of the most consistent user experiences that have been rearchitected and modernized, similar to born-in-the-cloud products.
- Best of Breed Field Service Capabilities. Abilities to manage the field service scheduling of over 50K field service technicians with substantial R&D investments in resource optimization capabilities.
- Best of Breed Asset Management Capabilities. One of the strongest asset-management capabilities for organizations with very thick asset and predictive maintenance needs, such as MRO organizations.
- Ecosystem. Expect a limited presence in North America and a lean partner ecosystem.
- Limited Focus. Companies with a diverse business model, such as manufacturing or expecting changes with the model, might outgrow or struggle with the solution.
- May not be the best fit for Companies Growing Through M&A. Companies involved with the M&A or the ones part of the PE portfolio might not be the best fit for IFS.
Overall, great fit for companies in the MRO and airline ecosystem looking for a cloud ERP system. As well as companies with the best-of-breed asset management and field services needs. But don’t forget to draw the process maps and annual operating plan for the next five years. Why? To remove the possibility of growing your business model outside of IFS’ comfort zone.
Born in the cloud, Acumatica targets distribution, construction, field services, and manufacturing-centric organizations primarily focused in a handful of countries (US, UK, etc.) that might have deeper operational needs and not as global financial needs. Ideal for companies that are $10-$100 M in revenue. Not so great fit for? Large global companies.
- One Product, Multiple Business Model. Perhaps one of the few products that can support several complex business models as part of the same package, ranging from construction, manufacturing, and distribution.
- Consumption-based Pricing. The consumption-based pricing model might be friendlier for companies that might require ERP seats for customer and vendor collaboration. Or may have seasonal workers with substantially low transaction volume, such as construction-centric businesses.
- Marketplace and Ecosystem. One of the most vibrant marketplaces and ecosystems with controlled procedures enforced by Acumatica for quality development.
- Globalization Capabilities. Acumatica would require hosting multiple countries in different instances with an external consolidation add-on and limited collaboration between those entities. Not the best fit for global companies with significant collaboration needs.
- Ability to Handle Larger Workloads. Primarily an SMB product and not designed to handle the workload of larger organizations.
- Not a Fit for Companies Growing Through M&A. The companies growing through M&A may require global capabilities or collaboration among entities. So may not be the best fit for? Holding or companies in the PE portfolio due to the aggressive M&A cycles and constant evolution of the business model.
Overall, consider Acumatica if you care for the cloud-native experience over deeper operational and global capabilities.
6. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central
Fully rearchitected for the cloud, Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central targets SMB companies with deep financial needs, PSA, and FMCG distribution. Ideal for global SMBs that might be present in multiple countries. Not the best fit for companies in the industrial distribution and manufacturing verticals because of their needs for complex operational capabilities that would require add-ons on top of MS Dynamics 365 BC.
- Designed for Global Companies. Natively supports global regions and localizations. Ideal fit for countries where the other suite-centric solutions might not be present. Such as? Acumatica, Epicor, or Infor.
- Deep Supply Chain Capabilities for Complex Distribution and Retail Organizations. The data model is friendlier for companies in the FMCG and distribution companies that may require native support for complex features. Such as? Bin tracking or license plate support.
- Ideal for Diverse Companies Growing Through M&A. The global nature and the available options through the marketplace make it ideal for? Companies growing through M&A, regardless of whether they might be vertically integrating or globally expanding.
- Limited Last Mile Capabilities. The native last-mile capabilities might be limited for? Industries such as industrial manufacturing or distribution.
- Technical Focus and Limited Business Consulting Expertise of the Microsoft Ecosystem. The ecosystem has technical companies, but their business consulting experience is limited, which might lead to over-customization and overengineering of Microsoft products, which ultimately leads to implementation failure.
- Limited Microsoft Support for Smaller Partners. Unlike other ERP companies, Microsoft doesn’t offer any support or control to its smaller products, which often leads to implementation issues because of the lack of control over the channel.
Overall, consider Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central if you are looking for global financial capabilities with a vibrant marketplace of developers.
5. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance & Operations
One of the deepest cloud solutions capable of supporting many business models on the same software platform. For? Large global companies without requiring add-ons and with the integrated WMS and TMS capabilities built as part of the platform. Ideal for global companies operating in several countries. Not so great fit for smaller companies under $250M in revenue, outgrowing QuickBooks or other smaller ERP systems.
- Designed for Large Organizations. Ideal for large, global companies with complex business models operating in multiple countries, requiring one system for the entire operations.
- Embedded WMS and TMS Processes. Embedded WMS and TMS processes help companies that might require end-to-end traceability even after the good leaves the dock.
- Mixed-mode Manufacturing Capabilities, including Process, Discrete, and PSA. Microsoft Dynamics 365 F&O can accommodate several business models as part of the same solution, such as PSA, process, and discrete manufacturing.
- May not be the Best Fit for Publically-traded Companies. The traceability requirements for publicly traded companies might not be as intuitive as the other ERP solutions designed from the perspective of the CFO.
- Ability to Handle MRP Runs of Fortune 500. Might not be the most suitable for the transactional workload and the MRP run of the fortune 500 due to the heavy lifting required.
- Overwhelming for Smaller Organizations. Companies under $250M in revenue or outgrowing smaller ERP or accounting systems such as QuickBooks might struggle. Why? Because of the data modeling and translation expertise required to be successful with the product.
Overall, consider Microsoft Dynamics 365 F&O if you have a globally diverse business model globally and trying to consolidate disparate business models and entities in one solution.
4. Oracle Cloud ERP
Oracle Cloud ERP targets large publicly traded organizations looking for deep global financial capabilities. Ideal for large service-centric organizations looking for robust finance capabilities in the best-of-breed setting. Not the best fit for smaller product-centric companies outgrowing smaller ERP or accounting systems.
- Designed for Large Service Organizations. The embedded HCM, CRM, and CPQ processes are suitable for large service-centric organizations with leaner inventory and operational needs. The P2P workflows are friendlier for indirect procurement organizations.
- Embedded WMS and TMS Processes. The embedded WMS and TMS processes are suitable for logistics and healthcare-centric organizations. As well as any other services-centric organizations leaner on their inventory management needs.
- Designed to Support Financial Processes of Large, Regulated Industries. The product architecture supports the needs of large complex financial organizations with deep sub-ledger hierarchies, the ability to close books at the subsidiary level, and keeping user-defined books for complex branch, fund, partnership accounting, etc.
- Limited Capabilities for Product-centric Companies. The P2P processes, CPQ, and manufacturing capabilities may not be the friendliest for product-centric organizations with the needs for MES, PLM, and S&OP-centric processes.
- Ability to Handle MRP Runs of Fortune 500. The workflows are friendlier for service-centric organizations where MRP layers might not be as deep. Might struggle with the complex MRP runs hitting millions and millions of costing, scheduling, and WIP industries.
- Overwhelming for Smaller Organizations. The data model and translations required to be successful with the product may be too overwhelming for companies outgrowing QuickBooks or other smaller ERP systems.
Overall, consider Oracle Cloud ERP if you are a large, global service-centric organization or buying a cloud ERP system primarily for financial and procurement, with an integrated HCM tailored for service-centric industries.
3. SAP S/4 HANA Cloud
SAP S/4 HANA targets large, public-centric product organizations with the need for very complex product models and MRP runs. Might be the best fit for large global companies looking to host all of their entities in one system. Might not be the best fit for companies outgrowing smaller ERP systems or QuickBooks due to the IT maturity required to implement the solution.
- HANA. Because of the power of HANA, SAP S/4 HANA can process very complex MRP runs with product models containing millions of serial numbers and SKUs and the ability to process millions of costing and scheduling entries much faster than most ERP systems.
- Best of Breed Capabilities Pre-integrated. The best-of-breed software, such as SAP Commerce Cloud, Hybris, Concur, SuccessFactors, and EWM, is pre-integrated with the SAP S/4 HANA that has the potential to save millions of dollars with integration.
- Financial Traceability for Large, Global Organizations. Large complex financial organizations require end-to-end traceability of SOX compliance workflows. The traceability is built with each document and transaction.
- Limited Last-mile Capabilities. The pre-baked last-mile capabilities specific to micro-industries might be limited. And may require either developing or add-ons on top of the core solution.
- Limited Capabilities of the Cloud Version and Marketplace Options. The cloud version is behind with development in comparison to the on-prem variant. The marketplace options are limited as well in comparison to other competing solutions and vendors.
- Overwhelming for Smaller Organizations. The data model is designed for large, complex organizations and might be overwhelming for smaller organizations outgrowing QuickBooks or smaller ERP systems.
Overall, consider SAP S/4 HANA if you are a large product-centric organization or a publicly traded organization looking to host all of your global subsidiaries in one system.
NetSuite targets SMB organizations operating in multiple countries that are service or commerce-focused. Ideal for organizations with diverse business models looking for the global financial ledger along with robust CRM workflows. Not the best fit for industrial distribution or manufacturing.
- Supports both Product and Service-centric Companies. Along with the robust financial ledger, CRM, and PSA, NetSuite can support the inventory needs of commerce-centric organizations.
- Marketplace and Ecosystem. NetSuite has one of the most vibrant marketplaces and ecosystems, with tons of pre-baked integrations and add-ons available.
- Ideal for Global Companies Growing Through M&A. NetSuite can support several diverse and global business models out of the box, making it ideal for companies part of the private equity portfolio and growing through M&A.
- Patchy User Experience. Although NetSuite was born in the cloud, the user experience is not as modern as Acumatica or Sage Intacct, making it slightly inferior for companies looking for a solution known for its user experience and cloud-nativeness.
- Not friendly for B2C, Unified Commerce, and Omnichannel Experience. You might run into performance issues in storing millions of B2C customer records and transactions that should be part of the commerce or OMS layer.
- Limited Manufacturing Capabilities. The BOMs and MRP capabilities are extremely limited and not really designed for the complex workflows of industrial manufacturing with busy shop floors.
Overall, consider NetSuite if you are a service-centric or a commerce SMB organization looking for global capabilities. Also, great for companies growing through acquisitions or private equity-owned.
1. Sage Intacct
Sage Intacct targets service-centric organizations such as non-profit, healthcare, financial services, software, and technology-centric organizations. Ideal for companies seeking deep capabilities on contract compliance, ASC606, and subscription-based capabilities. Not the best fit for inventory-centric organizations.
- Deep Subscription-centric Capabilities. Sage Intacct has one of the strongest subscription-centric capabilities, including ASC606, revenue recognition, payment terms at the contract line item level, intercompany accounting, and multi-element allocation.
- Globalized and Localized in over 120 countries. Sage Intacct can natively support multi-entity collaboration features of over 120 countries.
- Brightpearl, Procore, and Salesforce Integrations built and Owned by Sage. Brightpearl, Procore, and Salesforce integrations are owned and maintained by Sage, ensuring the quality of development.
- Manufacturing and Industrial Distribution Capabilities. Companies with diverse business models, such as tech companies with manufacturing or distribution needs, might struggle with the solution.
- Limited Supply Chain and CRM Capabilities. Primarily an accounting solution. So the solution doesn’t have any CRM capabilities at all. As well as limited supply chain capabilities, even for indirect procurement. Non-profit and healthcare organizations needing inventory and warehouse capabilities might struggle with the solution.
- Too Many Moving Pieces During Implementation. While the integration required for Brightpearl, Procore, and Salesforce is supported by Sage, there will be multiple parties involved during the implementation, increasing the implementation failure risk.
Overall, consider Sage Intacct if you are a service-centric organization in the non-profit, SaaS, healthcare, and financial services space.
Regardless of whether the cloud is an important factor for you or not, understanding cloud systems and the degree of their cloud-nativeness will help you identify fake options.
While analyzing the cloud as a factor, make sure to pay attention to each variable and rank them as per your needs. And if you really care for the cloud experience, hopefully, this list can help you provide you with a good starting point.