Accelerating (and Fast-Starting) the SME Business at Oracle (and SAP) - Part 3

Part 1 of this blog series outlined Oracle’s recent (and seemingly genuine) change of heart and approach towards partnering and catering enterprise applications to small and medium enterprises (SME’s). The analysis then moved onto the Oracle Accelerate program, which was launched about three years ago to allow partners to sell more smaller projects in a fixed time and price manner.

Oracle Accelerate is not only a partner program but also Oracle’s go-to-market approach to provide business software solutions to midsize organizations. Part 1 described the main constituent parts of the approach, while Part 2 talked about the program’s current state of affairs. Part 3 of this blog series will analyze the program’s latest partner-enablement developments as well as the inevitable room for improvements.

Oracle Accelerate Partners-Enabling Portal

To further enable its Accelerate partners, Oracle launched a new portal in late September 2009, called This is a resource focused on midsize customers and partners to search for geographic- and industry-specific solutions, as well as a platform for collaboration.

The new online storefront is where prospective midsize customers can quickly find solutions to fit their needs based on location, industry, and business requirements. The new Web presence, which features all available Oracle Accelerate solutions in the Oracle Accelerate Marketplace section, houses in-depth information on partners and their products, including user demonstrations, customer testimonials, and pricing.

The marketplace also allows prospective customers to contact Oracle Accelerate solutions providers directly. The abovementioned partner marketplace section is an online marketing portal for Oracle partners to highlight their Oracle Accelerate solutions. The section is tied to the main page and to the new Oracle Business Accelerators (OBA) pages to aid in awareness and demand generation activities. Partners are able to promote their company, expertise, and related Oracle Accelerate solutions.

Oracle envisions the portal as the go to place for anyone looking for Oracle applications for midsize companies, and thus the lead generation tool. Partners can have any of their own branded marketing assets (i.e., they do not necessarily need to be Oracle branded) on their dedicated partner and solutions pages.

The portal currently supports the following languages: English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Simplified Chinese. Available Oracle Accelerate solutions and partners can be filtered by country, and then further either by industry or product functionality (process flows). Accompanying featured marketing articles, white papers, and customer success stories are updated monthly.

To prevent (or at least mitigate) redundancy and competition between Oracle Consulting and Accelerate partners, Oracle has imposed a so-called “no fly zone” for its direct sales teams for United States (US) companies that have less than US$100 million in revenues. That limit is US$250 million in Europe, and these demarcation lines vary by region elsewhere.

In summary, the portal simplifies and intensifies Oracle’s message to midsize organizations about available regional applications, OBA’s, and solutions. The idea is to deliver more leads to the right partners faster. Future improvements will aim to include more industry- and geography-specific content, more solutions’ granularity, a Benefit-Cost Analysis (BCA) capabilities, and even more contextualized customer references.

What Else Could Be Improved?

Oracle Accelerate is a slowly but surely maturing program and is proving successful for Oracle partners and customers from an implementation perspective. The approach reduces risk for both partners and customers by promoting predictability of cost, project duration, and implementers’ experience. The fixed price and time commitment upfront is possible with the use of OBA's (as explained in Part 2), thereby bypassing endless whiteboarding and/or “brownpapering” business process-mapping brainstorming sessions from scratch and/or subsequent endless and dangerous customizations.

Generally speaking, preconfigured approaches provide a way to promote functionality for specific industry sectors and geographic markets. The questionnaire-based approaches for Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) and Oracle JD Edwards EnterpriseOne provide more than preconfigured content, since some of the configuration content is delivered based on how the questionnaire is answered.

Still, their success is not only dependent on investment from the vendors, but also buy-in from the channel. Convincing some partners to adjust their traditional lucrative “time and material” business models and move to new implementation paradigms, such as a high volume of fixed-bid and fixed-scope projects, might prove difficult for vendors and their ecosystems.

Oracle admits to having to occasionally do a “spring cleaning” of available solutions and partners that fail to meet the Accelerate quality standards. Namely, some partners would in the past use the Accelerate toolkits during the sales cycle only to lure the customer into a project, but would revert to the lucrative time & material-based billing in the deployment phase.

Oracle, as the original product provider, typically ends up with a tarnished reputation in those cases of maverick partners. Thus, the accelerated template-based approaches must be presented as opportunities with a clear path for partner profitability.

For its part, Oracle's fiercest competitor SAP plans to further involve its ecosystem in its SAP Business All-in-One Fast-Start program by allowing partners to develop their own industry solutions and online solution configurators (for upfront cost estimates) atop the baseline version provided by SAP. These particular SAP solutions for SME's will be detailed in Part 4.

Moreover, to date, there are not many customer references or case studies with multi-country Oracle Accelerate implementations. I am curious as whether this is a mere coincidence or the Accelerate model is mostly suitable for single sites and divisions. It thus remains to be seen whether Oracle Accelerate is conducive to the more complex multi-country environments that many midsize companies operate in today.

There could also be more initiatives in terms of total cost of ownership (TCO). Namely, Oracle Accelerate is currently pretty much a license- and project-based (i.e., transactional) business model. Post-go-live managed services and hosting could also be integrated into the program in a template-based fixed-price way. Oracle and some of its partners are responding on an ad-hoc basis, but many market observers foresee a much greater need for these services down the road.

Forget Not About SAP’s SME Portfolio

As said in Part 2prior to acquiring Business Objects in 2007, 65 percent of SAP’s business came from SME’s. It is a little known fact that SAP is currently working with over 68,000 successful SME customers around the world. After acquiring Business Objects, SAP has now more than 5,400 local partners to support the SME customer needs, and SAP’s business intelligence (BI) solutions are the most widely used by SMEs today (think of Crystal Reports).

With SMEs representing nearly 75 percent of its total customer base, SAP is investing heavily in the SME market for the long term. Moreover, SAP has been much longer in the SME space than Oracle Accelerate in terms of offering tailored programs and offerings. Of the 5,400 companies in SAP's SME ecosystem 2,800 are channel partners, while 2,600 are part of the open ecosystem (that summarizes the referral program and extended business program members).

SAP’s SME portfolio for streamlined processes and faster execution by SME customers starts with SAP BusinessOne at the lower-end of the market. Formerly called TopManage and renamed into SAP Business One soon after being acquired by SAP in 2002, it is an integrated solution to manage an entire small business of 10 to 100 employees (typically for up to 30 users).

SAP Business One

The product offers general business functionality for small businesses that have outgrown their packaged accounting-only solutions (e.g., Intuit Quickboks or Sage Peachtree). The functionality is reasonably broad for small businesses and includes customer relationship management (CRM), financials, production, warehousing, and inventory management. The product scope can be extended via the provided software development kit (SDK) for partners. To that end, there are currently over 550 partner solutions, including industry-specific micro-vertical solutions.

SAP Business One represents a traditional on-premise deployment with traditional perpetual per-user licensing, and is a partner play: i.e., exclusively sold via over 1,100 channel partners. The product is relatively easy to implement and use, with implementations typically going live in 6 to 8 weeks. With the introduction of the Accelerated Implementation Methodology, SAP Business One implementation times have improved to only 2 weeks in some cases.

In spite of some rumors of the product’s dubious future, SAP Business One is available in 20 languages and 40 country-specific versions. From about 800 customers that TopManage had in 2002, SAP Business One reached over 25,000 customers globally in early 2009.

In fact, SAP Business One is the SAP product with the largest install base. Also, SAP Business One is the second development platform by SAP after SAP NetWeaver. “Powered by NetWeaver” and “Enabled by SAP Business One” are the only two certification and testimonial logos that SAP assigns to certified third-party products.

SAP has lately been making many more channel-impacting initiatives for SAP Business One, such as the opportunity qualification tool, content provision (via E-university and E-learning), the SAP PartnerEdge program, etc. There is also a partner diversification and collaboration (referral rewards) program.

To that end, SAP Business One is sold via software solution partners (SSP’s) with micro-vertical solutions for repeated use and traditional value-added resellers (VAR’s) for individual deployments. Moreover, there are extended business partner programs such as "Best-Run Business Networks" (solution aggregators) for opportunistic sales into multiple subsidiaries and divisions, and distributors for repeatable sales of pre-configured and loaded solutions.

SAP Business One + Crystal Reports

While the enhancements continue in earnest, the landmark novelty is that Crystal Reports now comes as a standard part within SAP Business One. For those rare readers that are not familiar with Crystal Reports, it is popular report design, management, viewing, and distribution software for small businesses that have outgrown internally developed or spreadsheet-based reporting systems. Targeted for companies with up to 500 employees, the product is currently available in 12 languages and can be deployed on-premise, on-demand, and on desktop via traditional licensing and monthly subscriptions. Free trials are available too, and the product can usually be up-and-running (go live) in 2 to 8 days.

SAP Business One users can now design, modify, and run reports after populating data from the Business One database (or from any other data source in general) into pre-designed reports. They can also securely share, schedule, and deliver interactive reports over the web, in email, and embedded in Microsoft Office documents, using the Crystal Reports Server. Optionally (for an additional license), users can create a holistic view of their business by consolidating multiple reports into a single engaging dashboard, using the renowned Xcelsius visualization tool.

On the down side, SAP Business One has yet to jump onto the service oriented architecture (SOA) bandwagon, so that its technology foundation gets closer to SAP’s Enterprise Service Architecture (ESA) framework. In other words, when an SME company outgrows SAP Business One, it will have to go through a brand new implementation to be migrated to a larger SAP product.

As mentioned in Part 1, Oracle touts its Accelerate program as “set for life” for the customer, since the source code and functional scope is same for both large and small customers of, e.g., Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) or Oracle JD Edwards EnterpriseOne. The same (i.e., "set for life") is true for SAP Business All-in-One, which will be the focus of Part 4.

SAP Business ByDesign Chugging Along

SAP offers SAP Business ByDesign as another product for faster consumption by SME’s (in a limited release at this stage though). The software as a service (SaaS) offering contains the cherry-picked and rewritten best of SAP’s general business functionality (including Crystal Reports and Xcelsius) based on best practices, delivered on demand via monthly subscription. This on-demand software product targets companies with 100 to 500 employees that need business software but don’t want to support a large IT department backbone on site.

As reported in my recent blog post, SAP Business ByDesign is available only in the united States (US), Germany, France, United Kingdom (UK), China, and India, and has about 100 customers (by invitation only). These customers have reported the ability to go live in 4 to 8 weeks. 2010 is touted by SAP as the year of SAP Business ByDesign coming of age and general availability.

As mentioned earlier, the final part of this blog series will analyze the offering against which Oracle Accelerate is much more likely to face off in the market, which is SAP Business All-in-One. To be fair here, Oracle does not compete against SAP Business One, let alone against SAP Business ByDesign.

Oracle does not have a “small” business offering and positions itself in the midsize sector only with Accelerate. If one removes all of the SAP Business One customers from SAP's SME customers list and compare strictly "midsize vs. midsize" install bases, Oracle would have about the same number of customers.

The series will end with analyzing mid-market ERP incumbents with an innate industry focus (i.e., without the need for templates and pre-configured approaches) as well as with general conclusions and recommendations. In the meantime, what are your views, comments, opinions, etc. about Oracle’ and SAP’s partnering approaches, and about the Oracle Accelerate and counterpart SAP SME programs per se? If you are these programs reseller and/or recipient, I would appreciate you sharing your experiences with the offering and the provider.
comments powered by Disqus