The big shift — Transforming the enterprise software industry

October 12, 2016
Ask an employee at any of the large ERP companies what they do for a living. Typically, you’ll get one of these responses: “I sell software” or “I develop software” or “I install software.”

These large, traditional software companies have built large global sales teams, and created development organizations focused on building applications to be first to market and to win the RFP demo competition.

So, who really wins here? In this model, it has not always been the customer.

Even from an implementation perspective, many projects take longer than expected and run over budget. This leaves the customer settling for a system that can already be out of sync with its latest version by the time it goes live.

As ERP software vendors shift to developing, selling, and implementing software as a service (SaaS) solutions, this model no longer fits.

A new norm is emerging as ERP vendors shift their business model from product first to customer first.

This is great news for enterprise software buyers. The cloud conversation has dramatically changed the go-to-market strategies for ERP companies. The “silver lining” of cloud, which is proving value to customers with demonstrated cost savings and business agility is surprisingly causing a positive shift in how business software is sold.

With SaaS technology, customers are now selecting a business software partner (rather than a product) who, ultimately, will help them run their business. This means everything starts with the customer, with the product being just one element of providing a high-value service at a competitive price. This becomes even more evident as businesses migrate their mission-critical systems such as manufacturing, operations, supply chain, and key industry applications to the cloud.

My advice to enterprise software buyers is to look for these hallmarks in your software providers to ensure they are making the “big shift.”

Change must be driven from the executive team. It is not enough for various departments to execute against a “customer experience” initiative. In fact, many traditional departments may need to be completely restructured to achieve success. For example, at Infor, the executive team has been instrumental in shifting to a service–based culture. They have made bold decisions on how our software is designed, delivered, and deployed in the cloud, and they appointed a chief customer experience officer to drive success with our global engagements.

Reinvent the sales and delivery process. The sales process is focused on education and instilling confidence in the solution; it’s no longer the standard “feature/function” conversation, and the delivery model makes it simple for the customer. The Infor CloudSuite Assessment helps educate and confirm that the cloud is the right choice for a particular customer by evaluating security, network, and integration points to develop a customer–specific “roadmap to the cloud.” We’ve extended our focus by designating a new organization, Infor Services, composed of traditional customer support, cloud delivery and consulting services, dedicated to overall customer success.

Customers are buying partnership over product and want to rest easy that their systems are safe, reliable, and operationally excellent. We recognize that our role is to help customers achieve their business goals. In a partner relationship, vendor employees have shifted from a transactional mindset to one of long-term customer engagement and satisfaction. Supporting this, Infor has rolled out a company-wide training program on customer engagement and expectations to sustain long-term customer relationships.

At the end of the day, the software industry must adapt from selling product and product-based solutions towards solving customers’ business issues, which includes running their systems 24/7 globally.

The term “customer engagement” is being redefined in the software industry. Employees at vendor firms will no longer say “I sell software,” but rather “I sell customer success!”

Hear more about how Infor is partnering with customers at Inforum 2016, July 10-13 in New York. We look forward to seeing you there.

— Lisa Pope, Infor global head of Cloud Sales and Strategy
Region
  • EMEA
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