Why Vertical ERP doesn't work

    How economics undermine the future of vertical ERP providers

    Within the UK, the local market in each vertical isn’t big enough to support the development spend that Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software requires – and enable the developer to make a profit. Let’s take one as an example. Companies that grow fresh produce.

    Software companies that target a vertical typically adopt 3 strategies:

    1) Denial

    Some ERP software companies choose to defy gravity, and as a result they stay very small and are unable to deliver the benefits of new technology to their customers. Some quick web research yields the following:

    D****** – have 28 people to develop, support, market and sell their own code.

    A******** – 24 people

    R****** – 22 people

    2) Go global

    This strategy involves the ERP partner attempting to serve every local market with a single product - it solves the market size problem but exponentially increases go to market costs.

    P****** – based in the US, UK and SA, and have 94 people generating £7.5m revenue.

    3) Be an ISV

    By deeply customising a third party platform, software companies seek to eliminate some of the development costs associated with building an ERP system. However – the provider of the third party platform will always seek a royalty for the use of their IP, at levels which typically undermine the economics of this option.

    L********* – have 33 people generating £7.5m in the UK and US

    We don’t believe that strategy 1, 2 or 3 is sustainable, and believe that the performance of these companies would support our argument. Whichever strategy a software company chooses to pursue, their success relies on locking the customer in giving them nowhere else to go for support or upgrades. They do this explicitly – in their contracts – or implicitly (by virtue of the fact that nobody else knows their product). Vertical ERP is not good for any individual customer – or the performance of the vertical as a whole.

    What makes TNP's ERP solution different?

    We deliver solutions – based on an industry standard ERP system – with the minimum amount of customisation. The customisation we do is abstracted from the core code, easy to update and available to you. In the unlikely event that we let you down, be able to take it to one of 40 other Dynamics NAV & Dynamics 365 Business Central Partners in the UK, or employ one of a large number of independent contractors.

    Dynamics 365 Business Central (previously Dynamics NAV) has been installed in over 100,000 sites, generates revenues of £500m* and has the equivalent of 300* full time engineers applied to the task of constantly enhancing the product.

    We serve over 500 customers, generate revenues of £23m and have 40 people applied to the task of constantly supporting the solutions we deliver.

    * = Educated, informed guesses

    Opinions are those of the Author

    Written by
    Paul White
    Paul White

    Paul is Executive Chairman at TNP. He started in the ERP industry with a company called Systems Union who developed Sun Accounts (which carbon dates him by the way!) He then ran Pegasus for a while before joining Touchstone (where he first encountered Ian) before moving on to become a bigshot at Microsoft. There he ran the UK Dynamics business for 6 years and then Product Management for Dynamics NAV for a further 6 years. Both roles gave him lots of opportunities to stay in touch with Ian and Matt and watch TNP grow. In 2018 Paul joined TNP as their chairman, bringing with him a wealth of NAV product knowledge, market insight and plenty of wise council! Away from ERP Paul has a wife, two daughters, and a dog and for fun he chooses to spend time on the water.