It became clear some time ago that larger and global enterprises are keen to move non-core processes to the Cloud, or software-as-a-service – notably CRM, collaboration and some aspects of HR. Other areas, such as ERP and core financials, they wish to keep in-house (at least for now).
At the other end of the scale, small companies can easily move everything to the cloud, and many do. For them it’s simple and makes sense, what holds them back is simple inertia.
What’s been least clear is the attitude of the mid-market. Mid-size companies have a lot of the complexity of the biggest companies – often concentrated in a few key processes – but without the technical resources to tackle IT complexity in a big way, and without the deep pockets to pull in consultants to do it on their behalf. Thus moves to the Cloud, though attractive prima facie – have been slow.
What we’ve discerned over the last year or so is that what mid-market companies want is actually akin to the larger, not the smaller organizations – adding new functions in the cloud where it is relatively easy and they can see a benefit from doing that – while leaving other systems well alone. “If it ain’t broke…” Slow take up of products like SAP Business ByDesign or Netsuite, (which seem to us to be predicated on the belief that mid-market companies are scaled-up SMBs), as compared to the fast growth of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online or Salesforce.com, bear this out.
The recent announcement of “Access aCloud” from UK mid-market business solutions vendor Access Group both reacts to, and underlines, that trend. Access aCloud adds a cloud-located collaboration wrapper and portal to its (on-premise) business applications. A primary use is self-service: employees submit invoices and expenses while travelling; sales staff can check order and account status while on the road. POs can be created and sent out remotely.
One benefit for cash-strapped organizations – this has resonated particularly with the charity sector, where Access is strong – is to facilitate moving back office operations to lower cost areas of the country or to empower homeworkers. A key facet of aCloud is its modern user interface, reminiscent of today’s social networking applications, making self-service essentially intuitive, without the pain of upgrading the central systems. “Social ERP” is something of a holy grail amongst enterprise applications vendors. They could do worse than look at what Access has done.
What’s really notable is the market reaction: Access says that more than 90% of customers invited to use aCloud signed up within two days of it going live, including Leicester Tigers, Welsh Rugby Union, Millennium Stadium, Hft and Swiss. Access aCloud already has some 1500 subscribers within days of launch. Clearly the ‘Edge applications’ route to cloud is the one that resonates with mid-market organizations.