Today, companies are faced with a disruptive marketplace and a growing demand to provide efficient and easy to use IT applications to all stakeholders. Applications that optimise their end-to-end workflows, ensure customer satisfaction and minimize cost. While IT solution providers have addressed these challenges for many years, technology innovation and advancement have also provided new opportunities.
Get an overview of the trends evolving in the market and how we respond to them to make ProMark a safe decision – now and in the future.
Own, unique legacy solution and on-premise applications
Over the years, IT solution providers have had a booming business providing companies with either unique, customer-specific, one-off programmed solutions or solutions built on an ERP, CRM or another business solution (hereafter ERP) to get functionality to cover specific needs. For instance, modern workforce management with complex, local labour rules and optimised data capture and validation close to the source is an area that is generally not covered by a generic ERP solution.
One advantage of developing on top of a generic ERP platform is that the solution comes with standard features that can be utilized, such as user interface components, application logic and a database layer. Furthermore, the solution can utilize the ERP business logic, e.g. system workflows.
Common challenges with this approach are:
- The solution is unique to the company and therefore all cost must be absorbed by the company itself
- Retaining knowledge of the solution to maintain and develop to keep up with IT trends can be difficult
- When the ERP platform needs to be upgraded, an upgrade of the standard platform is a challenging project. All the unique aspects of the solution must be addressed and there is no guaranteed easy upgrade path from the ERP provider. This will limit the company in adopting new standard capabilities delivered by the ERP provider
Many companies are challenged with how to modernise these legacy systems at the speed needed to stay competitive. Therefore, other approaches have gotten traction in the IT market. Overall, we see 3 approaches evolving:
- Independent Software Vendor (ISV) solution via on-premise applications
- Integration/service-oriented strategy (best of breed vs. best of suite)
- Cloud ecosystems
Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) have evolved as ERP solution providers have offered partnership models and technology to facilitate this approach. ISV solutions have been used for many years, and there is a broad marketplace for strong, industry-specific IT solutions.
The strategy is to share the cost of maintaining the company-specific functionality with other companies with similar needs and leave the responsibility for keeping up with IT and business trends with the ISVs. Furthermore, knowledge of the solution is maintained in a larger community of the ISVs and Value-Added Resellers (VARs), partnering with the ISVs in implementing “out of the box” ISV solutions to customers.
However, platform upgrade challenges still exist as companies rely on ISVs to stay up to date just as the cost of upgrades can be significant. And upgrade complexity varies. It depends on how much of the standard platform the ISV utilizes or if the solution is more loosely coupled for example via data integrations only.
Another challenge is that ISVs are independent from the ERP solution provider. Thus, credibility of ISVs can be a challenge for companies with regards to long-term maintenance and development of the solutions as well as documentation and the ability to switch ISV or VAR, if needed.
Platform providers like Microsoft and SAP have recognized these risks. They have commonly addressed them by introducing ISV and VAR partner levels to recognize strong partners in their ecosystems. Another newer approach has been to set standards for ISV solutions through review/certification of the technical solution and relevant documentation to ensure it is a credible, low-risk option for customers.
For more than 35 years, Mark Information has been a valuable option for customers in search for continuous innovation within workforce management to complement their on-premise ERP and HR platforms. With a strong focus on workforce management, standardised and up-to-date integrations to all leading ERP, HR and payroll systems, we are a safe and future-proof choice. We enable companies to address workforce management challenges, while maintaining a more standardised ERP and HR platform.
The integration approach has been valid for many years. It is still a key ingredient in staying agile for many companies, allowing them to gradually adopt Software as a Service (SaaS).
An obvious advantage is that the company can upgrade and select best of breed standard solutions for their various business needs. And these solutions can independently be upgraded to keep up with changing company needs.
Initially, this integration approach was led by point to point integrations between the various business systems. However, this approach is challenging as the IT landscape grows in complexity. As several business systems and IT solution providers are involved in such projects, monitoring and upgrades/changes to integrations become increasingly complex.
A more modern approach is to use a service-oriented integration architecture where a central integration platform is established. This enables central monitoring and ability to e.g. broadcast changes to master data or transactions in one system to multiple other business systems. Furthermore, data mapping is done between the integration platform and the business system. This provides more flexibility in utilizing data in new business systems or changing data mappings.
Integration platforms also come with adapters which are standard integration options to relevant business systems, speeding up company agility in connecting their business systems.
With the evolvement of SaaS, integration platforms enable customers to run in a hybrid setup with some business systems on-premise and others via SaaS.
Mark Information has recognized the benefits of this approach many years ago and has developed a matured and flexible data integration module. The module allows for a non-coding approach to integrations and adapters to all leading system platforms that a workforce management solution should interact with, whether the systems are on-premise or in the cloud.
One of the latest trends is that larger SaaS providers are adopting a cloud-enabled ISV approach, commonly referred to as apps. Most people know apps from their smartphone as isolated applications that offer relevant features to the user. Data is shared between apps where applicable (i.e. contacts, calendar and photos).
In a business context, this approach delivers new aspects of providing agility to companies while controlling the cost of the IT solutions.
Larger SaaS providers and cloud technologies addresses key IT trends:
These cloud ecosystems and their app stores are experiencing major growth these years. The reason for this is the vision of providing platform functionality and ISV solutions via a SaaS model delivering continuous innovation to companies.
Mark Information believes that this new trend is a great opportunity for customers to harvest the benefits of SaaS. However, it will require solid ISVs in each cloud ecosystem to enable customers to address all their business needs. We have a modernized solution with open APIs, as well as certifications for relevant cloud ecosystems. This ensures customers a safe transition including cutting-edge workforce management functionality.
Furthermore, we also recognize that solutions in the cloud ecosystems require relevant supporting services for customers to truly benefit from the SaaS business strategy. That is why we offer a catalogue of relevant services to complement the technology options.
ISVs in a new world
The transition from on-premise ISV solutions into the cloud ecosystems is a major game changer for ISVs. And reality is that some ISVs will be able to transition into the cloud ecosystems, while others will go into sunset mode as companies continue to migrate into SaaS and cloud solution offerings.
SaaS platform providers will continue to focus on fostering the cloud ecosystems as it enables them to provide value to their customers, without developing too many products in-house. It also creates valuable market effects, such as:
- attracting a critical mass of users
- third-party developers can help secure customer solutions end-to-end on the platforms to ensure customers are not easily moving to other SaaS platforms
The ISVs succeeding in the transitioning will not only have cloud-enabled their products technically. They will also have transformed their service offerings and commercial models to align with the SaaS mindset.
As part of the new world, ISVs must also get used to the fact that companies will be looking for credible and future-safe cloud ISV solutions in the cloud ecosystems they are part of.
Therefore, ISVs and VARs must deliver business value via the cloud ecosystems, whether it is apps, certified data integrations or implementation and support services with the help from VARs. But more importantly, they must combine the utilization of the new technology options with new levels of customer service to deliver on the cloud ecosystem promise.
The new cloud ecosystems is a great opportunity for Mark Information to deliver even more business value to customers, by combining new technology, thought leadership and great customer service.
Mark Information is in a unique position to partner with ecosystems and their customers, as we can deliver on all the aspects of a focused workforce management strategy. Whether it is new platforms, solution options or services, we bring 35 years of workforce management experience to customers to make the real transformation from technology options into real business value.