By Edward Jackson, President
The rebel. The loner. The tough guy in the cool black leather jacket that ekes an attitude of not giving a sniff about anyone. Whether we admit it or not, we all have some form of admiration for the ones that stand out alone as bold and separate. However, the 'cool' factor is very fleeting as the tedium of isolation consumes day after day. In today's networked and collaborative world, stand alone is, well…lonely.
That is why we believe our concept of 'Embedded VMS' will stand out. We know our large corporate customers have substantial investments into their ERP procurement, financials and HR systems. Why should our customers not be able to have VMS embedded within their ERP stack just like all the other modules that comprise their ERP stack? We think they should!
- Embedded transactions from req to PO to payment? Check!
- Embedded BI mingled with other financial and HR BI content? Check!
- True seamless user experience with federated content all within their ERP system? Delivered.
For too long, many vendors have talked about how easily and 'seamlessly' they integrate with ERP. Beautiful power points are shown of complex integration solved with a mere box, arrow and target box. However, we know the reality is that when the slide-ware goes away and the realities of complex integration come to bear, these VMS systems get deployed as stand alone with integrations sitting in the proverbial 'parking lot'.
If you are tired of boxes and arrows or 'APIs' that require you to code to, let us show you a proof of concept of true embedded VMS within Oracle E-Business Suite and PeopleSoft Enterprise delivered with Oracle OBIEE to OBIEE. Schedule a session here.
By Peter Parks, Vice President of Product Management
In the world of VMS there are no viable off-the-shelf ERP options. Companies must either do a costly customized implementation or go to a SaaS provider, causing deviation from the best practice of a single stack. As the world moves toward the cloud, the ideal arrangement would be a SaaS provider whose infrastructure mirrors your own. It is widely accepted that there is parity among the major VMS players on the end-to-end functionality (req-to-check). This means that differentiation – true advantage – will be found elsewhere. For a SaaS provider, that elsewhere is in their ability to seamlessly integrate into your own stack.
Beginning with single sign-on, through sharing of control data (departments, locations, project/activity breakdown, workflow and hierarchy) and collaborative business processes, it is your VMS provider’s ability to be one with your systems that will drive true value. Utilization of web services will enable you to maintain ownership of master data while realizing the full benefit of its use in the services procurement process. But the effectiveness and efficiency of those web services will be heavily impacted by the system with which you are interacting. The less your VMS has to transform and interpret your data and its structure/format, the more beneficial those integrations will be.
And it is your VMS provider’s fundamental knowledge of your systems that will enable them to craft the most efficient and interactive integration scenario. If they are maintaining the same applications, they will be much more capable of implementing a solution that truly compliments your infrastructure and makes the most of every module, from end-to-end.
A logical next step for our industry will be the development of stack-specific VMS offerings. Whether you are running Oracle or SAP, look for the VMS that can seamlessly interact with your own systems, thus driving efficiency and greatly reducing maintenance costs on a recurring basis. Look for the provider whose own resources have implemented the very same Purchasing, HR, Projects, Financials and Business Intelligence you are running internally, not just once but multiple times. Build on your investment rather than try to bolt onto it.
It is understandable that companies get into the situation of hosting disparate components internally. You can’t always take the time to merge business units onto a single platform when consummating a merger. But when selecting a VMS you always have the time to make the right selection.
When there is a compatible option, go with it.
By Peter Parks, Vice President of Product Management
When an enterprise invests in technology, the ideal situation is to take a holistic approach. The “dream” scenario would include the foresight to implement a leading ERP that could address your business needs end-to-end. From employee portals to Procurement/Purchasing, HR, Projects, Financials and Business Intelligence, a single system that is natively integrated would provide significant benefits, including:
- Ease of use:
- Employees have a consistent user experience as they perform tasks, update profiles, make purchases and do their daily work. No longer will they suffer from the disorientation of jumping from one solution to another.
- Reduced cost:
- Efforts to integrate disparate systems are eliminated.
- On-going maintenance is greatly reduced. Upgrades can be done more efficiently when working on a single platform.
- By making a bulk purchase, the enterprise realizes a volume discount rather than buying separately and paying a premium on each purchase.
- Greater flexibility:
- Features in one module are often dependent on an adjoining module. Cross-component features are designed by the vendor with the assumption that the customer will be using a single stack. The single stack approach empowers you to leverage the maximum functionality.
- ERP roadmaps are influenced most heavily by larger customers and those who are customers of multiple components from a single software vendor.
Sounds wonderful, does it not? Every company should be implementing a single system. But the reality is that companies grow, organically and through M&A, and have not been able to adhere to the best practice of a single stack of core applications. The typical Fortune 1000 company is not living in this technological nirvana. They often are customers to more than one of the big enterprise providers (Oracle and SAP) and have a healthy showing of medium size applications thrown in there. You will find redundancies; running Oracle Financials in the Americas and SAP Financials in EMEA, for example. No matter where you look, you find the home-grown systems – nobody can remember when they were built or by whom, and they have been in maintenance mode for years.
As enterprises continue to search for opportunities to reduce costs and drive efficiencies, more and more are launching initiatives to implement the single stack. The money lost by keeping dozens of disparate systems connected can be redirected to the replacement of niche tools with true enterprise components that are compatible with their primary systems. As they get closer to the unified vision, tenuous integrations are replaced by native connections across modules. Previously unusable features can be turned-on and efficiencies are gained.
Nirvana is no longer a fantasy, it is a vision on the horizon.
By Edward Jackson, President
As the demand for actionable business intelligence grows at today's leading corporations, the focus for information leaders is finding the best way to fold niche applications into their existing ERP platform. The ultimate goal is to eliminate information silos to the greatest extent possible so that executives can view their organization in a more complete, holistic way.
Cloud-based applications have clear advantages in terms of upfront costs and speed of implementation, although the thought of integrating SaaS with on-premise systems puts some CIOs in a cold sweat. Common concerns include connectivity issues and the security of sensitive business data. These are all valid considerations, although frequently the perception is a lot scarier than the reality.
A number of SaaS providers are offering technology that can be integrated "out of the box" with common ERP systems such as Oracle and SAP, eliminating the need for time-consuming interface development. Applications built on an enterprise architecture also enable many of the rich features offered by the "parent" software. Security is another key concern for information leaders, as it should be. The fact is that most large companies have their data off-site already, and their encryption and security protocols may not be as strict as those enforced by the on-demand software vendor. Often, the more questions a client will ask about a vendor's privacy and security features, the quicker it disappears as a worry.
As these issues are addressed, the benefits of cloud-based software become apparent, particularly for key administrative functions such as HR, accounting and procurement. Major companies, typically aren't ready to invest in large upfront outlays for new applications. The generally high cost of upgrades only adds to that challenge. By utilizing hardware more efficiently and charging clients based on actual use, on-demand applications help on both these fronts.
Rather than worrying about data center and equipment issues, IT personnel are freed up to do tasks that actually add value to the organization, such as improving reporting capabilities. Perhaps the quickest converts to on-demand apps are front-users, who gravitate toward the familiar feel and more intuitive layout of a web-based program.
Just because your enterprise software is on-premise doesn't mean your company has to build out its data management capabilities using that approach. Given the budgetary and workforce limitations most organizations are faced with today, the agility and value of SaaS makes a compelling case.
By Peter Parks, Director Product Strategy
We are looking at implementing a significant program with a prospect; about $300 million in traditional contingent labor with much more in IT and off-shore spend. As you can imagine, for an opportunity like this we are always willing to go the extra mile.
But a funny thing came up in our last meeting, and it’s something I have encountered many times before. A few members of the prospect’s team starting talking about all of the additional things they plan to accomplish with our system – things that don’t really fit into the mold of a VMS: managing expenses for their FTEs, tracking on- and off-boarding for resources who are not billing through the system and leveraging our analytics for enterprise-wide reporting. I understand their thinking; this is a powerful system, its expense module is better than the one we currently use, the reporting is out of this world, let’s use it beyond just our contingent, IT and off-shore spend.
To some it sounds like a smart thing to do – make the most of the system. But invariably, when you try to use a tool for something other than its designed purpose there will be issues. Ever use a kitchen knife as a screwdriver? It might work to get the battery compartment open on your kid’s toy, but often you bend the knife, strip the screw, or both. And good luck putting-up drywall with it. Just walk to the garage and get a screwdriver.
VMS systems are the same. Great effort has been put into their design, with specific ends in mind. Sure, Provade has genuine enterprise expense functionality built into our system. But in order to enter expenses you need to have a work order, with approved budget, often tied to a PO. To use the system to capture expenses for your FTEs you need to create one-off, non-billable work orders that distort your metrics. You also need to give your employees access to the system to enter their expenses. Access is typically auto-generated for contingent workers through the work order creation process, and they are tied to a supplier. How do you deal with this? Ah, yes, a “work around”.
Interested in our wonderful integrated on- and off-boarding functionality? Of course you are, it drives efficiency and accuracy because our VMS is the system of record for your contingent workforce and all new assignments, change orders and terminations originate there. But this is because the contingent workforce fits into an end-to-end process beginning with a requisition and culminating in a work order. To try to fit resources who are not in scope of the contingent workforce program into demands work arounds and may require customization to the VMS or your own internal systems.
“Getting more” out of the VMS may seem like a way to fully leverage your investment, but it always results in a hokey process, demands work arounds and doesn’t meet your needs like another product or service would.
Ironically, most customers already own modules, built into their ERP systems, which handle these very needs. So, resist the urge, put the kitchen knife back in the drawer. Use the VMS for its intended purpose and you will get the most out of your investment, and turn-on those ERP expense and on-boarding modules – you may be surprised how well they work.
By Peter Parks, Director Product Strategy
In the contingent workforce management and Vendor Management System (VMS) industry, we hear the word “enterprise” used a lot these days. And it has different meanings depending on the context.
The reason for its popularity is clear – the primary VMS target customer is a large, often multi-national enterprise and in order to appeal to their sense of size and strength VMS players identify themselves as providing “enterprise solutions”.
Mega corporations all manage their businesses on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platforms. In the 1990’s, these companies made substantial transformative investments to implement ERP systems to run back office operations. This was a major architecture change from main frame and internal IT systems to a single vendor enterprise platform.
Today, major corporations would never entrust their critical business processes to niche, or boutique software packages. These companies invested tens to hundreds of millions in their ERP infrastructure, which delivers the technical foundation required to support the procurement, HR and financial activities required to run the business. And it is not a static foundation; it is forever evolving through regulatory changes and new market realities. The foundation consists of labyrinthine matrices of languages, taxes, wage and bill structures, overlapping hierarchies, mission-critical security and permission logic and workflows. This technical foundation is precisely what makes ERP platforms invaluable to large corporations, the same corporations who are ideal targets for VMS solutions.
The major ERP providers spend untold millions every year maintaining their systems, testing integrations across platforms and generally ensuring the safety of their customers’ data and their compliance to regulatory requirements. So, why would these companies, so rightfully concerned with compliance and security, be willing to entrust what is typically their single largest category of spend (services) to anything other than a true enterprise-class system, complete with that critical foundation?
Effectively managing services spend requires significant customization and in-house expertise that few companies possess. So going it alone is not a cost-competitive option. And since the expectation was that the multi-million dollar investments made in ERP infrastructure would support these businesses for the following two decades, new software capabilities need to be aligned as extensions to those investments.
Here comes the shameless self-promotion…
Provade VMS is the only truly enterprise-class SaaS VMS solution available today. (And it can, of course, be used enterprise-wide!) Built on the Oracle platform (not just running on an Oracle database), Provade brings to bear all of the elements of the enterprise foundation that are so critical to our customers and their security.
So, kick the tires and look under the hood. As you are evaluating your VMS options, ask providers what they mean when they say “enterprise.” Ask them about their architecture and security. Ask them how they stay up to date on all of the compliance and regulatory requirements. And get the clarity you need to make the best decision for your business.
Want to learn more? Click here for Jason Ezratty's discussion on ERP and VMS in CWS 30.