"Look at SAP and the Rapid Deployment Solutions that they're offering now at fixed prices with certain features" that are being eyed and adopted by some customers, she says. "Vendors are doing this because they hear back from customers about some of the economies of the SaaS model. They want to offer some kind of a counter balance and they want to be able to accommodate some of the arguments that the SaaS vendors have - such as being able to scale up more quickly and more easily know your costs going in."
SaaS ERP offerings still won't be for every enterprise, she says, because the level of built-in customization doesn't yet approach the deeper capabilities of on-premised ERP suites. Despite that shortcoming, though, it's an intriguing option for more enterprise customers who might want to have a hybrid ERP system with a mix of on-premises and SaaS options. "I think in general the pendulum is swinging to the customers having more choice," Martens says. "That can be used by customers at the negotiating table. Why should they pay a certain amount of money for software licensing and maintenance when they can also get it at lower price using SaaS? It seems to give customers more of a bargaining chip."
Despite the glimmer of new energy in the ERP marketplace lately, there are still questions. One ongoing key issue, according to the Forrester study, is the continuing consolidation of players in the ERP segment.
"Market consolidation is always hard for customers when it happens," Martens said. "When you see a vendor buy a company where there is some overlap in their businesses, that's certainly a cause for concern" and can affect your deployment and ERP strategy.
" Infor is still in the process of buying Lawson and it looks like it will close," she says. Private equity firm Apax Partners recently acquired Epicor, is taking them private and is merging them with Activant in a deal announced this spring. "We're still waiting to see how these consolidations will affect customers."
Forrester is currently working on a new study with a focus on the future of ERP and reviews on seven interesting trends in the marketplace, according to Martens. "It's more optimistic about the market than it is pessimistic," she says. "There really is a sense that ERP apps are truly changing in terms of what they're going to do and what they're going to look like. The demand from customers is that the apps are going to have to be much more usable.