Nikkei Business interviews Ann Grackin

Venue: PoweredCom Forum 2005 Japan


Abstract needed here…


Ann Grackin, CEO of ChainLink Research, the US research firm specializing in Supply Chain Management (SCM), visited Japan the other day to attend the “PoweredCom Forum 2005” held in Tokyo. I asked her about market trends in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) geared for the small- and medium-sized businesses (SMB), and SCM. ChainLink Research was established in 2003 and researches about the improvement in competitive power of companies using SCM, etc.

  • Capturing the SMB market is a hot topic in the US as well. For example, many IT vendors sell ERP software and the market is flooded. Under present conditions, it is impossible to say which products grab large market shares and it is truly a “rivalry of local barons.” In addition to products from Infor and SSA Global, former J.D. Edwards, Oracle, and others, Microsoft is introducing products geared for SMB in the $50,000-$100,000 range. There are also many small ERP vendors offering products in the $50,000 range. SCM in the SMB market is expensive in comparison to ERP software and has not achieved high popularity, but certainly has a high degree of practical application in IT.
  • For users in the US SMB market as well, introduction of IT such as ERP software is a major decision. For that reason, such movement is slow, but gradual progress is being made. There are three points in attacking SMB users. First, the software must be extremely user-friendly so SMB users can operate it without stress. It is only major software vendors’ way of thinking to require several days’ training for learning how to operate. Second is flexibility. It is a mistake to assume that all tasks of SMB users can be handled by ERP; there are many tasks that the software is incapable of handling. Try not to solve the issue by constraint and use the software selectively.
  • Third is reduction of total cost of operation (TCO). A reduction of initial costs is meaningless if costs for consulting, repair and maintenance increase. The point is how to find a clear-cut solution in terms of pricing. In fact, IT vendors that have successfully acquired SMB users make skillful use of local partners. They cultivate SMB users by not depending solely on their own; they establish partners’ sales network and provide users with a variety of services. In that meaning, cooperation with a partner is of major importance in cultivation of the SMB market.

See the original interview in Japanese:

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