As some of you know , after spending a few years in software industry , I am back in my old stomping grounds . The question I have been asked the most is whether anything has changed in the time I was away , and what I see as the future .
Plenty of things have changed and none of that surprised me . What has surprised me is the velocity of change – some things have changed way faster than I thought , while others have not moved an inch . Here are some observations and “predictions” for what they are worth. As always – all of this is strictly my personal opinion, and not that of my employer.
1. On premises ERP is mostly a maintenance business now
There are still some big projects , but not as much elephant hunting is left in SAP and Oracle lands for huge new projects . Customers are mostly sweating existing assets and some are moving to best of breed cloud . Plenty of maintenance work remain for integrators . Business opportunity is all in bringing new value out of existing investments . I haven’t yet seen any kind of mass exodus out of on Prem solutions to cloud in ERP space – just more of a cost containment play .
The few big ERP projects that remain are mostly on M&A deals where multiple systems get consolidated . A lot of customers seem to be in a holding pattern even for relatively less expensive upgrades .
SI community knew this was coming and were planning to change their business models all along . What has caught people by surprise is how soon this happened – probably in less than half the anticipated time
2. Plenty of custom build and SaaS work to go around
Many IT organizations have swung around from packaged solutions to custom built solutions . This will need significant retooling from SIs to adapt . I also see an interesting conflict happening between infrastructure software vendors and SIs in this field .
In newer technologies (especially opensource) , the consulting arms of software vendors have better skills than SIs. However when it comes to end to end work needed to make a production quality system , SIs have the upper hand . Rather than working together – I often see a battle for account control trumping the needs of the customer . Hopefully this changes quickly
The other kind of work that is seeing volume is SaaS implementations and associated integration work . These are significantly low in ASP compared to large ERP projects of old days. They also need a fresh new approach . SI world – barring few exceptions – hasn’t learned to do this at scale
3. Open source has arrived , but it is largely confusing
Compared to three or four years ago, enterprise customers are all generally happy to work with open source software in production . Skill gaps are getting addressed too to some degree. What is not getting addressed adequately is education on licensing . Vast majority of customers are confused – and I get confused too from time to time – when multiple open source and propreitory tools are needed to be licensed in same project . And there are still plenty of customers who think open source is free – both amongst customers and within SIs. One SI even has a “platform” built of community versions of several opensource systems that they claim to have put in production, even though there are no security features in many of its components .
4. Most customers and many SIs are not ready for “outcomes based” and “as a service” type projects
I am a big fan of “as a service” model . The current situation frustrates me to no end and a lot of inefficient cycles are spent both in Presales and post sales . With LOB buyers , outcomes based conversations are easy . That is because they do their daily business that way too with risk and reward based on performance . But when this conversation happens with IT and procurement , there is stiff resistance . A good majority of third party buyers agents are also stuck in the past on this topic . Even after they buy an “as a service” model , some customers get upset when they see a different person solving their problems each time even though all SLAs are met .
What is also hindering its adoption is a set of SIs who are not capable of offering “as a service” projects using significant FUD to keep customers in a time and materials mould .
5. The transition from one humongous project to several small ones is stressing out many SIs
Large SI businesses have traditionally been built on the idea that most of the revenue comes from a small set of large projects every year . This is shifting to the opposite end of the spectrum in a hurry . The disruption this causes to SIs is significant and many are not coping well with having to redo their org structures , pricing , methods and tools , recruiting and so on . Customer spend in aggregate remain more or less the same – just the mode is different .
6. Plenty of consolidation will happen in the SI world
Every large SI is buying smaller shops now, in SaaS and BigData spaces especially . And the valuation is pretty low – about 1 to 2X of annual revenue in most cases . This makes me believe that a lot of small companies will get bought out in the next year or so. I also expect larger SIs to more transparently engage freelancers in their projects in a big way in near future .
There is plenty of good news too . SI work is not boring anymore and we are able to hire some top talent . Cognitive /big data / IOT etc are all real now with actual products , and with live customer projects . We are now at a stage in the cycle where no two projects look the same – and that is good news for us consultants . There is never a boring day in my world off late .