Enterprise software and the curse of vendor sameness

Enterprise software and the curse of vendor sameness

Summary: A look at ERP vendor marketing and positioning based on their own choice of words.


Enterprise software vendors talk in pithy, some would say pseudo-sophisticated, language designed to impress prospects, customers, and influencers in the market. Almost all enterprise vendors use terms like the following as symbols to convey broader meaning, despite offering little or no content to the reader:

  • Time to value
  • Continuous innovation
  • Accelerated solutions
  • Big data
  • Mobile first
  • Increase performance
  • Process improvement

With content-free language like this, it's no wonder different vendors sound so similar.

Read more from the Beyond IT Failures blog

This sameness happens for two reasons. First, software vendors frequently try to ride whatever wave seems to be popular at a given time, so they respond to a relatively small group of bloggers, analysts, and press; and second, the vendors copy each other. A revolving door of personnel across the major vendors makes this copying almost unavoidable: executives often leave one vendor for another, sometimes even returning to the original company. All of which creates homogeneity in marketing messages, product positioning, and use of language across the enterprise software industry.

As an experiment, I went to several vendor web sites and created a Wordle word cloud of their primary ERP product page. The word cloud highlights the key terms used on those pages. To create a fair comparison, I searched for each vendor's ERP page and then removed certain words such as company name.

The results are presented in alphabetical order.


The Epicor ERP word cloud is based on this web page. Terms removed: Epicor and ERP. Click the image to view an interactive version:

Epicor ERP


The Infor ERP word cloud is based on this web page. Terms removed: Infor, ERP, and Solutions. Click the image to view an interactive version:

Infor ERP


The Microsoft ERP word cloud is based on this web page. Terms removed: Microsoft, Dynamics, ERP, solution, contact, and 6:00. Click the image to view an interactive version:

Microsoft ERP


The NeSuite ERP word cloud is based on this web page. Terms removed: NetSuite and ERP. Click the image to view an interactive version:

NetSuite ERP


The Oracle ERP word cloud is based on this web page. Terms removed: Oracle. Click the image to view an interactive version:

Oracle ERP2


The SAP ERP word cloud is based on this web page. Terms removed: SAP, ERP, February, and solutions. Click the image to view an interactive version:


Strip away the top level of language veneer and here is how each of the vendors positions its ERP offering, based strictly on the word cloud:

  • Epicor: software solutions for business
  • Infor: efficiency for manufacturing and supply chain companies
  • Microsoft: business solutions based on partners
  • NetSuite: management and financial software in the cloud
  • Oracle: advanced management applications
  • SAP: software, services, and mobility for customer processes

What do you think about the way vendors present themselves? Please add your thoughts to the comments.

Thanks to Louis Columbus for suggesting the Wordle idea. He's a smart guy.

Topics: Enterprise Software, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP

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  • BMC must be masters

    Their software is the worst, most contempible, unpolished garbage ever and companies are signing multi-million dollar contracts for equally 'valuable' tools which are more than useless. I could honestly write better software while being punched in the face by Muhammed Ali and drinking 5 liters of Vodka each day.
  • IBM not on the list.

    Big blue has taken a few shots in the foot and is known to be pricey. Success breeds imitation or huge ad budgets spawn... Neither is EDS. Common vector here is DP companies that have sustained growth and profitability within a highly contested market. Offshore sourcing has nearly as far to go as 'Esperanto.'
  • No more "me too's"

    With the marketing budgets those vendors have, they can afford to be a bit more creative. The word cloud describes each vendor quite generically, but I suppose it is difficult to market themselves in a unique way that causes more differentiation. I'm afraid the same is true in the CRM space. Zurmo (www.zurmo.org) is an app that has done some disruption and differentiation in the open source CRM space.
  • It is about delivery

    I believe that all major software vendors have workable solutions as long as you pick one that caters for your specific line of business. E.g. not all ERP software solutions can deal with process manufacturing. Some software solutions will have bells and whistles that the others do not have but at it's core, it will be workable. The critical thing in my opinion is ability to execute the project and the ability to support the ERP system within your organization through its life cycle.
  • Keep it simple

    IT failures are eroding profitability. Failures are rampant. ERP failures seems to get the most press - http://bit.ly/VGp68f