The world of enterprise resource planning, or ERP, is a complex and varied one.
It's not simply that there are a lot of vendors and ERP solutions available, but rather that the fundamental purpose which underpins ERP is to provide businesses with the ability to enhance workflows, integrate lines of business, share information and streamline operations; that is, to act as a general "enabler" for all functions critical to the successful running of any major company. Given the massive range of industries and markets, and the huge scope of companies within those markets, there are in theory as many ERP solutions as there are businesses to purchase them.
The importance of any ERP system within an organisation will vary depending on the extent to which it can be customised to meet that organisation's needs, but that isn't the only consideration. A system that might be incredibly flexible and customisable may not be as appropriate as a system that is less dynamic but has a long history supporting a particular industry. This is why we tend to see ERP applications and vendors focus on particular market segments and vertical solutions — specialisation is the key to success in ERP, rather than trying to be all things to all people.
Having said that, there is still plenty of competition. Also, with businesses and economies all over the world in the process of extricating themselves from the global financial crisis, many organisations are in the process of examining existing workflows and the systems which underpin them. So as the 2009 calendar year draws to a close, it's a good time to take a look at the top vendors and their vision for ERP.