Salesforce gunning for manufacturing ERP

ERP for manufacturing in the cloud? Who saw that one coming? I sure as heck didn't but it seems to be real.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

Day one of Dreamforce was dull. Long on theater, short on substance I was at first disappointed in what felt like a re-run of last year's event. Larry Dignan noted that:

The opening of Dreamforce 2011 featured Salesforce’s usual cloud pyrotechnics. Benioff’s keynote came with a little Hawaiian music “to clear your mind.”

All I could think of when the Hawaiian gent blew the seashell thing was 'Titanic.' Sorry - I get those mad thoughts from time to time.

But then I started to hear rumors about Infor getting into the Salesforce.com distortion field. Lo and behold, the PR arrived this morning:

Infor will build and deliver InForce Everywhere, a native Force.com application that brings ERP data into Salesforce; InForce Order Management, a quote, order and proposal management application; and InForce Marketing, which will leverage Infor CRM Epiphany, a leader in recommendation engines, for global marketing automation technology – all on Force.com. Infor will also develop additional applications on Force.com.

I heard that Charles Phillips, CEO Infor was walking the Dreamforce halls.

Then RootStock was talked about as a Salesforce.com partner though I understand their PR was pulled at the last minute. RootStock is a long time NetSuite partner in the manufacturing space. And finally, the WSJ had a 'leaked' article about Sandra Kurtzig coming out of retirement to build ERP for manufacturing on Force.com via her new company, Kenandy.

Kurtzig this week is officially emerging from retirement with her new company—Kenandy Inc., a manufacturing management software company designed to run in the cloud that’s backed with $10.5 million in Series A funding led by Kleiner Perkins, with Salesforce.com Inc. and the Silicon Valley law firm of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati participating.

The fact Ray Lane, chairman HP and partner at Kleiner is backing the venture tells me something.

In personal meetings with Jeremy Roche, CEO FinancialForce.com I discovered that they have been working with RootStock to provide the financials backbone for these manufacturing ERP efforts. Frank Scavo told me that Kenandy already has a customer and they are building MRP in the cloud.

My understanding is that Salesforce.com has invested in Infor and Kenandy, continuing a trend towards the company spread betting on what happens next in the business apps space.

I have yet to fully digest what's going on here but my gut instinct is that this is BIG.

Talking with long time friend and colleague VInnie Mirchandani, he wonders whether the world needs another ERP and specifically, do we need another ERP for manufacturing. Surely that work was done in the ate '90s. I could have said the same about cloud accounting yet I know of at least a dozen companies playing in that space - albeit mostly in the SME market. But then I have learned that even enterprise markets can be re-invented. FinancialForce is struggling...to keep up with the pace of business. Roche was running around with contracts in his hand having signed off on three deals in a day and asking me if I know of any sales people looking for a new position. I don't but if you have the smarts then I can make the connection. Workday has a similar issue.

All of which adds up to a problem - for SAP, Oracle and Microsoft. If what I am seeing represents the start of a genuine trend then the incumbents have a storm coming at them. Manufacturing ERP and finance are the pillars upon which those companies have built highly profitable and substantial enterprise app empires. Conventional wisdom says that once your done in that area, you have a pension for life.

But if the momentum and enthusiasm with which Marc Benioff, CEO Salesforce infuses into everything he does cascades into that world then CRM becomes the anchor around which this latter day PT Barnum supercharges his business.

SAP was caught off guard when Salesforce emerged as serious CRM contender. Workday is shaping up to do the same in HR and next year will be the cloud based enterprise financials power play. How long might it be before Infor, Kenandy and RootStock become the manufacturing ERP cloud monsters?

We live in very interesting times.

Bonus link: Frank Scavo's take on Kenandy

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