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Enterprise ERP Buyer's Guide: SAP, Oracle and Microsoft

By Drew Robb     Feedback

Through acquisition and attrition, the three tech giants have come to dominate the ERP market for large enterprises.

The enterprise resource planning (ERP) market for large enterprises these days is dominated by three companies — SAP (NYSE: SAP), Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT). Their rivals have either been acquired, gone by the boards, or settled into a lower tier of the ERP market.

Infor and Sage, for example, have built thriving ERP businesses by focusing on the mid-market and small businesses, respectively, but the enterprise ERP discussion is largely about SAP, Oracle and Microsoft.

As ERP can be one of the most sweeping enterprise application categories, it might be best to start with a definition. ERP, in essence, is a system of integrated applications that manage such things as assets, financials, materials, human resources and the supply chain. ERP solutions often incorporate modules such as CRM and business intelligence and presents them as one unified package. The basic idea is provide one central repository for all information that is shared by all the various ERP facets in order to smooth the flow of data across the business.

Editor's note: Be sure to check out our midrange ERP and small business ERP buying guides.


SAP has been one of the big names in ERP for decades, and is often credited with founding the technology. Craig Himmelberger, director of marketing for SAP's Business Suite, believes that his company and Oracle are the top names in ERP, and Gartner agrees, crediting them with nearly 40 percent of the overall $20 billion ERP market. According to Gartner, SAP had a 26 percent share of the ERP market in 2009, with Oracle in second place at 12 percent. Sage, Infor and Microsoft followed in the mid-single digits.

"IBM and others are attempting to build their portfolio of business information and analytic tools to provide complementary value-add, and niche providers focusing on small areas of the ERP landscape continue to try to catch on with varying degrees of success," said Himmelberger. "Customers, however, appreciate simplified application landscapes, and prefer consistent technology for their ERP needs."

SAP ERP (SAP.com/ERP) is a suite comprising full financials, human resources (HR), operations, procurement, treasury and other business functions. It offers a single technology stack via NetWeaver that supports ERP, CRM, BI, analytics, performance management, governance, risk and compliance, and other elements. The basic idea is to simplify implementation and ongoing maintenance, and lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

"SAP's ERP architecture is completely real-time, unlike other vendors who require batch postings to transfer information between interfaced ERP systems," said Himmelberger. "A new feature known as the Switch Framework enables users to implement upgraded business features as needed, without re-implementation or disruptive system maintenance."

SAP doesn't focus on any specific verticals. It tends to play well in just about all of them and lists dozens of links to specialized ERP implementations on its site.

"SAP's ERP customer base is the largest and broadest in the industry," said Himmelberger. "Recent growth continues to be double-digit, and even higher in emerging economies."


This article was originally published on January 3, 2011
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