It’s the time of year when business apps observers adopt a Janus stance toward market trends. Like the ancient Roman god of beginnings and transitions, analysts look back at the recent past while also peering ahead into the future. Here’s my contribution to that ongoing debate highlighting three areas of enterprise resource planning (ERP) I thought of particular interest in 2012 and in the years ahead. Customers are set to benefit as more ERP deployment options and additional SaaS financials apps become available.

  • ERP vendors are going all-in with the cloud. Many ERP vendors debuted product or fleshed out their strategies for software-as-a-service (SaaS) ERP in 2012, and further developments are set for 2013. While the focus this year has been on SaaS ERP — and often how a SaaS offering can live in hybrid harmony with its older sibling, on-premises ERP — some vendors also revealed their platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) strategies. When it comes to PaaS, ERP vendors are opening up their own development platform and/or partnering with vendors like and Microsoft. Cloud-focused acquisitions also continued in 2012, notably SAP’s purchase of procurement rival Ariba to help fill out the suppliers pillar of its four-pillar app cloud — the other three pillars being people (HR), money (financials), and customers (CRM).
  • ERP is starting to embed social collaboration.The initial interest ERP vendors expressed in 2011 grew stronger this year and acquisitions were one route they took to move more seriously and rapidly into social collaboration. For instance, Microsoft bought Yammer; Oracle made a string of social purchases; SAP merged its StreamWork and Jam endeavors; and Deltek made a bid to bridge home and work collaboration with its Kona software. As ERP vendors move away from a simple “Facebook for the enterprise” story, expect them to start trying to differentiate their own take on social collaboration from that of their competitors and the potential benefits that they can bring to customers.
  • The SaaS financials market is expanding. Given the success of SaaS CRM and HCM, SaaS financials seems the next area likely to resonant with a larger set of enterprise customers. While some organizations may never move their financials to SaaS, others will look to fully replace on-premises apps with SaaS or to run both deployments in a two-tier configuration with SaaS financials operating at the divisional or business unit level, and on-premises financials retained at corporate HQ. In 2012, Workday continued to expand the scope of its SaaS Financial Management offering; SAP announced Financials OnDemand, a “grown-up” version of the financials component of its midmarket SaaS apps suite Business ByDesign, positioned as suitable for consumption by larger entities; and Oracle continued to expand the scope of its SaaS and on-premises Fusion Financials.

What’s your take? Do you see these three trends catching hold in the market and what other developments will form key building blocks for the future of ERP?