11 predictions for enterprise software in 2013

We take a look into what the future holds for enterprise software vendors and users

The end of each year sparks an occasion for rumination on the past, as well as a longing gaze into the future. We shined up our crystal ball, rubbed our chin for a while, and sought opinions from industry analysts on what the future holds for the enterprise software market.

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All cloudy in the ERP forecast: The options for, and customers' comfort with, cloud-based ERP could grow significantly next year.

Market watchers will be eyeing whether Workday has the same success winning megadeals with its newer financials module as it did with HCM (human capital management). Microsoft's Dynamics ERP product lines should get additional cloud deployment options, as should customers of Infor and Epicor. Expect more attention to be paid to the likes of Plex and Kenandy, which specialize in cloud-based ERP for manufacturers. Meanwhile, Oracle and SAP will hope to fend off the competition overall with their own cloud modules.

With no shortage of choices now and upcoming for cloud ERP, the real question seems to be whether customers will vote en masse with their wallets.

Salesforce.com will move further into ERP: Even as it reformed its image from a cloud CRM software vendor into a full-blown platform player and moved into new application categories, Salesforce.com has yet to make an aggressive push into ERP software on its own, preferring instead to work with partners such as Workday and Infor.

Salesforce.com has taken one small step in the direction of ERP with the introduction of Work.com, a human resources application for managing employee performance. But Work.com can easily be added to the edges of a customer's software landscape, versus supplanting a rival product.

While it's not clear Salesforce.com will either develop a robust ERP suite on its own or acquire a vendor who already has one, in 2013 expect to see the company make some type of move, even if it's just a strengthening of partner relations. ERP simply takes up too much of the IT budget pie, and Salesforce.com will want a bigger slice.

Oracle and others will invest heavily in mobility and mobile middleware: Mobile application deployment options and design became the name of the game in enterprise software this year. SAP has made much of its mobile middleware and device management software, which it acquired through the $5.8 billion acquisition of Sybase in 2010.

Oracle is hardly lacking in mobile development tools, but it seems likely that it will scoop up a specialized company or three, perhaps next year, in order to strengthen its position. Don't be surprised if the likes of Hewlett-Packard and IBM do the same.

Oracle will get out of some part of the hardware business: It's no secret that Oracle has struggled with Sun's hardware business following the 2010 acquisition of Sun. Oracle executives have sent a consistent message, however, that the vendor is focused on higher-margin systems like the Exadata database machine and has little interest in competing with Hewlett-Packard or IBM in the commodity server market.

But Exadata's real profitability lies in the large amount of Oracle database and other software it runs, which delivers Oracle steady streams of lucrative maintenance revenue. This speaks to the real issue: Oracle has always been a software company at heart, so expect some type of retreat from hardware in 2013.

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