Competing in the Cloud: “Vanilla ERP” Doesn’t Cut It


Guest post by Josh Richards, Marketing Program Manager, Merit Solutions

Kati Hvidtfeldt has moved on to lead application program management for Microsoft Dynamics NAV. With the discontinuation of Kati Unplugged, we will continue to give partners perspectives on the benefits and challenges of offering cloud-based solutions to their customers.

This week, we are continuing our theme of why differentiation is important to partner success in the cloud. Josh Richards from Merit Solutions explains how the company identified the Life Sciences opportunity in the cloud, a key to Merit’s longevity and success.

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Josh Richards - MeritAt Merit Solutions, we’ve been working with Life Sciences companies since our company’s founding in 1999. Many of our senior consultants and engineers have been working within the industry for more than 20 years. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to be able to work with companies around the world that create products and offer services that improve the lives of millions.

Why did we find opportunity in Life Sciences? In short – FDA compliance!

The Life Sciences industry is often considered a leader when it comes to the utilization of new, innovative technology to drive major advancements in product R&D. However, we’ve found that when it comes to inventory, manufacturing, and supply chain management business processes many companies are still buried in paper.

Regulatory reporting and FDA compliance requirements have historically driven Life Sciences organizations to work manually with paper. However, industry executives began to realize how paper-driven processes can cripple their organizations through operational disorganization, inefficiencies and associated costs. At the same time, the FDA and other governing bodies began seeing the potential risks associated with electronic systems and automated critical processes.

Once considered an option for only the largest enterprise organizations, ERP software started trickling down into the SMB space. Electronic systems are viewed as a strategic asset for organizations that want to remain competitive by quickly adapting to change and accelerating business performance. However, given the risks and potential hazards associated with product deviations and non-conformances in the Life Sciences industry, the FDA stepped in and issued stringent requirements around the use of electronic systems. Compliance requirements like 21 CFR Part 11 have forced Life Sciences companies to look beyond out-of-the-box ERP systems. Merit Solutions seized the opportunity in Life Sciences as the situation unfolded.

The same holds true today as it did 13 years ago: to be able to compete and win in Life Sciences and other heavily regulated industries, you need to bring more than “vanilla” ERP. Partners that are successful in the industry have answers to questions about 21 CFR Part 11, CAPA, Systems Validation, Electronic Batch Records/Device History Records, and more. Not only that, but they have experience and evidence to support any claims of industry expertise. It’s very hard to accumulate all of this for partners that take a horizontal, catch-all approach.

How does all of this tie back into the Cloud ERP discussion?

As the Life Sciences industry becomes more competitive, as the “patent cliff” reshapes the pharmaceutical landscape, and as venture capital continues to bolster the industry—more than $6.5B was invested in Life Sciences companies last year—there are many companies with one foot still in the research lab, poised for rapid growth. Many of these companies have little to no revenue coming in, but once production starts they will soon be subject to the same regulations that large enterprises face.

These companies experience initial sticker shock when they consider the integrated business systems that multi-billion dollar firms employ. A cloud ERP deployment model “levels the playing field” for these companies, giving them access to leading enterprise ERP like Microsoft Dynamics AX, without the large upfront costs. They can license the same deep industry functionality, but in a subscription-based pricing model that gets them online quickly, enables scalability for rapid growth, and still supports the stringent compliance requirements they are subject to from the FDA and customers.

At Merit Solutions, we believe that many organizations are at a point of profound transformation that won’t be sufficiently addressed via “vanilla ERP,” paper-based processes, or a patchwork of disparate business solutions. That's why we’re committed to helping clients be ready for what’s next with a comprehensive range of integrated solutions and a complete vision for the future.

A recent study conducted by IFS North America and Mint Jutras found sixty-seven percent of enterprise executives surveyed require industry-specific functionality. Vertical opportunities are there for the partners who seek them out and have the resources to act on them.

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A Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, Merit Solutions is AMR Research Industry Certified in Process Manufacturing for Microsoft Dynamics AX. Merit helps customers transform their businesses through process optimization, change management consulting, and innovative IT consulting and development services.

For a customer-facing perspective related to this topic, including supporting demos, see the on-demand webinar Pam recently presented with Microsoft Dynamics Partner Technical Advisor Craig Crescas, “Your Business Looking Forward: Competing and Growing Your Business,” from the Microsoft Dynamics ERP series for SMBs.

To learn more about how to incorporate cloud-based solutions into your business plans visit the Microsoft Dynamics ERP Cloud page on PartnerSource. Go to www.microsoft.com/dynamics/growyourbusiness for resources that demonstrate to customers how Microsoft Dynamics ERP cloud, hybrid and on-premise solutions can benefit their businesses.

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