Earlier this month, I attended Modex 2012 in Atlanta. My intent was to check out the WMS vendors (and other solution providers as well) and see which ones were offering SaaS solutions and, if so, what kind of SaaS were they. By which kind of SaaS, I’m referring to the different SaaS definitions we detailed in an earlier post; SaaS, SaaS Plus, and SaaS-querade. Included below are my thoughts on the solution providers I saw at Modex plus some others I have had recent conversations with.
True SaaS solutions: These are the providers which offer a true multi-tenant solution without any reliance on on-premise components other than the handheld RF terminals and PC devices you’d expect.
Red Prairie: Red Prairie is a Tier 1 WMS with decades of experience that offers both on-premise and SaaS solutions. Its SaaS WMS is from the acquisition of Smart Turn. Smart Turn is a true multi-tenant WMS that is one of the earliest offerings thus has the longest track record. When Smart Turn was introduced it was a new business initiative by Navis. It was then taken private after Navis was bought by Zebra. Then it was acquired by Red Prairie. As a SaaS solution, it has the basic functionality one would expect from a WMS offering designed for the smaller (tier 3-4) size businesses. They have kept integration simple (standardized inputs and outputs of Excel spreadsheet data) and have kept the functionality equally trim. Further, there is little in the way of customer based special customization or configuration beyond what is found in the standard tables related to SKUs (stock keeping units), locations, and users. Of further interest is that the Smart Turn solution is integrated with NetSuite’s financial solution.
Deposco: Deposco is a new (5+ years old) WMS that was purpose built as a multi-tenant WMS. It is privately held but is the creation of the folks who brought us Manugistics. It is also one of the few companies in the UPS Strategic Fund portfolio. They have been up and running long enough to have an interesting customer list with few, if any, blemishes. They do offer full direct integration with the UPS and FedEx small parcel shipping systems and have a robust integration tool set. Their functionality is richer than what you will see with Smart Turn; it is almost as complete as a tier 1 on-premise WMS. Their configuration and setup of work flow and business rules allow extensive tailoring for customer requirements without infringing on the underlying SaaS code.
SaaS Plus solutions: These are the providers which include, as needed, an on-premise component(s) to meet specific high volume or rapid decision making requirements.
With the exception of High Jump Software (see below), I have not encountered a real SaaS Plus solution as of yet.
SaaS-querades: These are the providers which act like SaaS, market like a SaaS, price like a SaaS, but are not really true multi-tenant SaaS providers.
High Jump Software: High Software is another Tier 1 WMS provider. They offer their on-premise solution as their SaaS solution. It is not designed as a true multi-tenant SaaS but is definitely multi-site and multi-client. For their SaaS business model, they offer it as an ASP (application service provider) – single instance for each customer. A single customer instance may also be multi-client and multi-tenant (more on this subtlety in a future post). Interestingly, they want to be a SaaS Plus solution in that they support on-premise modules to engage in direct interface and control of demanding, very high speed, decision making processes like conveyor automation and sortation. Where their claim to SaaS Plus falls down is that they want on-premise modules to manage the communications to/from the hand held RF devices. No other SaaS WMS (or in the “cloud”) requires this to manage those communications effectively. Of special note about High Jump is their App Station. This is a facility whereby users can chose to download and activate new functions that they need without all versions/instances of the core code also carrying those same functions. This allows users to have a UPS parcel shipping interface only if needed, for example. To the best of my knowledge, they are the only WMS vendor to offer this feature. This is the key to High Jump’s approach to manage the “code bloat” typical of many richly featured on-premise WMS solutions.
Synergy Logistics: Synergy Logistics is a UK based company with offices in the US selling their SaaS solution, Snap Fulfill. The Snap Fulfill WMS is a ground up re-write/re-architect of an on-premise solution that Synergy had been selling in Europe and the UK for many years. The company adopted the re-write and re-place plan and no longer sells the on-premise solution. The product is not truly multi-tenant and is implemented as an ASP single instance for a single client. It is reasonably function/feature rich although not to the same extend as most tier 1 WMS providers. They do offer some very slick business rule and process flow modification tools that make this easier for a non-techie to execute. An interesting aspect to their pricing is that they include everything in the monthly fee, no up-front funds are really needed to get up and running. They include in the subscription fee, the RF handheld hardware, the dedicated internet connection to their server environment, and the initial implementation and start-up services.
Robocom: Robocom’s SaaS solution is based on their recent acquisition of Wright WMS. The Wright WMS solution started out as an on-premise solution that is now sold primarily as an ASP, single customer instance solution. Robocom is a long term tier 2 on-premise WMS vendor that has been offering on-premise solutions for a couple of decades. They are a survivor in that they have gone through several management changes, have grown their product line by acquisition, and have branched out beyond their initial AS400 focused world. The challenge for Robocom is to state clearly to the market what role SaaS is going to play in their future and, of the various WMS solutions they now own, what role the Wright WMS solution will play and what attention it will garner for R&D investment and growth.
On-Premise: There was one on-premise solution provider that definitely caught my eye.
Systems Logic: I include Systems Logic both because of their well thought out critique of the SaaS business model and because of their track record of implementing their on-premise solution in about the same time frame as a SaaS solution is typically done. Systems Logic sees this SaaS model as just another scam. This is based on the reality that many customers are tuned into the on-premise software annual maintenance model and see it as an on-going revenue stream for the vendor that delivers minimal value to them. Hence, more customers are seeking lower cost support alternatives or are cancelling annual maintenance support contracts all together. Their critique sees the SaaS recurring revenue model as a replacement for the “maintenance contract scam”. In some ways they have a point, but I don’t see them conceding the value for many customers with simpler, straight forward, industry common needs that a well architected and configurable SaaS platform can provide. Their other claim is that their platform allows them to implement the on-premise solution almost totally as a direct result of a conference room pilot. I have yet to see this in more detail but they do have the track record.