The return of Big ERP?

There are caveats, of course. Businesses in North America, where Shepherd is based, have tended to invest more per employee, and often a higher percentage of turnover, in IT than their counterparts in the UK. And there are more alternatives to ERP now than there were a few years ago. Oracle and SAP both have their cloud computing strategies, but face growing competition from cloud specialists, such as NetSuite and companies that are using Salesforce's platform to develop ERP systems.

Buyers of enterprise technology will welcome any competition to the "big two": in 2008, Oracle and SAP held a combined share of the ERP market of more than 65 per cent, again according to Gartner.

But - to the extent that a healthy ERP market represents a healthier IT industry and a healthier manufacturing sector - improved results from both software giants should be welcomed.

Stephen Pritchard is a contributing editor at IT PRO.

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