An Innovative Approach to Business, Coupled with Continual
Acumatica, a prominent provider
of cloud Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, has been calling itself “the
world’s fastest-growing cloud ERP company” for several years now. But growth can
be measured in many different ways – as an absolute or a percentage increase,
measured by revenue, number of customers and/or employees, just to name a few.
This opens the door to multiple competitors claiming that top spot of “fastest
growing.” But as Acumatica shared some statistics at its recent Acumatica
Summit 2020, it would appear that it is indeed moving away from the pack.
As a subsidiary of Swedish
investment firm EQT Partners, Acumatica does not disclose revenue, but does
share some numbers. License revenue from all deployment models grew 72% year
over year. Acumatica signed on 1,300 in 2019, bringing the total to over 6,500.
A year ago there were no user groups. Today there are nine. In 2019, 1,500 people
attended the annual conference. This
year, over 2,500 were in attendance at Acumatica Summit 2020, with thousands
more tuning into the live stream.
Given the growing
acceptance of cloud and Software as a Service (SaaS) in recent years, Mint
Jutras has been expecting (hoping) to see at least one of the native cloud
solution providers enter a period of explosive growth. Thus far we have been
disappointed, but now Acumatica appears to be doing just that. How has
Acumatica been able to achieve what others have strived but failed to do? We
see several factors combining synergistically to create a perfect storm to
drive growth. The common theme across all these contributing factors is
Acumatica’s ability to continually innovate, not just in terms of the product,
but in terms of its own business model.
Challenging the Status Quo, In Pursuit of the Extraordinary
IFS is in hot pursuit of the “challenger.” Being a challenger isn’t
about market position or size, but more of a mindset. It’s about challenging
the status quo, in pursuit of the extraordinary. Challengers have an appetite
for something new. They aim to stand out, to transform their businesses. And
while IFS is committed to empowering the world’s challengers in five select
industries, it is also intent on being a challenger itself in the world of
In the eighteen months since Darren Roos took the helm as Chief
Executive Officer (CEO), he has sharpened the focus and brought consistency,
collaboration and authenticity to its global operations, without damaging a
corporate culture built on trust. Already a strong solution provider, IFS has developed
products with deep industry functionality by listening to and working closely
with its customers. That depth is now complemented with embedded, enabling
technology that brings agility, usability, extensibility and more innovation. Under
Darren’s leadership IFS challenges the status quo by being a software solution
provider that prides itself on “Saying what we [will] do, and doing what we say.”
Here we take a look at what IFS has done to enable it to empower the
Sharp Industry and Solution Focus
IFS has always focused on asset-intensive and product-centric
businesses, but it has sharpened that focus to five industries:
Aerospace & Defense
Energy, Utilities & Resources
Engineering, Construction and Infrastructure
Installation, Repair and Maintenance Service
While sometimes prospects might pull it into some related,
under-served markets that share some common characteristics (like mining and
oil & gas), these five are the segments it will use to provide direction to
its product roadmaps and its go-to-market strategy. Unlike some of its
competitors, interested only in grabbing market share, IFS is sticking to the
industries it knows best, and for which its solutions have been designed and
tuned. Rather than offering a general-purpose, one size fits all solution, it
develops one that is purpose-built.
And while some of those same competitors are also trying to
be one-stop shops for all enterprise applications, IFS focuses on three
specific solutions that are individually deployable, yet inherently integrated.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
Enterprise Asset Management (EAM)
Field Service Management (FSM)
However, when combined, these three cover a very broad
footprint. Indeed, many ERP solution providers today claim to provide a
complete “end-to-end” solution, to the extent that it is often hard to tell
where ERP ends and other applications begin. But is this really what companies
want today or is it just another land grab?
We asked our 2019 Enterprise Solution Study participants to
choose between a “Suite in a Box” – a complete end-to-end solution that is
pre-integrated and ready right “out of the box,” or a more “Best of Breed”
approach with a strong core, coupled with the ability to purchase or develop
additional functionality and easily connect it back to the core. We recognize
the choice is not always so cut and dried, and therefore added some options
that are more of a mix but leaning in one direction or the other. Where one
approach was clearly preferred (i.e. not a mix), we found the “Best of Breed”
approach preferred 2:1 over a “Suite in a Box” (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Which approach is most appealing to you?
Source: Mint Jutras 2019 Enterprise
This may seem like the integrated suite versus “Best of
Breed” arguments that have waged throughout the world of enterprise
applications for decades. That debate was always about the tradeoff between
sacrificing “best of breed’ functionality for ease of integration. But there
are some subtle and not so subtle differences. Nobody today is willing to
sacrifice features and functions. And everyone wants an integrated solution. But
they also want it “their way” and at their own pace. And they don’t necessarily
like to be locked in with a single solution or vendor.
ERP itself is an integrated suite. Mint Jutras defines ERP
as an integrated suite of modules that provides the operational and
transactional system of record of your business. As such, it is comprised of modules,
some of which are core to any business (e.g. general ledger, accounts payable, accounts
receivable, purchasing, order management, etc.) and some specific to a type of
business. Product-centric businesses, particularly manufacturers, also need
logistics and production capabilities. But ERP doesn’t necessarily address the
needs of sales, service or marketing. And seldom does it address all the
special needs for asset maintenance and management or field service.
For these asset-intensive industries, IFS has chosen to
address the special needs of field service (FSM) and enterprise asset
management (EAM), but don’t expect it to acquire or develop a CRM system any
time soon. It will leave sales and
marketing to the likes of Salesforce and Marketo, and payroll to the likes of
ADP, Paychx and CloudPay. And it is not afraid to use technology from partners
like Microsoft to address industry-specific needs like ITAR (International
Traffic in Arms Regulations) compliance in the United States.
Of course, a lot of development effort internally goes into
developing and innovating these solutions. But IFS has also invested in
acquisitions, including the acquisition
of Workwave in 2017, and the most recent
announcement of a definitive agreement to acquire Astea Technologies, a
well-recognized player in the FSM arena. According to the announcement, “The
combined company will have strengthened leadership position in Field Service
Management (FSM) by integrating two of the most established and well recognized
players in the market.”
It is clear, IFS will stick with what it knows best,
leveraging its deep domain expertise, but also provide strong integration
capabilities. This is not only possible today, but is also the key attraction
to the most popular option in Figure 1 – the ability to assemble exactly what
is needed, with the caveat that it must be easily connected back to the core…
which brings us to the product(s).
Delivering on its Promises
IFS prides itself on the philosophy of transparency: We say
what we do and do what we say. But the cadence and volume of innovation is also
important. IFS has a spring and fall release each year. But it is also
establishing an ‘evergreen’ approach, which gives customers the option to
always be on the latest version of their applications without the disruptions
that come with full-scale upgrades. The applications are continuously updated, and
new features are optional.
This re-imagined application life-cycle experience does not
require the customer to be running in the cloud. Unlike other vendors that seem
more intent on being the biggest (in the cloud) than on delivering what
customers really want, IFS offers the choice between cloud and on-premise, with
the same software available regardless of which deployment option is chosen.
While there are some obvious advantages to the cloud, including this
‘evergreen’ approach, IFS offers no incentives to move to the cloud, leaving
the choice entirely up to the customer.
Architecture is Key
The secret behind IFS’ ability to keep a steady cadence of
both features and technology improvements is the attention it has paid to
laying the proper foundation. Oftentimes today, in selecting a new ERP (or FSM
or EAM), there is a tradeoff between a solution that has matured over years or
even decades, and one that has been developed more recently, based on the
latest and greatest technology. IFS is one of the very few solution providers
today that has survived the evolution from mainframes to component-based, cloud
native architectures, without abandoning its original solutions or leaving them
behind to ride out their final years on old and outdated technology.
“IFS has been evolving its
technology foundations over an intensive and sustained period of engineering
This statement was included in its recent announcement
of what it calls its “evolved industry-focused architecture.” Scheduled for
availability in 2020, this new architecture will lay the foundation for IFS’s
entire portfolio of products.
“In essence, this new approach
will allow customers to integrate enabling technologies such as internet of
things (IoT), augmented and mixed reality (AR/MR), artificial intelligence (AI)
and machine learning (ML) in pragmatic and focused ways so they can optimize,
automate, predict and interact better across their business.”
But IFS customers don’t have to wait until next year to reap
some benefits. The current underlying architecture is already component-based
and this is, in fact, how IFS has been successful in delivering last mile
functionality, not only to its declared focus industries, but also to
individual verticals within those segments. Process manufacturing industries,
like food and beverage, provide the perfect example. Keeping up with different
regulatory requirements across the globe has always been a challenge, but one
IFS has readily accepted. But it has not burdened other industries with the
specific requirements needed for compliance. Instead, it has developed a series
of components that can be assembled and integrated seamlessly into the core ERP
How does this work and how does it set IFS apart from rivals
that have similar maturity of feature/function, but perhaps not the technology
enablement to meet rising expectations today?
In the past legacy solutions were developed as monolithic
structures. Adding very narrowly focused features and functions added to the
complexity of the solution and also made it rigid, hard to maintain and
innovate. IFS was among the early pioneers in moving away from this monolithic
approach. Its journey to a component-based architecture began in 1994 when it
introduced its Services Oriented Architecture (SOA). Today it is moving
steadily towards a microservices architecture, with specific mention of
container technology and Kubernetes,
but that is a more technical discussion than most business leaders care to dive
Every technologist in our audience knows a microservices
architecture is defined as an architectural style that structures an
application as a collection of loosely coupled
services. For those nontechnical readers, think of it as constructing a
solution from a set of Lego building blocks. Purists hate this analogy, and
yes, it is an over-simplification. But it is an effective analogy that
resonates with most business users that don’t have the interest or inclination
to dive deep into technical jargon.
Think about how you build a structure
from Legos. Each Lego block is made of the same kind of material and is
attached (connected) to the other Lego blocks the same way. In many ways they
are interchangeable. But by choosing different colors and sizes, and connecting
them with a different design, you can make a structure that is very unique. And
once constructed, if you want to change it, decoupling some of the blocks and
replacing them doesn’t destroy the parts that are not affected. There is far
less disruption introduced than if you had constructed it with a hammer, timber
IFS has already evolved from the era of the mainframe,
through the client/server era where the graphical user interface (GUI)
dominated, followed by web-enablement and the cloud era. IFS has declared the
next era to be the era of intelligent and autonomous enterprise solutions.
In a world where self-driving cars are a reality, why shouldn’t enterprise
applications be smart enough to automate processes and help you make
intelligent, data-driven decisions? So how is this transition coming along?
Tracking IFS Progress
When the latest IFS Applications 10 was announced last year
at its 2018 World Conference, it included new features and functions, but also
introduced some key areas that show IFS moving in this general direction. Let’s
take a look back on each and get an update.
A New User Experience (UX)
IFS Applications 10
introduced a brand new, intuitive user experience, called IFS Aurena. The new UX
was well received when initially launched. It has now been extended across all
IFS solutions (FSM, ERP, and EAM), and (impressively) it was delivered ahead of
schedule. Aurena provides customers with a truly responsive design. This means
it responds to the environment on which it is used, based on screen size,
platform and orientation. Whether you use it on iOS, Android or Windows, the
applications take advantage of the native capabilities of the device, giving
them a familiar look and feel, with support for offline scenarios and
device-specific capabilities such as GPS and camera. In addition, IFS
Aurena BOT is now generally available. This is essentially a virtual assistant
that allows the user to interact with the system via voice or text. It can
connect to any of the popular messenger apps (Skype, Skype for Business,
Facebook Messenger, etc.) and is making use of artificial intelligence (AI) to
make it an intelligent bot.
Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
Last year IFS started adding APIs to open its applications
to new paths to extensibility and integration. Whether you prefer a Suite in a
Box or a Best of Breed approach, nobody runs a single application today. And no
application can afford to be an island. IFS has now developed over 15,000 APIs,
which means connecting, extending or integrating into the IFS core is quick and
member of the OpenAPI Initiative (OAI), IFS promotes open
applications in order to give customers and partners total freedom to develop
and connect data sources to drive value in a way that is meaningful to
them. IFS Aurena uses the same set of APIs which are now generally
available for every function in every IFS application.
Connecting Smart Devices
IFS is constantly
evaluating the potential new digital technologies have in providing real value
to its customers. Projects are led by a small development group called IFS
Labs. IFS Labs is focused on solving the problems of tomorrow – or perhaps the
problems and opportunities customers don’t (yet) realize they already have. With
this approach, IFS Labs hopes to provide guidance and inspiration to influence
customers to disrupt, rather than be disrupted.
But this is not
technology for technology sake. These endeavors are essentially “proof of
concept” projects, often conducted with real, live customers in order to solve
real problems. IFS Labs keeps the projects small because, with the requisite
license to fail, it must decide to pursue the concept and apply it universally
or fail fast in order to move on to the next potentially disruptive project.
Much of this
pioneering, experimental work is done quietly in the Lab and yet the results of
several of these projects were demonstrated at the most recent IFS World
On stage and on the
Exhibition floor at the 2019 World Conference, attendees watched as Marvin, a
small, self-driving, robotic forklift delivered materials to the shop floor. Marvin
is very real and working at Cheer Pack, a US manufacturer of spouted pouches
used in the packaging of baby food, children’s snacks, yogurts, pet foods,
dressings, condiments and other food & non-food items… and an IFS customer.
While humans are still
loading and unloading the materials, CheerPack intends to connect it directly
to material handling equipment in the future to further automate the
process. In the meantime, no human is
involved in guiding the little robot to its pickup and drop off locations. ERP
drives what it carries and where it goes.
The audience also
watched as remote technicians guided the diagnosis and repair of Marvin. Think
of it as Facetime for the enterprise. An operator on stage was able to share a
live view of Marvin with a remote technician, who was able to guide her through
the diagnosis and resolution of the problem. Think of the possibilities this
might present to asset-intensive companies running a 24/7 operation, but with
technicians only on site one shift. Or those operating in remote parts of the
world where it makes no economic sense to have technicians remain on site
constantly when they are seldom needed.
Attendees of the
conference could also don a HoloLens and be guided through the replacement of
an integrated circuit board. While this type of augmented reality has been
available for a while, in the past it was hard to operate and required far too
much skill and use of the wearer’s hands, when in fact the biggest benefit
should be for hands-free operation. This
technology has now reached the level of maturity where a novice (like the
author) can pick up the device and use it with little or no instruction.
While some might call them “next gen” capabilities, these
are among those IFS has deemed to be “now gen,” ready for prime time. But these
Look for the introduction of a new Machine Learning (ML)
Service coming in 2020. While asset-intensive industries are ripe with
possibilities for accelerating the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in
practical ways and connecting applications to devices and the Internet of
Things (IoT), there are also challenges. It is very difficult to prepare the
right data, often requiring a data scientist and competency in machine learning
technologies. There is always the risk of a communication breakdown between those
data scientists and technologists and business leaders with business goals.
The new ML Service
is being designed to be easy to use, enabling business users to solve specific
business problems with the automated selection of ML algorithms, based on their
own data. These new services will be “explainable.” In order to build trust in
the data and the algorithms, ML can’t be a black box. The user should be able
to understand why an algorithm is being used. IFS agrees.
Expanding and Strengthening the Ecosystem
In conjunction with
opening up its architecture with APISs and modern component architectures, IFS
is also investing in its partners. Its mission is to triple the resources, but
also create one IFS team, while providing its customers more choice. Many
customers prefer to work directly with a more local partner, but since IFS
requires all to be 100% certified on the applications, customers should see no
difference in quality in working with IFS or a partner.
While in the past
partners were very likely to build customizations for customers, we see a huge
potential for them to transition to building extensions. As IFS opens up its
platform to partners, this presents an opportunity for them to package up
potential modifications, providing themselves further revenue sources while
also extending the IFS applications deeper into the vertical and even micro-vertical
segments within the sectors in which IFS plays well. This removes barriers to
consuming IFS innovation that customizations create, while also creating
opportunity for IFS, its partners, and its customers.
Summary and Key Takeaways
IFS customers don’t necessarily hold the top spots in their
chosen fields. As a result, the old advertising slogan, “We’re number two. We
try harder” might very well apply.
To IFS “For the challengers” means:
Helping customers differentiate
Focusing on industries and solution sets
Providing agility and better time to value
Value and results for the customer
Choice – how licenses are consumed, and software
is deployed and who delivers (partners, IFS, both)
IFS clearly believes in the world’s challengers, encouraging
and enabling then to gain a competitive advantage and create value through
innovation. In support of these beliefs, it is focused on providing its
customers value by delivering on three key enablement points:
The software used to run the business in select
asset-intensive, product-centric industries, namely ERP, EAM and FSM
Enabling technology that helps its customers
keep pace with our rapidly changing world
Data needed to drive effective decision-making
And at the same time, IFS sees itself as one of those
challengers. It’s not the biggest enterprise solution provider, but still it
strives to disrupt, rather than be disrupted. In reaching for this objective,
it has sharpened its focus on five industries, with three solution categories.
With functionality that is broad, deep and industry-specific, it also continues
to take advantage of new and enabling technologies. It chooses to embed these
technologies rather than use them to milk the cash cow of their installed base.
Whether you are a challenger in one of IFS’ chosen
industries, or whether you aspire to be, you might want to take a closer look
Acumatica Summit 2020 will be at the Cosmopolitan in
Las Vegas, NV January 27 – 28, 2020. Those who are proud to be called “techies”
can come a day early for a Hackathon, and any and all can stay longer to attend
two more days of training. As an
industry analyst I have attended more conferences than I can count. Many are
over-hyped and just plain boring. But I have to admit, this is one I actually
look forward to each year. Here’s why.
First of all, the timing is right. Most of these events are
held in the spring or fall, which means I am (usually) on the road eight or
nine out of nine or ten weeks at a time, sometimes attending one or two events
a week – once in a while hitting three in a single week. No wonder most just
tend to blur together. And it’s not just me. Attendees are juggling their kids’
school and sports activities, and maybe even school vacations. But by the end
of January, I will have mostly been off the circuit for a couple of months. For
other attendees… while nobody is taking a long winter nap, schedules aren’t quite
so packed. And if you live up north, like I do, you might just be ready to go someplace
warm for a few days.
And… there’s no football to watch that weekend. The AFC and NFC
Championships will have played out and two lucky teams and their fans will be
preparing for the Super Bowl the following weekend.
Access to Acumatica Top Brass
For a company that sells exclusively through partners, the top-level
executives at Acumatica are amazingly accessible. That includes CEO Jon
Roskill, Founder and CTO Mike Chtchelkonogov (Mike C for short), and Chief
Product Officer Ali Jani. It is not uncommon for Mike C and Ali to visit
customers and they love to engage directly with users. They are very
approachable at the Summit.
Network with an Engaged Community
The Acumatica community is very engaged. That not only
includes the Acumatica staff and its partners, but the end users as well. So,
if you are looking to network, discuss ideas, offer constructive criticism or
praise, the Summit is the place to do it. There’s nothing like the kind of
personal interaction you get from meeting others with common interests and most
attendees are more than happy to share their experience.
Product Tips and News
Of course, if you just want to keep to yourself and attend
sessions, the Summit is a great place to learn more about the current product, the
latest innovation and plans for the future. Plus, you can get tips on
implementation and getting the most out of yours.
In addition to hearing the latest from Acumatica execs, Acumatica
always has a very interesting guest speaker. Not the fluffy kind of celebrities
that pretend they know a lot about running a business, (most should stick to
show business) but presenters with some substance. This year you’ll hear Robert
Ballard, renowned ocean explorer, scientist, and discoverer of the Titanic.
Sessions for Everyone
All sorts of different people attend the Summit. There are
sessions for all attendees, including some that are geared towards
specific editions (manufacturing, construction, field service, eCommerce…). But
there are also sessions for the developers in the crowd, including Acumatica
xRP Framework Fundamentals and Web Services (and more). And there are sessions
dedicated to partners on topics ranging from pricing to sales strategies,
to best practices for co-selling with ISVs.
I’m Usually on a Panel
Typically, I am on a panel with other Industry Analysts
talking about trends in ERP. Sometimes we’re joined by customers. While I won’t
pretend this is the best reason for you to attend, I promise to make it
These are the reasons I am looking forward to Acumatica
Summit 2020. And if you are an Acumatica customer, or thinking about becoming
one, or if you are an Acumatica partner, you just might want to attend as well.
I’ll see you there!
Sage Intacct has been on
this journey towards an Intelligent General Ledger (GL) for several years. The
company’s goal has been to relieve
finance leaders of the burden of routine accounting tasks, while also bringing
them visibility to data, along with the necessary tools to provide actionable
insights that will lead to growth and profits. Many finance leaders today are
spending 80% of their time on accounting, leaving only 20% available to think
and act on a more strategic level. An “Intelligent GL” is really all about
flipping that ratio. Of course, no piece of software can magically turn a bean
counter into a strategist. But it can help you build trust in your data and
decisions, and provide you the time and the tools you need to dig deeper,
analyze, predict and prescribe a course of action.
And therefore, although an
Intelligent GL is a lofty goal, the real value will come from diffusing this
intelligence beyond the GL, beyond finance, leveraging it across all aspects of
the enterprise. But then, isn’t that what strategic thinking (and doing) is all
about? While Sage Intacct doesn’t profess (or pretend) to provide an end-to-end
solution, a strong, “best of breed” financial management solution can indeed
serve as a solid foundation on which to build a strategy that leads to
here for a closer look at Sage Intacct’s path to providing an Intelligent
GL and what it can mean to your business.
How do you achieve a 360o
view of your customer? While this has been a popular catch phrase for solution
providers offering Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems for years
now, there have always been missing pieces to this panorama. A good CRM, as the
acronym implies, can indeed help you manage the relationship with your
customers, often starting at a point when the customer is still a prospect. CRM
solutions do a good job of managing a pipeline from initial contact to quote,
and perhaps even to the point where the quote is turned into an order. If this
is all it does, it might be more appropriately classified as Sales Force
Automation (SFA). But of course, some CRM solutions extend beyond this. But no
CRM, on its own, really manages an order, creates an invoice or manages
accounts receivable and collects cash – all necessary for that 360o
view. That is the domain of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP).
Salesforce CRM is indeed
one of the most mature CRM solutions on the market today. While lighter
versions exist for even the tiniest companies, those that tap into its full and
extended functionality are able to effectively digitize marketing, manage
diverse channels, connect sales and service and derive business insights and
intelligence about all things customer-related. This may be sufficient for some
types of businesses, but manufacturers face some additional challenges. If
sales and operations are not properly aligned, if revenue forecasts can’t
accurately predict demand at a detailed product level, then manufacturing can’t
deliver completely and on time without inflating inventory. And even with
padding inventory, can it deliver the kind of customized or personalized
product many markets demand today?
In order to address these specific challenges of
manufacturing, Salesforce recently introduced its Salesforce Manufacturing
Cloud to “deliver transparency and predictability across your ecosystem… Align
sales and operations, unify account planning and forecasts, and deliver greater
transparency with a tailor-made CRM for manufacturers.” But in order to make
good on this promise, Salesforce itself must tap into its own ecosytem. Enter
Rootstock, providing Cloud ERP for Manufacturing, Distribution and Supply Chain
organizations. As such, Rootstock plays a key role in helping Salesforce
deliver on its declared value proposition of delivering the much sought after,
but often elusive, 360o view of the manufacturer’s customer.
In its quest to enable the Self-Driving
Enterprise, last fall Aera Technology
introduced its Cognitive Workbench. Using billions of data points collected with
its patented data crawlers (real-time crawling technology), Aera’s processing
engine analyzes data continuously (even while you sleep) to detect business
risk and opportunities. After utilizing decision trees and algorithms to
recommend the best course of action, its Cognitive Workbench presents personalized,
time-sensitive, and prescriptive recommendations to drive capital efficiency,
productivity, growth and customer satisfaction.
Now, Aera further augments and digitizes decision making, tracking decisions made by all your team members, including those made autonomously by your newest virtual team member: its new Cognitive Decision Board. Working interactively through the Decision Board you gain better visibility into your decision making process, and understand the impact of each decision. By tracing steps taken and the reasons why they were taken, you are able to get quick insights about those decisions. Did you accept Aera’s recommendations and if not, why not? Through this monitoring, measuring and feedback, Aera continues to learn and therefore can make better recommendations and your entire team can make better decisions.
Adaptive ERP and More, all built on the QAD Enterprise
QAD Adaptive Applications
is a portfolio of flexible solutions for manufacturers, with QAD Adaptive ERP
at its core. Founded in 1979 by Pamela Lopker, QAD has always set out to
provide an integrated system, laser focused on manufacturing. That focus has
never wavered, but over time the underlying technology and the functional
footprint have evolved. Just as Material Requirements Planning (MRP) evolved
into Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) for manufacturing, QAD’s solutions have also grown and matured. Even as
disruptive technology is killing off older companies, QAD is still growing
strong. But the leadership is smart enough to recognize, “What got us to here
won’t get us to where we are going.”
For years now the company has been committed to the
Effective Enterprise, defined as “every business process running at peak
efficiency and perfectly aligned to the company’s strategic goals.” QAD remains
just as committed as ever to this goal, but now adds the ability to adapt. In
the words of CEO Anton Chilton, “We need the Adaptive Enterprise to sense –
plan – act. For this you need a different kind of technology.”
The journey that led to
this different kind of technology began at a pivotal point in 2013 when QAD mapped
out what it wanted to achieve:
functionality operating in the cloud
extendability with no or low code
upgrades without redoing extensions
of Things (IoT) support
powerful, web-based user experience
This realization led to the launch
of a multi-phased internal project, called the Channel
Islands Initiative. By 2018, what started out as a user experience initiative
had been been transformed into an enterprise platform. The result: a
re-architected underlying application infrastructure, a fresh set of RESTful
application programming interfaces (APIs), and a new future-proofed user
interface (UI), including the framework for connecting devices.
While features and functions are
still important today – actually more important than ever – the secret to
“adaptive” applications lies in the QAD Enterprise Platform.
More Cloud, More Connected, More Intelligent, More Innovation
mission is to be the cloud vendor of choice in the markets it serves. Those
markets are manufacturing, the automotive aftermarket, wholesale distribution, service,
lumber, and retail. Its latest user conference, Epicor Insights 2019, served to
provide a progress report on that mission, including some exciting new product
announcements. Over the past 18 months, the company has invested heavily in its
major go-forward product lines. It has published 54 software releases (15
major, 39 minor), and brought a brand new Epicor Retail Cloud to market,
completed as planned and on-time. As of three weeks before the event all its strategic
product lines had been modernized and Software as a Service (SaaS) enabled. And
its SaaS business is growing at an impressive clip, with year over year cloud
revenue increasing over 90%. A brand new artificial intelligence (AI) based Epicor
Virtual Agent (EVA) was unveiled at the event, along with new industry capabilities, built on cloud
technologies, to power digital transformation and enhance the customer
of this news represents good progress, but Epicor is still fighting the battle
of establishing a name for itself as what Mint Jutras last year called “the new
Epicor.” As we noted then, “The Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) market is
very mature. Some solution providers have been around a long time, dating back
to even before the acronym ERP was coined. Epicor Software Corporation is one
of those vendors. With that level of maturity comes both pros and cons. On the
plus side, as a mature provider, it brings to the market more than 45 years of
experience and a set of robust and feature-rich products. On the down side,
prospective buyers of enterprise software who might have encountered Epicor in
the past may think they know the company and its solutions. But their knowledge
and perceptions may be severely outdated.” A year later, we (still) suspect many
customers and prospects alike don’t really know the new Epicor.
The new Epicor is firing on all cylinders. Unlike the rigid, monolithic solutions of the past, its go-forward products are supported by modernized, component-based architectures that support connectivity, accelerate innovation and support the intelligence needed to compete in today’s global, digital economy. While Epicor still offers a choice of deployment models, it operates under a “cloud first” policy that encourages (but doesn’t force) customers and prospects to harness the power of the Internet. But not everyone seems to have gotten the memo. Perhaps if we review some of the recent steps Epicor has taken, we might be able to enlighten those who have not.
Technology vendors, particularly those that offer Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions, must walk a fine line in terms of innovation. On the one hand, they must listen carefully to their customers. Responding to customer requests is crucial to keeping existing customers happy as they push for more features and functions. But today, that just isn’t enough. The most successful vendors also pull the customers along in many ways, including applying advanced technologies. While customers may not be asking for them, these technologies can improve efficiencies and provide a competitive edge.
Like many vendors, cloud ERP provider Acumatica has an “idea” website where it encourages customers to log feature requests and vote for those they feel will produce the most value. Many of those ideas make their way into the product. But Acumatica goes a few steps further. In addition to partner advisory boards and customer focus groups, executives, product managers and developers go on-site to observe how the cloud ERP is being used. They then combine their objective outsider’s view with their intimate knowledge of tools and technologies to come up with new ideas for enhancing productivity. Sometimes those ideas result in what appear on the surface to be small changes, but result in innovation that makes the customers say, “Wow! That’s huge! Why I didn’t I think of that?”
In addition, Acumatica is testing the waters with technologies that go beyond features – like combining machine learning (ML) with natural language processing (NLP) and image recognition to produce artificial intelligence (AI). Like introducing drones into a warehouse or augmented reality (AR) into a service environment. While customers aren’t (yet) pushing them in this direction, Acumatica knows it needs to stay ahead of customer demand in order to pull its customers into a competitive position in the ever-changing global, digital economy. But those customers will not be pulled in the right direction unless the technology delivered has some practical value. Elegant technology in search of a problem benefits no one.
Acumatica’s Path Forward
Acumatica’s path forward (Figure 1) is stated quite simply, but then simplicity is often the key to success. Acumatica’s strategy is to continue to add functionality, both from a horizontal (everyone benefits) perspective, as well as vertical features to support selected industries. The horizontal functionality is delivered in the core product and industry-specific functionality is added through its industry “editions.” But the horizontal and vertical features work together seamlessly. This is made possible through Acumatica’s modern, open architecture, which provides flexibility and scalability. And therefore, both the technology embedded within, as well as platform and technology partners are key.
Figure 1: Acumatica’s Path Forward
So how does Acumatica determine the roadmap? Click here to read the full report.
BUSTING THE MYTH OF FAILURE, BUT ARE YOU
OVERRATING YOUR SUCCESS?
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementation is certainly not for the faint of heart. But neither is it the scary ordeal that many describe it as, nor is it doomed to fail. While disasters provide good fodder for sensationalized headlines, failure rates are generally overstated. A recent Mint Jutras study of ERP implementation success by manufacturers and distributors found 67% rate their implementations as successful or very successful. While 31% only achieved partial success, a scant 2% said they were “not very successful” and only one out of the 315 surveyed described their implementation as a failure.
And yet, while many are meeting expectations in terms of schedule, budget and return on investment (ROI), we need to step back and question whether these expectations are set high enough. Based on benefits actually realized, Mint Jutras feels many are over-rating their success and leaving additional attainable returns on the table. In our view, an ERP implementation should never be viewed as done and the ROI should be sustainable.
In my latest report I explore the pace, the goals, the challenges, and the perceived success of ERP implementations. Where are the benefits are coming from? If you are in the midst of an evaluation, what should you expect? What should you do to maximize your investment? If you are not evaluating next steps, maybe you should be. What more could you be getting out of your investment? Is it time for a major overhaul or even a new solution? Today’s fast-paced, global digital economy leaves no room for complacency.