Historically, ERP software has been uninteresting and stodgy, the playground of a few dominant on-premise players. Today, a variety of innovative vendors have taken hold in this market, pushing ERP into the cloud while attempting to pull business away from large companies like SAP and Oracle.
Some examples among many:
FinancialForce announced a $50 million investment to focus specifically on ERP
NetSuite revenue continues to grow, with projected 2014 revenues hitting nearly $550m
Infor has staked a claim to design as a significant competitive differentiator
Workday continues to develop its business around financials, as part of a long-term plan to pull business from SAP and Oracle
Microsoft is pushing further into the cloud with its flagship Dynamics AX ERP software
Then, there is Epicor, a company with nearly $1 billion in revenue that serves mid-market ERP customers. I attended Epicor's user conference, called Insights 2014, and had the chance to talk with senior executives, customers, and partners.
Epicor is a business in transition. In a meeting with Epicor’s new CEO, Joe Cowan (PDF download), and CMO, John Hiraoka, it became clear the company’s current strategy is an attempt to bring together the organization around shared and well-defined objectives. Cowan explained that, historically, the Epicor sales team was opportunistic, seeking sales even when it forced the company to invest in software development independent of the product roadmap. This approach created silos between marketing and development, drove inefficiencies, and impeded the company’s ability to execute well.
To overcome these past issues, Epicor has aligned resources and plans across all parts of the organization. As Cowan and Hiraoka said, they are now “rationalizing the pieces” around a central goal and strategic plan.
At the conference, Epicor demonstrated the results of this new coordinated strategy and presented key building blocks for the future. These components include:
Simplified software architecture and platform. The new platform, based on .NET technology from Microsoft, significantly reduces the complexity associated with developing and maintaining the product. For example, the following image shows that Epicor 10 (the new version) requires only one build (product variant) compared with 11 in the prior version:
The new, simplified platform has allowed Epicor to streamline internal development and testing processes, while focusing labor on innovation rather than low-value tasks. While this may seem like an arcane technical point, it has important beneficial implications in areas such as quality assurance, technical support, and implementation. In summary, the new platform streamlines a host of downstream activities that directly affect customers in a positive way.
Cloud strategy. Going forward, Erik Johnson, Epicor’s Vice President of Technical Strategy, told me the company is maintaining “one code line” for on-premise and cloud development. Developing a single product that works in both the cloud and on-premise environments allows Epicor to apply resources efficiently while giving customers choice of deployment method. Johnson summarized, saying, with the new platform, “Every dollar spent on on-premise benefits the cloud product and vice-versa.”
Services strategy. Enterprise customers need service and support through the entire software lifecycle, from pre-sales through implementation and after the go-live point. To oversee ERP for the Americas, which includes services, Epicor brought on industry veteran Donna Troy. I spoke with Troy last November, who explained her belief in the importance of a milestone-driven methodology combined with a strong program of change management. During that conversation, I strongly agreed with her perspective. This graphic shows the latest implementation process:
Fast forward to today, Epicor has revamped its implementation process and is working with partners to ensure they are capable of servicing customers properly. For example, Epicor created a certification program for the new ERP 10 product; the company now requires both Epicor employees and external partners to participate. I spoke with one long-time Epicor customer who said customer support has improved, relative to what the company offered in the past.
Epicor ERP 10. Epicor’s new ERP product offers features such as social collaboration, e-commerce, and flexible deployment (cloud and on-premise). It also substantially increases performance compared to previous versions. Here is a diagram of the components:
Epicor retail represents the company’s effort to create a next generation platform for retail customers. The retail sector is important to Epicor and the platform vision will bring together a broad collection of products designed to help retailers manage their business from supply chain to customer engagement. Here is the architecture diagram:
In summary, Epicor is getting its house in order, with coherent business and platform strategies. Analyst, Ray Wang, comments:
These data points give Constellation renewed confidence to add Epicor ERP version 10 back into short lists. Meanwhile, Epicor’s Retail solutions have continued to deliver significant benefits for customers and should be considered in most vendor selection efforts.
This conference marked an important milestone in the company’s renewed focus on retail, highlighted in the Retail Insights portion of the conference.
For the next steps, Epicor will enhance its applications, taking advantage of the new platform. That will be the job of Epicor's new Chief Product Officer, Janie West, who told me she has worked with CEO Cowan for years. Altogether, the ERP market is becoming increasingly vibrant and we look forward to watching Epicor going forward.
Disclosure: Epicor paid some of my travel expenses to its conference.