Agilisys Continues Agilely Post-SCT Part 2: Market Impact

Market Impact

As Agilisys might have changed its name and owners but never its nature, it has been executing the strategy it espoused at the time when the spin-off was announced. The new independent company has benefited from having control of its own financial and product development destiny, being able to make decisions based upon its own needs and objectives rather than being a small part of the much larger and consequently more rigid entity's needs and objectives. With the above positive signs of acquiring a number of customers even during a transient re-branding phase amid difficult trading times for everybody, and of retaining a vast majority of critical employees, Agilisys might now even gain eligibility for the general capital market beyond the pockets of the existing investors, as to possibly even better execute its professed strategy. Since access to any capital depends on the ability of Agilisys to prove its financial and corporate viability over the short and medium term, the company seems to be tackling the issues that would vouch for both.

To that end, Agilisys comes to market with a broad and deep product line as it has significantly repositioned and extended itself during last several years. When the company first entered the process manufacturing scene in 1995, it provided only Adage, its formerly called flagship ERP suite. Through the 1998 acquisition of Fygir Logistic Information Systems B.V., it subsequently became involved in supply-chain management (SCM) applications, and most recently developed or partnered to introduce a number of e-business and collaboration components and business intelligence (BI) (see SCT Extends Into Business Intelligence, and SCT Corporation Means (e)Business For Process Manufacturing).

Due to its unrelenting process manufacturing focus, the products reflect the rigorous functionality required by process companies (primarily batch oriented, only in part for continuous process companies though), and Agilisys continues to execute well in the plant level-centric applications. In doing this it has avoided the tradeoffs that are inevitable to attempting to serve other unrelated markets (i.e., discrete manufacturing industries) with one product, such is the case of many other process ERP wannabes who are still mainly selling generic white collar' applications (e.g., HR/payroll, financial accounting, etc.) into the process industries.

Despite being somewhat late to market, the company has succeeded so far due to a dearth of competition and due to compelling functional and technical vision it has delivered to its target customers. The company's name change from SCT to Agilisys has created an added challenge, though, of creating new brand awareness from the product suite that had recently before the spin-off been called iProcess.sct.

This is Part Two of a two-part note on Agilisys.

Part One detailed recent announcements.

Part Three will cover the Challenges faced by the company and make User Recommendations.

Current Agilisys Products

A summary of current Agilisys product offering includes:

  • Agilisys Supply Chain & Optimization (featuring Advanced Scheduling, Advanced Planning Enterprise Optimization, Advanced Planning Formula & Procurement Optimization, and Demand Planning modules)

  • Agilisys Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)

  • Agilisys Internet Commerce (featuring Internet Commerce and Remote Order Management modules)

  • Agilisys Business Analytics (e.g., Demand Analytics, Market Analytics, etc.)

  • Agilisys Applied Relationship Technology (ART) (formerly Relationship Network Management (RNM))

As it can be seen from the above new contract wins' announcements, these products can be sold as an entire suite, a functional suite (e.g., Supply Chain & Optimization) or as individual components (e.g., Demand Planning). The products are packaged in such a way that a customer can buy a spot solution (e.g., Advanced Planning) and let it incrementally, at its comfortable pace, grow into an integrated suite (Supply Chain Planning) as the needs of the company evolve. While some customers use the entire Agilisys product suite, many more use only portions, coexisting with other solutions. For example, the company has shown success with integrating its SCM or ERP products with the SAP and PeopleSoft back-office systems.

The company cites a significant penetration within SAP's customer base in process industries, where its product complements traditionally strong SAP's back-office multi-national functionality. It is therefore important that the company continues to enhance its product offering footprint and interconnectivity both internally and via partnerships like it has done it until recently, in order to fill some product gaps (see Is SCT And Partnership A Dj vu?).

To that end, while still being a part of SCT, the company released in March 2001 its new Interactive Customer Assistance components of then iProcess.sct to enable real-time customer interaction through its sell-side internet commerce solution, making it possible for companies to extend internet commerce applications by providing live on-line communications and call-center capabilities. The new eCRM functionality thereby included instant messaging, live chat, e-mail, and real-time "follow-me browsing," which enable a customer service representative to remotely guide a customer through the on-line interactive sales process.

The company then also addressed another key component of successful e-business -- enabling trading partners to choose how (the channel) and when they will do business with each other, whether it be through a website, over the phone, or even via a handheld or personal digital assistant (PDA). With the Agilisys Wireless solution, customers as well as sales managers, brokers, and other trading partners are no longer restricted by physical boundaries, since wireless business activities such as placing or checking orders, inquiring on goods available, and looking up quality specifications on newly arriving shipments can all be performed from the convenience of a PDA.

The more recently released impressive product is Agilisys Collaborative Replenishment (CR) that can be implemented as part of a comprehensive Agilisys offering, or integrated with existing supply chain or enterprise systems. Its components comprise a comprehensive solution that Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) manufacturers might need, as these manufacturers have long recognized the importance of effective distribution and inventory deployment in assuring point-of-sale (POS) performance and the repeat purchases of loyal consumers, and, to achieve optimal deployment thereof, they have banded together to define collaborative business processes that leverage emerging technologies. The most visible and successful example of this cooperation has been the Voluntary Inter-industry Commerce Standards Association's (VICS) establishment of the Collaborative Planning, Forecasting and Replenishment (CPFR) Committee. To that end, Agilisys CR supports the modeling of upfront defined collaborative processes with rule-based and role-based policy definitions (e.g., stocking policies, timing of routine tasks, alerts, exceptions & approval boundaries, performance metrics & benchmarks, etc.).

On a more abstracted level, however, one could discern the two groups within the product offering — ERP and SCM. The Agilisys ERP product suite (formerly Adage) competes primarily in the mid-market, while the SCM counterpart (formerly Fygir) is amenable for both the mid-market and large enterprises, lending both products to a growth opportunity.

Agilisys ERP has furthermore inherited a visionary trait from its ancestor Adage to be organized in business process-based mindset (i.e., Manage the Enterprise, Design to Deploy, Plan to Produce, Procure to Pay, and Order to Cash) rather than in traditional functional silos, and it uses a role-base data model. These, bundled with its traditionally compelling graphical user interface (GUI) should bode well for simpler configuration, training and operation, and for the current trend of enabling collaborative processes with the trading partners.

The recent products enhancements covered in Part One may indicate the new management's decisive approach towards eliminating some product's past weaknesses, in part owing to SCT's conservative approach towards its former division. Most prominently, new Java-based architecture and development environment should remove the burden of reliance upon a third-party proprietary development tool set (i.e., Computer Associates' OpenRoad). Because the company has a very narrow focus, it had relatively quickly delivered the industry-endemic functionality such as potency-based pricing, quality control, catch-weight' (the actual weight of units of goods that are sold or inventoried by quantity), complex pricing & promotions, item-pack inventory, pertinent accounts receivable deductions and material handling unit tracking.

Optimization is subsequently handled by the SCM suite — Agilisys Supply Chain & Optimization, which consists of modules for advanced planning, advanced scheduling, and demand planning. The Supply Chain Planning & Scheduling products are especially functionally strong, as they enable users to improve their supply chain management (SCM) performance and make their manufacturing execution process more efficient by applying mathematical techniques to optimize the supply chain. The scheduling product provides specific and very required process functionality, for example, variable changeovers and clean-out time considerations, tank scheduling, complex routing constraints (both equipment- and materials-related), quality control (QC) specs considered as part of available-to-promise (ATP), etc.

Advanced Planning modules, on the other hand, take care of planning divergent production processes which start with one product and end up with multiplicity of different end items (so called inverted' bills of material (BOM)), which is quite the reverse to most discrete production processes. In addition, the recipes have variable elements to them, and the planning process also has to match often fixed supply of ingredients with variable seasonal demand to maintain the highest levels of customer service and responsiveness. In total, the planning solution includes the optimization of production within capacity constraints, seasonal stock build, shelf-life constraints, using alternate formulas and assistance with forward promotional planning.

Agilisys Internet Commerce offering stems from early 2000, when then SCT's division introduced its e-business solution, iOrder.sct, as a part of then Internet Business Suite. This product addressed the sell side applications with many of the unique features required by the process enterprise, including collaborative promotions execution for consumer packaged goods (CPG). It also provides self-service order management, order status and process industry-specific parameters (e.g., catch-weights, lot tracing) visibility, and customer service functionality such as rebate promotion tracking and account management. Collaboration with represented also the company's first step in developing trading exchange partnerships for multiple verticals, including consumer-packaged goods (CPG), chemicals and pharmaceutical industries.

The Catalyst Program

Agilisys is also leveraging its former parent's pedigree on professional services and outsourcing, the above Concept to Customer' and Early Upgrade Program' being good examples of the company's focus on customer engaging product implementations and customizations. Complementary to these is a recent major marketing thrust, internally referred to as Catalyst', which is aimed at up-/cross-selling add-on components and functional suites to the existing users of other ERP backbones.

The Catalyst program includes products, services and prepackaged integration to a company's existing ERP backbone. However, the Relationship Network Management (RNM) team remained initially with SCT, as it has been SCT's broad-ranged answer to CRM, designed to manage the complex relationship networks of B2B companies (i.e., customers, distributors, c-packers, brokers, agents, suppliers, and other partners) and includes a suite of strategies, services and enabling technologies, which has reportedly received a positive response from customers. As to ensure that its customers only have to deal with the same vendor for both applications, Agilisys has meanwhile acquired most of the RNM developers, it now owns the source code, and owns the rights to upgrade the product. As mentioned earlier, Agilisys brings this to market renamed as Applied Relationship Technology (ART), just as if it was another module.

This concludes Part Two of a three-part analysis of recent announcements by Agilisys.

Part One covered recent events.

Part Three will cover the Challenges faced by Agilisys and make User Recommendations.

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