the last several months MAPICS has shown both the signs of significant changes
and the persistence of a number of its historically recognizable invariant tenets
of operation. Following the acquisition of its former competitor, Frontstep,
To Leap Forward In A Frontstep Way), MAPICS, Inc. (NASDAQ:
MAPX) became possibly the largest global provider of extended enterprise applications
for solving the challenges of discrete manufacturers.
has never departed from its conservative approach of delivering practical innovations
and bulletproof applications for its customers, nor from its proverbial fiscal
discipline. The Frontstep acquisition has obviously provided MAPICS with a boost
in terms of product choice, having solutions on both leading platforms—Microsoft
and IBM. With MAPICS SyteLine 7, the vendor now boasts a notable application
built on a .NET architecture. However, the loyal AS/400 install base should
rest assured of MAPICS' continued support for the platform. The big news on
the MAPICS ERP for iSeries product side is that version 7.3,
which is slated for December, will feature Double Bytes support, and expanded
Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE)-based client technology.
developments detailed in this note are:
MAPICS Field Service and Support (covered in Part
A Global Partnership with Systems Union (covered in Part
- Primus Knowledge
Solution Results (covered in Part Two)
Partner Program (covered in Part Two)
Pacejet Logistics, Inc. is a Certified Partner (covered
in Part Two)
Revised Sales Strategy (covered
in Part Two)
This is Part Five of a five-part note.
One and Two detailed recent events.
Three and Four discussed the market impact.
will ultimately be inevitable rationalization within the remaining maze of likely
redundant product sets detailed earlier. In particular, the APS direction is
still clouded, since the former independent companies, MAPICS and Frontstep,
even had a short partnering stint in the past. The former Frontstep (previously
called Symix) was even regarded by some as the originator of
the extended ERP concept (i.e., with its erstwhile customer synchronized resource
planning or CSRP concept), which had once proven to be so attractive to mid-market
enterprises that two other leading mid-market vendors (i.e., MAPICS and former
JBA International, now part of Geac) had entered
into specific R&D and licensing agreements with Symix to gain access to its
former SyteAPS product. However, the MAPICS ERP for iSeries'
current supply chain planning (SCP) module, an expansion of the planning application
originally developed by Thru-Put, which MAPICS acquired when
it bought Pivotpoint, might also be integrated with SyteLine.
it might be contested that different approaches to APS technology (i.e., different
APS algorithms) are applicable in different environments and industries, it
is highly unlikely both will benefit from MAPICS' finite R&D pool. One could
imagine a number of other similar conundrums analogical to a coach that has
an extremely crowded reserve bench and has to let many good players go. In any
case, the jury is still out on whether MAPICS will reduce its APS choices.
the benefit of obtaining a .NET-based product is evident, the downside is also
that due to the former independent companies' dissimilar technologies in the
past, MAPICS will now have the burden of looking after both its AS/400
and SyteLine Progress based customers with ageing product instances.
Some of existing SyteLine and Extended Systems customers' exodus should also
be reckoned with (for example, Progress or Oracle loyalty or
simply for reluctance to change), although MAPICS (and former Frontstep too)
has taken many steps to protect their current technology investment.
customers will be given a still unspecified a time bracket (during which, they
will be supported as usual) to make a decision to migrate to the new SyteLine
7 environment, which means a departure from the Unix OS, and Progress or Oracle
databases, respectively. It will be a maintenance upgrade rather than a new
system implementation, which should supposedly be much less steep and expensive.
Although the pledge has been reiterated many times, only time will tell whether
this approach will prove to be the right one.
positive news is that using applications such as portals, PLM, or EAM (and supplier
relationship management [SRM] in the future) as coarse grained Web Services
(e.g., the pricing, inventory, supplier performance, order management, and catalog
components within SRM) on top of both .NET- and J2EE-based ERP products' foundations
should result in synergies, despite the downside that it cannot be done within
the core ERP products owing to a huge gap between the products' technologies
and functional capabilities.
the idea to enable the R&D team to gain economies of scale by building common
application components as commodities that can be deployed within the entire
product portfolio is tempting and promising in the very long run, the flagship
back-office product lines will likely remain on separate tracks for quite some
time to come, owing to their disparate proprietary technologies and respective
user bases that are still using these. If Microsoft Business Solutions
(MBS), with its huge resources and a single .NET and SQL Server platform
foundation delivered in-house does not foresee delivering a unified ERP foundation
for at least the next three years (see Microsoft
Lays Enforced-Concrete Foundation For Its Business Solutions Part 3: Challenges),
one can only assume that it would take MAPICS significantly longer, given its
much more modest resources and a task of deploying onto multiple platforms.
the other hand, the technological foundation disparity of the products will
likely take its toll by multiplying the development expenses and for delivering
product integration. This also complicates the tracking of third-party partnerships
to compensate the products' different respective weak areas. Thus, MAPICS' challenge
in its new technology foray will also be to effectively move its partners with
it, as they will also need to invest in new skills. While they do, service may
drop below MAPICS' stringent standards because the company might find its own
resources spread too thin to fill in the service gaps created by inexperienced
VARs. Another risk is that as the likes of SAP, PeopleSoft,
and Oracle move down market and MBS and Best Software come
up market and invade MAPICS' market space they might actively lure its qualified
VARs for sales and service, potentially restricting MAPICS' ability to expand
its market presence, and leaving its customers at risk of losing local support.
competition will, of course, not end with these vendors. Taking the iSeries
software first, main competitors include Intentia, SSA
GT, Geac, and J.D. Edwards. As for
the .NET-based SyteLine product, the peers list seems almost never-ending, with
QAD, IFS, and SYSPRO leading
the way. Therefore, executing the above-announced ambitious initiatives with
its modest albeit solid resources compared to the above competitors will be
a notable challenge. Any hiccups and delays in its product development execution,
possibly bundled with continued limited sales execution (that has until recently
relied largely on the support and maintenance revenue stream rather than on
new licenses), may put further significant strain on the company's performance
and keep it in the difficult position of having to maintain tight cost controls,
while executing a visionary strategy. MAPICS will either have to produce significantly
higher revenues or it will have to protract its products delivery deadlines,
given its dedication on preserving a profitable bottom line at the same time.
to that end, the recent success of gaining traction comes in handy for the merged
companies, both long in a conundrum of declining or flat revenues, given the
competition will not ease any time soon. MAPICS may have done the acquisition
in time, as to be ready with a compelling product portfolio when the market
eventually recovers. While the market will have forgotten about former Frontstep's
protracted troubles, on the other hand, MAPICS has shed its antiquated image
(i.e., association with the ancient looking green-screen, iSeries-based product),
since the addition of a .NET product will have helped help modernize its image.
Also, many unpleasant questions about the less successful Pivotpoint acquisition
will have now become moot. Moreover, MAPICS will have also recently got its
affiliate channel both excited about the product portfolio and consequently
bolstered the channel's ability to sell rather than to defect to some other
MAPICS remains a stable company, with a strong financial position, a depth of manufacturing knowledge, a strong customer service record and a developed affiliate channel, which has also broadened its product offering. Thus, prospective customers in the above-cited industries of focus should consider evaluating MAPICS, given its understanding of manufacturer's business problems, its excellent track record of customer service and its set of solutions for discrete manufacturing companies with revenues in the range $20 million to over $1 billion.
respective MAPICS and Frontstep customers and partners should be encouraged
by the progress of Frontstep's assimilation. Still, users will benefit from
approaching MAPICS and informing themselves about what the company's plan for
future service and support (or discontinuation or product stabilization?) of
its individual products are, and what would the ramifications of migrating (or
not) to its new product offering be. Existing users of iSeries, Oracle, and
Progress based products as well as of the former Frontstep's non-mainstream
products (SyteCentre and SyteDistribution)
would benefit the most from doing so.
Small and medium size enterprises that are using MAPICS back office applications and have solid SCM, CRM, EAM, PLM, and collaboration functional needs should evaluate the recent functional enhancements as a way to add value to their existing applications. A thorough exercise should be conducted to determine whether an enterprise's business strategy will be supported by the new functional and technology features so much that it would outweigh the pain associated with the OS and DB platform conversion, learning curve for new technologies for both users and administrators, and a need to move current system modifications to a new platform and development environment. If your enterprise is more complex, with multiple-platform and strong scalability requirements, ask MAPICS to clarify the integration or significant application customization implications, and its current ability in that regard.
target market, mid-size discrete "to-order" manufacturers or divisions of Fortune
500 companies, as well as multisite and multinational enterprises with up to
$1 billion in revenues, should consider the company's value proposition while
being informed about other competitive offerings. The product focuses on discrete
make-to-order (MTO), configure-to-order (CTO), assemble-to-order (ATO), and
hybrid manufacturing environments rather than on pure make-to-stock (MTS) or
highly engineered (design-driven) environments. The former Frontstep's strongest
vertical sectors were aerospace, industrial equipment, and specialty vehicles
and automotive, but the vendor also competed in furniture and fixtures, electronic
equipment, semiconductors, high-tech, and transportation equipment industries.
The product is usually a good fit with companies that are very demand pull-driven
and need to respond fast and often proactively across their supply chains in
a complex MTO environment to compress lead times.
Repetitive and process manufacturers and large global corporations with a centralized management philosophy looking for strong global corporate financial and HR modules, for a highly scalable cross-platforms solution, and for much broader functionality beyond traditional ERP boundaries (e.g., more intricate CRM, e-procurement, and PLM) from a single vendor may benefit from evaluating other products at this stage.
MAPICS ERP for iSeries product focuses on complex discrete
manufacturing, engineer-to-order job shop or a make-to-stock assembly facility,
or something in between. The product handles multiple manufacturing techniques
including rate-based and order-driven production targeting, in particular, automotive
parts suppliers, electronic and electrical suppliers, industrial equipment,
fabricated metals, heavy duty transport suppliers and measurement and control
device manufacturers. Although MAPICS might be successful in up-selling newly
introduced add-on functionality to the iSeries base and is determined in expanding
its platform support via J2EE- and WebSphere-based enhancements, for the time
being, only those complex discrete manufacturers viewing iSeries as a strategic
platform may benefit from considering the ERP for iSeries solution, given likely
product immaturity on new platforms.
ERP for Extended Systems on the other hand, has achieved deep semiconductor
industry roots, and a number of customers within the high-tech and discrete
manufacturing and the medical instrumentation markets. Mid-market manufacturers
in high-technology industries considering MAPICS SyteLine as a replacement for
MAPICS ERP for Extended Systems should first seek reference sites and determine
the experience level and dedication to the product of the local MAPICS' affiliate.
Existing MAPICS core ERP customers should review the above-mentioned enhancements (both developed by MAPICS and through alliances) with their local affiliate, while new customers evaluating MAPICS should consider the necessary enhancement modules as an essential part of MAPICS products and insist on reviewing them as part of their evaluation. MAPICS, for its part, should educate its existing user base in the value of PLM, EAM, CRM, and BI and push to make the entire offering available as quickly as possible.
detailed information about MAPICS ERP for iSeries and MAPICS
SyteLine 7 is contained in the ERP Evaluation Center