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
Certified Partner Program
Pacejet Logistics, Inc. is a Certified Partner
Revised Sales Strategy
is Part Three of a five-part note.
One and Two detailed recent events.
Four will continue the discussion of the market impact.
Five will discuss challenges and user recommendations.
As already sensed so far, much has changed, while also much has remained the same at MAPICS during 2003. First of all, with the February finalization of the Frontstep acquisition, MAPICS has become quite a large enterprise applications provider, with projected revenues of more than $210 million, and with over 800 employees across the globe, more than 10,000 manufacturing sites in 70 countries, and nearly 150 worldwide affiliates offering product service and support. The acquisition of Frontstep has positioned the vendor near (if not at) the top among vendors that focus on the mid-size discrete manufacturing market.
the Frontstep acquisition also provided MAPICS with a much-enhanced choice of
products. MAPICS ERP for iSeries (formerly MAPICS XA) has long
been the company's sole ERP system for the IBM iSeries (formerly AS/400) platform.
Thus, in the second half of the exuberant 1990s, MAPICS had already earned veteran
status in the market, but its former IBM AS/400 platform confinement and its
inability to rejuvenate its own mature product had given it a real negative
"old and unexciting" perception. To make things worse, its attention to the
bottom line during times of flat revenues often came at the expense of cutting
into resellers' margins, which made some channel partners at least consider
exploring other options.
the company had long sought to embrace new technologies while at the same time
providing a smooth migration path for existing customers, it had suffered from
continually being perceived as late to market with its new technology forays.
Its protracted inability to deliver an all-the-rage Windows NT
platform-based product made it struggle to sustain momentum in the then booming
mid-market, which was increasingly intrigued with the low-cost and pervasive
Microsoft technology. To that end, owing to the acquisition of its former struggling
competitor Pivotpoint (see How
Has MAPICS Been Extending?), MAPICS had delivered since early 2000 a number
of new e-business modules and expanded its platform reach from its solely IBM
iSeries and DB2 platforms to include Microsoft Windows NT, UNIX, and Linux operating
systems and the Oracle database platform.
while expanding its offering and platform support bundled with the functionally
strong former Pivotpoint Point.Man ERP product for high-tech
industries, the company had also been burdened with an immense task of blending
different corporate cultures (i.e., the less formal Pivotpoint's versus the
more rigid and conservative MAPICS one) and with the inherited problems of Pivotpoint,
which at the time of the acquisition was in a state of a flux—it had poor financial
viability, channel erosion, employee exodus, and a poor service and support
record. The management of dual flagship product lines had also initially and
long after been awkward for MAPICS and its affiliate channel. One is to expect
that, three years later, MAPICS will have learned important lessons, which it
will have leveraged in the case of Frontstep's acquisition as another attempt
at harnessing Microsoft's technology.
importantly however, with the Frontstep acquisition MAPICS has inherited a technologically
advanced and functionally strong product. Frontstep solved a big piece of its
long-plaguing predicament of developing a next generation product and then migrating
its large user base. Thus, newly enlarged MAPICS logically has become an active
dual (i.e., both J2EE and Microsoft .NET compliant) platform vendor. To that
end, the company will continue to sell and enhance its traditional breadwinning
product for the IBM iSeries platform within that IBM world where the iSeries,
J2EE, and WebSphere are important to users and prospects, along with the MAPICS
SyteLine 7 product, which was relatively recently, albeit immediately before
the Frontstep acquisition, completely rearchitected on Microsoft .NET (see Frontstep
Ups The .NET Ante)
Three Key ERP Products
MAPICS initially ended up with three key ERP offerings: 1) MAPICS SyteLine (formerly
Frontstep SyteLine and Symix SyteLine), 2) MAPICS ERP
for iSeries (the original venerable flagship MAPICS XA AS/400-based
offering) and 3) MAPICS ERP for Extended Systems (derived from
the acquired Point.Man).
its inception in 1978, the MAPICS ERP for iSeries product has evolved into a
broad range of functionality for discrete manufacturing enterprises. Its strength
remains largely in the discrete manufacturing arena, and until not long ago,
its sweet spot has been within single plant installations. With features such
as rate-based planning, serial number traceability, and product data management
(PDM), the product can handle make-to-stock (MTS), assemble-to-order (ATO) and
less intricate engineer-to-order (ETO) manufacturing environments. With the
addition of its International Financial Management (IFM) module
a few product releases back in the mid 1990s, its corporate financial management
functionality became even more competitive. A payroll module has long been available,
which always represents an attractive extra for its target market. The MAPICS
focus has also long been on embedding workflow functionality designed to support
business processes across many functional areas. MAPICS first delivered this
capability for design and engineering functions, and recently expanded workflow
throughout the entire product.
On the other hand, MAPICS ERP for Extended Systems has stronger MTS and repetitive manufacturing capabilities, including "pay point" processing, with the ability to report material, labor, and overhead costs from individual operations within the entire routing sequence. An important differentiator should be the product's ability to support virtual manufacturing enterprises that outsource manufacturing operations to third party subcontractors. An engineering change management (ECM) capability and actual costing have also been available. Contrary to its iSeries counterpart, the Extended Systems product (as the name suggests) has also long offered multisite interdependent functions, centralized sales, and purchase order management, but it has partnered with niche specialists to harness forecasting, quotation, payroll, tooling, and preventive maintenance functionality. Its financial modules are capable of consolidation and drill-down functions across multiple entities, although they have been best used and proven in US-based enterprises.
its new parent MAPICS, with its recently enhanced functionality to natively
deliver solid SCM and CRM modules (see Mid-Market
ERP Vendors Doing CRM & SCM In A DIY Fashion), former Frontstep had also
positioned itself as a primary business systems provider that offers comprehensive
enterprise solutions with integrated CRM and SCM capabilities, on top of a strong
discrete manufacturing ERP capability and experience rather than as a mere ERP
vendor. In that regard, the MAPICS SyteLine suite for mid-sized manufacturers,
by and large offers support for customer service, order processing, inventory
control and purchasing, manufacturing production management, production planning
and scheduling, cost management, project control and financials, sophisticated
product configuration for sales order management and manufacturing, advanced
planning and scheduling (APS), business intelligence (BI), workflow automation,
with business process definition and execution, and advanced forms. The traditional
shortcomings in terms of multinational financial management modules will supposedly
be overcome with the alliance with SunSystems.
Microsoft-centric technology and the .NET initiative have become mainstream
in the business applications mid-market, MAPICS has had to get over its traditional
IBM platform preference and sentimental hang-ups, and to bow to its prospects'
preference for Microsoft solutions that incorporate .NET and the SQL
Server database technologies. To that end, SyteLine 7 is a solid solution
for those Microsoft-oriented customers and prospects. Further, while the rearchitecture
to .NET is important, it is the combination with new functional capabilities
in areas like APS, flexible multi-site deployment, and flexible business process
automation that position the product better going forward, particularly now
as a part of a larger entity with a strong balance sheet and market clout.
database preference was another driving factor for MAPICS in deciding which
one of the two Microsoft-centric suites to actively market to Microsoft-oriented
shops. MAPICS' products had long been deployed to a very narrow set of databases,
i.e. former MAPICS XA could only run on an IBM DB2 database,
whereas former Point.Man could only run on an Oracle
database. Not providing support for Microsoft SQL Server has resulted in a number
of missed opportunities within the cost conscious mid-market segment of MAPICS'
focus. While SyteLine has had a long history of supporting both Windows and
the UNIX OS, and Progress Software's database, the 7 release
in 2002 solely took advantage of Microsoft technologies, as well as Microsoft's
SQL Server database. Having surveyed the MAPICS ERP for Extended Systems users,
MAPICS claims to have heard back from them that what they wanted were .NET and
SQL Server-based solutions. Hence, MAPICS made a crucial decision to do that
by providing a smooth migration path and conversion tools to SyteLine 7, rather
than to embark on redevelopment of the Extended Systems product.
The Extended Systems suite will nevertheless continue to be supported for users that choose to stay on it. MAPICS maintains its product development teams have already mapped the functionality of the two products and the unique features of Extended Systems will be added to SyteLine during forthcoming future releases, which will be fleshed out shortly. Thereafter, the vendor pledges to work with customers in those industries to help them transition to SyteLine only when they are ready to make the change. Otherwise, SyteLine offers almost everything that the Extended Systems product has to offer, and more in both functional depth and breadth, so that one should anticipate incentives for users to migrate. At least, Frontstep should solve MAPICS ERP for Extended Systems' shortcomings in terms of limited multinational features and in terms of its dichotomy of running only on a higher-end of the market amenable Oracle database, while providing the functional features for the lower-end of the market.
given its highest prosperity in the market, the SyteLine product release schedule
is the busiest amongst all the other products in the family. In June, the SyteLine
7.02 release, which includes the UK localization and translation toolset,
was made available in the US, Canada, and the UK. The current release has 120
total implementations, whereby over 65 percent of these are the customers coming
from North American affiliates, and over 20 percent are from the international
markets. Then, the SyteLine 7.03 release that will feature
the generic financial interface, and the updated Planner module based on additional
APS capabilities, an update to core SyteLine for additional planning parameters,
workflow security and data management enhancements, international enhancements,
several new reports and report enhancements, complete FASB 52 compliance, and
improved upgrade and custom code management, should "hit" China, Southeast Asia,
Australia, and New Zealand in late 2003 (and still works for the US, UK, and
dates yet to be determined (at the moment only projected for summer 2004), the
SyteLine 7.04 release, featuring integrated SyteLine Enterprise
Financials, more complete additions to the APS Planner and Scheduler functions,
international enhancements including additional tax enhancements, final country
packs for Mexico, Japan, and France, more workflow enhancements, user interface
(UI) tuning and enhancements, and projects to support selected verticals and
to support MAPICS ERP for Extended Systems to SyteLine conversions, will be
released in Mexico, France, and Japan (and the other countries already mentioned).
Finally, Germany, Italy, and Russia will only see the SyteLine 7.05
release some time in 2005. The release should complete the internationalization
process; will have final country packs for Germany, Italy, and Russia; should
complete the planner and scheduler functional improvements; and the integration
of the ntelligent Sourcer, as well as the gap projects to support the selected
integration between SyteLine 7.04 and SunSystems is planned for 2004 against
the SyteLine 7.04 intended availability. The SyteLine Enterprise Financials
module that leverages SunSystems is currently available in a stand alone mode
(e.g. professional service level of integration) within the following modules:
foundation, accounting, fixed assets, allocations, connect, etc. Two customers
have reportedly purchased SyteLine Advanced Financials this way—Krone
and Dornier Medtech. This should alleviate
the conundrum for penetrating the higher-end of the market since MAPICS (and
the former Frontstep alike) has never been at the forefront of providing native
multinational financials/consolidation, budgeting, project accounting/management,
and human resources (HR) functionality. Without these in hand, it is a tall
order for any like vendor to penetrate the corporate management level competing
against the likes of Oracle, SAP, and PeopleSoft. Production management remains
MAPICS' strongest spot, and thus it has often been implemented only in manufacturing
divisions of large global organizations that use a tier one ERP product for
corporate financials or HR applications.
concludes Part Three of a five-part note.
One and Two detailed recent events.
Four will continue the discussion of the market impact.
Five will discuss challenges and user recommendations.