Epicor Insights 2012: Old Epicor + Old Activant = New Epicor

The recently held Epicor Insights 2012 user conference was the very first one to combine former Epicor and Activant customers. Reportedly, there were 4,000 attendees, including 3,000 customers and 400 vendor partners.

It appears that prior to the merger Epicor was innovative and growing globally, but profits were often elusive and the product quality had some issues. For its part, Activant has had a regional (primarily North American) focus and multiple mature products (on older architectures), but was quite profitable.

The new combined Epicor had US$857 million revenue in fiscal 2011, and currently has offices in 60 countries and customers in over 150 countries. The bullish company has been adding 600-800 brand new customers per year, and has hired more than 500 employees in the first two quarters of fiscal 2012.

Epicor continues to focus on discrete manufacturing, distribution, retail, and services industries. The Epicor HCM product, which stems from the 2010 acquisition of Spectrum HR, is a horizontal solution that can be sold to many Epicor and non-Epicor enterprise resource planning (ERP) products.

A Synergy Case in Point

It appears now that Epicor should benefit from Activant’s process-based orientation. Namely, some Activant top executives (now Epicor SVPs) come from GE and Rockwell, where they had implemented quality concepts such as Lean, Six Sigma, DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, and control), development cells, net promoter score (NPS), etc.

Equipped with this experience, they had also implemented those and other technologies at Activant to improve professional services, research and development (R&D) processes, and customer support quality, such as Agile Scrum, development cells, etc. Activant has also been big in the realm of professional services, such as CAP (change acceleration process) for mergers and acquisition (M&A), customer profit analysis (to segment customers using activity based costing), etc. Seemingly, the merged company wants to do lots of services by itself, and I am not sure how that will jive with Epicor’s exiting consulting partners.

On the other hand, the upcoming Epicor ICE 3.0 platform will run on the Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure, will have a new Windows 8 Metro look-and-feel (unified mobile, web, and desktop UI’s), and will be disconnected from ERP business logic, i.e., it can be used for Activant’s mature ERP systems (Prelude, Eclipse, Prophet 21, etc.) for a technology uplift. See Gabriel Gheorghiu's blog post on Epicor's cloud strategy here.

This would constitute the “Extend” part of Epicor’s long proclaimed “customers for life” Protect-Extend-Converge strategy. “Protect” means protecting customers’ investment in Epicor and Activant’s heritage products. To that end, over the last 12 months, the vendor has released over 75 service packs and releases.

“Protect, Extend, and Converge” Strategy Remains Intact

Other examples of “Extend” would be the horizontal and vertical bolt-ons to existing Epicor and Activant products, such as the human capital management (HCM)/human resource (HR) product (former Spectrum HR), enterprise search, business activity query (BAQ), mobile, social enterprise, columnar in-memory Big Data capabilities (within Microsoft SQL Server 2012), and other capabilities. Finally, “Converge” means morphing into something new, where Epicor ERP (Epicor 9) is still the crown example of the next-generation product.

Epicor ERP has reportedly been shipped to over 3,050 companies since 2008 (half of which are old Epicor customers). During the same time, only over 60 old ERP products have been sold, as some comparison. Given some installation and upgrade issues in the past, the installation process in now much smarter, role-based, whereby quality issues can be detected and prevented. For more details on Epicor Insights 2012 highlights, see the blog post by Clients First Enterprise Solutions and by Frank Scavo of Enterprise Spectator.

Product Development Excellence

Current Epicor priorities were heralded as follows: Culture, Excellence, Innovation, (Being) Global, Organic Growth, and M&A Growth (Pervez Qureshi, Epicor CEO stated that the company will be aggressive, as he wants to double in size in next five years). Some market observers like Cindy Jutras of Mint Jutras were raving at the event’s Twitter stream (and in her subsequent blog post) about Activant’s R&D and implementation approach, as being unique in the enterprise software market.

While more rigor and analysis cannot hurt, Six Sigma processes can extend the time to market. If one is not careful, one can spend too much time investigating possible risks, since for each issue, you have four levels of analysis in the so-called house of quality, which can become taxing. But if done right, Six Sigma can create sold test plans. As one drives lower in the house of quality, you can identify quality, performance, and usability opportunities. DMAIC works well when one can clearly isolate root causes and fix them in isolation. Finally, the Agile Scrum methodology can help with faster R&D processes in smaller chunks.

For more information on Epicor, see TEC’s previous articles entitled Epicor Retail: Behind the Counter and What Have Epicor and Activant Been Up To (Post-Merger)? Dear readers, what are your views and opinions about Epicor’s recent moves and your concrete experiences with its product and service offerings?
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