Epicor Insights 2013

Epicor held its Insights 2013 conference in Nashville last week, attended by 2,900+ customers, 500+ employees,  300+ partners, and 100+ exhibitors, and with more than 700 sessions. Clearly Epicor has a lot to talk about. TEC's Aleksey Osintsev and I covered the event and, in numerous one-on-one meetings with Epicor managers, executives, partners, and third-party consultants, received an up-close look at Epicor's corporate, product, and technology strategies.

Epicor Corporate Strategy

Epicor continues to espouse its “Protect, Extend, Converge” strategy of using application and technology investments to support current solutions and harvest more value from older solutions:

  • Protect: Continued investment in Epicor’s current products and solutions

  • Extend: New best-in-class applications and infrastructure to deliver additional value from current products and solutions

  • Converge: Ongoing product evolution leveraging Epicor’s next-generation technology and capabilities

Epicor is making a strong push to support all of its customers on its many solutions and releases with a "customers for life" message that is all about never sunsetting an Epicor solution.

Buttressing “Protect, Extend, Converge” is a multipronged strategy around verticals, solutions, and technology:

  • A focus on specific vertical markets and industries with industry-focused solutions and services

  • Expansion of Epicor's reach into the addressable market and adjacent verticals, through geographic expansion, organic growth, and "acquisition-related initiatives"

  • Expansion up-market

  • Acceleration of Epicor software-as-a-service (SaaS) and cloud offerings

  • Development of "extend applications" as both technology foundations and as stand-alone solutions

  • Focus on human capital management (HCM), Internet component environment (ICE), mobile, electronic data interchange (EDI), business intelligence (BI), and customer relationship management (CRM)

  • Extension of the partner ecosystem to better serve emerging markets and vertical specialization

In short, Epicor is making strong pushes on the solutions, services, and technology fronts, and was able at Insights2013 to talk more about its strategies in these areas than last year.

While multiple people that I spoke to said that much attention was paid last year (the first post-Activant event) to the formation of the new Epicor, the story of the Solarsoft acquisition this year was simply part of Epicor's vertical positioning—how the acquisition of Solarsoft augments Epicor’s presence in certain verticals (lumber and building materials, wholesale distribution, print and packaging, and  automotive) and puts Epicor into other new verticals (process manufacturing: food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, mills, metals, and chemicals).

Epicor Verticals and Solutions

Epicor clearly leads with certain solutions (Epicor ERPProphet21EclipseTropos, and ICE), which results, almost inevitably, with those Epicor customers using other solutions wondering about the viability of their selection. CEO Pervez Qureshi in his keynote address apparently felt compelled to give a vote of confidence to Eclipse and Prophet21, asserting that Epicor has more developers committed to these solutions now than in many years. I suspect this may be a more or less continuing exercise for Epicor.

Epicor's technology strategy, then, takes on particular significance as a stabilizing force. On the technology front, Erik Johnson, vice president of technology strategy, gave an entertaining and engaging presentation on the role of disruptive technology in Epicor's world. Paul Farrell, executive vice president of research and development, brought this to life with a demo of Epicor ICE, which is poise to serve as the technology platform to unlock and extend the potential of Epicor's solutions.

Epicor ICE

Epicor ICE is a service-oriented architecture (SOA)–based technology platform for connecting application technologies and for building business applications. First introduced in 2008, ICE is the "extend" part of Epicor's “Protect, Extend, Converge” strategy.

As Malcolm Fox, Epicor’s vice president of product marketing, explained to me, ICE provides greater leverage to all of the capabilities of Epicor’s solutions, creating greater access to legacy data and providing application programming interfaces (APIs) to other systems. ICE will be rolled out with each solution set in varying ways and on different timelines, but the ICE technologies generally include: business activity queries (BAQs), updatable dashboards, Information Worker (a plug-in to integrate the BAQs to Microsoft products like Word, Excel, and Outlook), and Epicor Enterprise Search.

ICE is a very significant piece of technology. ICE has already been rolled out for Epicor ERP and Prophet21, and is being rolled out for Eclipse, CMS, and iScala as well. Work on ICE is ongoing, with the product manager in one session indicating that some work was, as a result, in a "bit of a holding pattern” until some necessary ICE-related technology work was completed.

Even if the ICE rollout causes a hiccup here or there in feature or function development, ICE's potential for unlocking more value in Epicor's solutions with new capabilities in accessing legacy data, dashboards and analytics, and productivity tools means that ICE is a major piece of Epicor's strategy.

Press Releases at Insights2013

Epicor made a number of announcements at the conference:

Epicor announced new versions of its CMS ERP solution for the automotive industry, Epicor Eagle for SMB retail businesses, and continued traction and customer wins with the Mattec manufacturing execution system (MES) (part of the Solarsoft acquisition) and cloud ERP.

Epicor and Supply Chain

Being the ERP- and retail-focused vendor that it is, one has to look beneath the surface to find the supply chain thread in Epicor's product strategy. Epicor focuses its supply chain feature/function strategy around some core supply chain capabilities: purchasing, sourcing and procurement, inventory management, advanced material management, shipping and receiving, and warehouse management.

For more sophisticated capabilities of forecasting, Epicor offers partnerships with Smart Software, or ForecastPRO. For additional inventory management capability or for sales and operations planning (S&OP), Epicor partners with RockySoft.

Other supply chain Epicor partners include Agile Networks for shipping; Insite Software for B2B commerce, shipping and manifesting;  Intermec for data capture; Manufacturing Systems Corp. for warehouse management, advanced inventory, shipping, and labor tracking; Management Information Tools, Inc (MITS) for analytics, dashboards and reporting; Precise Business for advanced requisition management, and point-of-sale (POS); PROCAD for product data management and product lifecycle management; and QBuild for CAD-ERP integration.

Epicor has yet to pull these pieces into what I would call a consolidated supply chain story. Epicor does have a roadmap of sorts, and the conference included talk about plans for partner enhancements, extensions to the partner ecosystem, S&OP, and more vertical specialization, as well as, further out, the convergence of wholesale distribution. Given how important supply chain is to many of Epicor's customers, Epicor could and should begin, in the near future, to pull together and develop even further a story around its supply chain capabilities.

Epicor has shown that it can build great product. But Epicor has had a lot of other things to focus on recently: integrating acquisitions along with product and marketing strategies, incorporating important new enabling technologies like cloud/SaaS into its products, and further developing and rolling out its ICE technology strategy and platform. As Epicor’s evolving strategies lock in, I expect this will free up even more feature/function innovation, in ERP, retail, and supply chain planning and execution, perhaps starting as soon as later this year. Expect Epicor Insights2014 next year in Las Vegas to be as different as Insights 2013 was different from Insights 2012.

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