Epicor Software Corp.: Completing Painstaking "e"Volution Part 1: About Epicor

Vendor Genesis

Geac Computer Corporation Limited manufactures, services, and rents systems, hardware, and enterprise applications to large and small organizations worldwide. Geac is the largest Canadian and one of the largest and most successful international software companies. Its solutions are specifically designed for the critical needs of users in the banking industry, hospitality markets (restaurants and hotels), newspaper publishing, public safety, property management & real estate, and libraries.

Geac is also a best-of-breed provider of mainframe and client/server cross industry solutions for financial administration and human resources (HR) functions, and enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications for manufacturing, distribution, and supply chain management. Founded in 1971, with headquarters in Markham, Canada, Geac has been experiencing a steady growth over the last decade. It has been a publicly traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange since 1983, with revenues of Can$793.2 million in fiscal 1999.

Geac has grown from a small company focused on libraries and banking/financing in the early 1990s, to an applications software giant with more than 5,200 employees with 90 offices in 18 countries. Through its growth-by-acquisition strategy, the company has increasingly expanded its range of solutions targeting vertical industries. Over the last five years, Geac has acquired in excess of 40 companies around the world.

As a result of its acquisition of Dun & Bradstreet Software in 1996, Geac formed its SmartEnterprise Solutions division, which provides mid- to large-sized enterprises with advanced best-of-breed financial, procurement, human resources and business intelligence solutions. Its multiple platform client/server 'SmartStream', mainframe 'E' Series and 'M' Series, and SQL product suites enable organizations to streamline business processes and enhance information access throughout their enterprises.

Geac's purchase of UK-based ERP software maker JBA International in 1999 has nearly doubled the company's size. With the addition of JBA, Geac is expected to surpass US$1 billion in revenue and occupy the 4th largest ERP vendor position.

Geac serves its worldwide base of more than 30,000 customers in more than 40 countries through direct sales, support, and affiliate locations worldwide. The company operates throughout the world, and as such segments its revenues geographically. In 1999, 68% of total revenues came from the USA and Latin America, 18% from Europe, 7% from Canada, and 7% from Australasia. The large majority of Geac's revenues are derived from maintenance and professional services (76%), with the rest coming from the actual sale and licensing of software and hardware products.

We expect acquisitions to continue to form an integral part of Geac's overall growth strategy, and the company to continue to be a leading global consolidator of mission critical applications in distinct niches within industrial, commercial and government sectors.

Vendor Strengths

Geac has proven itself an adroit and disciplined acquirer of application software businesses. Selective acquisitions have added breath through both attractive untapped market segments and a worldwide market presence. Its large customer base and strong widespread global presence will provide Geac a sustained service and support revenue stream in the future.

Geac has demonstrated a very proficient focus in niche industries that are currently untapped by other leading ERP vendors (Geac is regarded as one of the Top 3 solutions for Libraries, Property & Real Estate, Cash & Securities Reconciliation, and Newspaper Publishing Industries). The mission-critical nature of its solutions makes the company a "first call provider" in these esoteric markets whose customers turn to it first for further system enhancements.

The company is generally competitive in speed of implementation, total cost of ownership (TCO), and price/performance ratio. Geac was one of the first ERP vendors to embrace concepts of component technology, workflow- and Web-enablement, and interconnectivity with other vendors' systems. Furthermore, its products run on a broad set of the most popular platforms and databases. Its broad range of multiple platform products, worldwide coverage, and significant maintenance revenue stream tend to cushion the blow from any technological change and/or vendor intrusion.

Geac is financially viable and stable (See Fig. 1 & 2 - Geac Computer Corporation Ltd. - Annual & Quarterly Results). It has a lean general & administrative headcount and keeps its business units manageable in size. As a result, the company generates significant free cash flow and maintains one of the highest 'revenue per employee' ratios within the industry.

Vendor Challenges

Due to its late expansion into the ERP world and since its product portfolio is regarded as a bunch of niche point solutions (as opposed to a complete ERP product suite), the company may struggle for recognition as a potential strategic partner when involved in software selections against other, even smaller ERP suppliers. Its best-of-breed solutions provider strategy may fall flat with customers who prefer a vendor that can leverage a "one-stop shop" capability.

In order to maintain its strong growth, Geac intends to continue with both software solutions and service provider acquisitions. This will pose a challenge of avoiding both financial indigestion and creation of an unmanageable product portfolio of very diverse solutions. Some of its products are already in a maturity phase and will have to be either discontinued or retrofitted. In addition, the continual need of integrating/interfacing new products with its current or other vendors' products will require a very careful balancing of R&D expenses with a desired operational profitability.

We believe that Geac has a narrow choice of complete vertical industry solutions compared to other large ERP vendors. It only recently introduced Web-based self-service applications, which is significantly later than some much smaller competitors (e.g. Great Plains and Lawson Software). Furthermore, the lack of Client Relationship Management (CRM) and Advanced Planning & Scheduling (APS) modules in its product suite will remain, even after the incorporation of JBA and Clarus. This adds additional future integration issues to a company that already faces massive integration of its disparate ERP systems.

Vendor Predictions

Despite a highly competitive environment, we predict that Geac has a potential of reaching US$2 billion in revenues within the next 4 years (60% probability), based on its expertise and stronghold in relatively untapped industries (See Vendor Strengths).

We believe that, within the next 18 months, the company will have to either acquire (55% probability) or partner with (45% probability) a vendor whose products would significantly enhance its customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities. The potential acquisition candidate is Onyx Software, while Clarify/Nortel or Pivotal are strong partnership candidates. Failing to do so will enable J.D. Edwards to regain and fortify its #4 ERP vendor position within the same time period (70% probability).

Within the next 3 years, more than 65% of Geac's license revenues will come from JBA System 21 and Geac SmartStream product lines (60% probability). During the same time, more than 75% of its total revenue will come from license revenue (60% probability) based on the company's need to integrate its products with other 3rd party products.

Vendor Recommendations

Geac must promptly resolve any outstanding product interconnectivity issues both within its confederacy of products and with other vendors' products. It must also send a strong reassuring message to a possibly wary market regarding its strategic partner viability.

Geac should further penetrate the Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SME) market segment in the following ways:

  • Expand business in its existing customer base, by upgrading older versions of software and by offering new extended ERP modules and enterprise applications.

  • Conduct a detailed scrutiny of current geographic coverage by product lines as to identify any room for further global expansion.

  • Deliver more new, focused and pre-configured vertical solutions (e.g., healthcare, insurance, education, courts, etc.), and offer application outsourcing to make Geac attractive to smaller, resource constrained smaller enterprises.

Geac also must remain committed to new product features and the introduction of additional enhancements (See Vendor Challenges), and to enhancing CRM and e-Commerce offerings, possibly through strategic product alliances with competitors. We also encourage the company to consider continuing its stream of wise acquisitions within fragmented industries that might be ripe for a consolidation (see above-mentioned industries).

User Recommendations

We generally recommend including Geac in a long list of an enterprise application selection to mid-market and low end tier 1 companies (with $100M-$2B in revenue), based on a very deep understanding of customers' needs within the following industries: Library Systems; Construction Systems; Property Management Systems; Hospitality Systems; Public Safety Systems; Publishing Systems; Manufacturing & Distribution Systems; Real Estate Systems; Cash & Securities Reconciliation Solutions.

When Geac is selected as a main contractor, future clients are advised to request the company's written commitment to promised functionality, length of implementation, and seamless future upgrades. Moreover, since we expect growing pains in merging disparate product lines within the current channel, potential clients should conduct preliminary research on industry expertise and reference sites of a regional Geac/JBA office when the Geac/JBA product is selected.

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