Getting a More Exact Picture of, Well, Exact Software Americas - Part 1

In the early and mid-2000s, I had a fairly close relationship with Exact Americas (at that time called Exact North America). As a result, there were two in-depth TEC article series on the vendor from 2004 and 2006. At the time of the first series, the avant-garde collaborative Exact e-Synergy platform was introduced to the local market (meanwhile, the product has been renamed Exact Synergy). At the time of the second series, the Exact Software parent launched its global ERP offering Exact Globe, while its American division acquired Vanguard Business Analytics, which is now the Exact Business Analytics (EBA) offering.

In 2007, Exact Holding N.V. reorganized its regional structure, and Middleton, Massachusetts (US) is now the headquarters for the Americas (North, South, and Central) region. The other regional divisions within Exact are now Exact Benelux (as Exact has a great number of customers to manage within these countries, where it owns a significant market share) and Exact EMEA (the rest of Europe) and Asia-Pacific. In 2007 Exact also finalized its purchase of Longview Solutions in Canada, which is the corporate performance management (CPM) division.

Exact Holding and Its Regional Divisions

Exact has been serving entrepreneurs with IT solutions since 1984, at which time its initial focus was on supporting financial processes. Growing from a student start-up to a global solution provider, today over 1,800 employees worldwide work on and offer the company’s integrated solutions for small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

Exact solutions comprise traditional ERP as well as related software solutions such as human resource management (HRM), customer relationship management (CRM), CPM, project management, electronic workflow, e-commerce, and electronic data interchange (EDI). These applications help companies track all of their interactions with customers, and track and plan their own business functions in a coordinated way, even across widely separated operations.

Every day, solutions such as Exact Globe, Exact Synergy, and Exact Online support over 100,000 customers – local and international companies – with the daily management of their business. Exact develops industry-specific on-premises and software as a service (SaaS) solutions for manufacturing, wholesale & distribution, and professional services. Exact Holding is headquartered in Delft, the Netherlands and has been listed on the NYSE Euronext Amsterdam since June 1999. The company’s revenues in 2010 amounted to € 228.2 million (about US$300 million).

Exact primarily targets small and midsized businesses for its clients, serving them through subsidiaries in more than 40 countries around the world. As said earlier, Exact Americas is a division of Exact Holding and has its headquarters in Middleton, Massachusetts. Exact  Americas is responsible for the management, development, marketing, sales, and services associated with the Exact Synergy and Exact Globe brands in North America, South America, and Central America, as well as the Exact Macola ERP, Exact JobBOSS, Exact MAX, Exact Alliance, Exact eCommerce, Exact EDI, and Exact Business Analytics brands primarily in North America.

Exact Americas: The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Recently, I had a long-overdue update briefing with Exact Americas at its HQ in the Boston metro area. And yes, the reorganization from a few years back has at least brought about significant personnel changes. Headcounts and revenues, both in the Americas and worldwide are lower as compared to the pre-recession levels in, say, 2007. Another new thing I noticed when entering the premises was the “=Exact” corporate logo.

The equal sign that precedes the wordmark expresses that there is an equivalent proposition on the other side (just like in math, where an equation precedes an equal sign with the answer). What Exact is communicating with its new logo is that it cannot exist without an equal proposition next to it: Exact equals people, collaboration, structure, and results, i.e., Exact equals what it provides to its customers. “And it all comes together” is the vendor’s tagline. Exact Americas’ team explained the following to me:
“Together with our logo or company name, the tagline expresses our added value: we bring everything together. In a concrete application this can mean our integrated solutions, our values, our products, our services or other tangible parts of our offering.”

In addition, about three years ago, the division was instructed to market Exact’s truly global products, Exact Globe and Exact Synergy, perhaps more aggressively than its local offerings. It is difficult to blame Exact Holding for this decision and its urge in light of its direct competitors all having and promoting their global offerings: Sage with Sage ERP X3 and Sage SalesLogix CRM, Microsoft with Microsoft Dynamics AX and Microsoft Dynamics CRM, Epicor Software with its Epicor ERP suite, Infor with Infor10 ERP Business (SyteLine), and so on and so forth.

But the trouble was with Exact Globe having decent distribution capabilities, and only light make-to-stock (MTS) manufacturing capabilities to compete with the aforementioned products. The solid professional services automation (PSA) capabilities are not even marketed in the region, given Exact Americas’ manufacturing and distribution pedigree.

Thus, even though Exact Globe has over 30,000 users worldwide, there have been only hundreds of corporate users in the Americas. The product’s target customers in the region are wholesale trade companies with 10 to 100 employees (10 to 20 users) in industrial equipment, professional services, machinery, and electrical components and equipment.

After all, Exact entered the US market via the acquisition of former Macola Software in 2001, and the Exact Macola ERP product has garnered its loyal following in the local manufacturing and distribution mid- market. Exact Macola ERP has  active corporate users in the thousands for both the Exact Macola Progression and Exact Macola ES (standing for “Enterprise Suite”) releases. The difference between the two is that ES has the Exact Globe financial management capabilities, whereas Progression had its own, more basic accounting capabilities.

In any case, Macola is an ERP software suite for small and medium-sized MTS and make-to-order (MTO) manufacturing and distribution businesses that often require electronic data interchange (EDI) capabilities and the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) compliance. The product’s typical customers are the companies with 20 to 200 employees (10 to 20 users) in the machinery, testing equipment, electrical equipment and components, and industrial equipment segments.

Released in 2003, the ES product release was the next-generation successor of the legacy-like Progression ERP product. Via the integration with Exact Synergy, the product features enhanced user-friendliness, and built-in collaborative capability in the realms of CRM, HR, e-commerce, project management, and project accounting. Macola, sold via Exact's direct sales team as well as via 30 experienced and dedicated value added resellers (VARs), is a solid product for the North American smaller manufacturers who also have serious distribution needs. It is not as powerful for the high volumes of wholesalers, where Epicor (Activant) or Infor’s wholesale distribution ERP products still rule, but it is quite suitable for manufacturing companies that need to store and deliver their goods and services.

These are capabilities that Exact Globe could not just replicate, and, after all, Infor, Sage, and Microsoft Dynamics also have their multiple products that are well-attuned to the local markets (e.g., Infor10 ERP Express (VISUAL), Microsoft Dynamics GP and Microsoft Dynamics SL or Sage ERP MAS 90, Sage ERP MAS 200, and Sage ERP MAS 500).

Part 2 of this series will analyze the most recent Exact Americas’ product releases and moves. In the meantime, your views, comments, opinions, etc. about Exact Software’s recent moves, and your experiences with the vendor and its products are customarily welcome.

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