Great Plains' Latest Product Offering
Ready to Stampede the SME Market?
In September, Great Plains unveiled new e-business solutions and services
during its 15th annual Stampede to Fargo, a four-day international business
conference for Great Plains partners. Value added resellers (VARs), consultants
and solution developers who sell, support and develop integrated products
for Great Plains e-business solutions, attended the event. Several new
solutions were featured, including:
- a new
e-commerce offering, eSell;
- a new
application , TimeReporter, for Palm's handheld computing device;
- new solutions
Plains' supply chain planning and execution series; and
6.0 enhancements to its leading e-business solutions, Dynamics and eEnterprise.
unveiled its new, hosted e-commerce solution, eSell. The new solution
helps customers bring their businesses to the Internet and enables business-to-business
(B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) sales over the Web. Great Plains'
partnership with Impressa offers an e-commerce solution with functionality
for building, administering, and managing a Website, as well as an e-commerce
storefront. eSell offers storefront integration to Great Plains Dynamics
or eEnterprise through customer, inventory and sales order integration.
of Stampede's strategy sessions Great Plains also announced its first
application for Palm's handheld computing device. TimeReporter for Project
Series is a time-and-expense reporting application for Palm's handheld
computer that synchronizes time-and-expense data via the Internet or local
area network to Great Plains eEnterprise Project Series. It was developed
in collaboration with Iambic Software.
unveiled a new version of eSupport, its electronic support system for
customers and partners. Available through a dedicated Web site, eSupport
provides automated self-support solutions and assisted-support solutions.
Improved navigation and convenient 24x7 access to technical solutions
help customers increase productivity while decreasing support costs. eSupport
is powered by software developed by Motive Communications.
reviewed its business-to-business (B2B) collaborative commerce solutions
that permit manufacturers, distributors and retailers to more effectively
collaborate supply chain planning and execution operations with trading
partners via the Internet. The Great Plains Supply Chain Series, powered
by Logility, delivers end-to-end e-business by providing planning, forecasting
and fulfillment efficiencies across trading communities.
announced the addition of Cash Flow Management to Dynamics and eEnterprise
through an OEM agreement with Encore Business Solutions, Inc. Great Plains
Cash Flow Management allows financial managers to view summaries, at their
desktop, of a day's cash inflow and outflow. Forecasting features identify
shortfalls or excesses and help management analyze line of credit positions
and other investment potentials.
not least, presenters showcased new multinational features found within
Release 6.0, the most comprehensive release in the company's history.
These new multinational and international enhancements extend euro capabilities
and allow customers to enter, view and reconcile transactions for denomination
or euro currency checkbooks. Additional multi-currency capabilities enable
customers to accept cash receipts in multiple currencies for a single
checkbook, reconcile that checkbook and report on that activity. Multinational
customers benefit from the new ability to run up to eight multiple languages
against a single database.
Great Plains has been following through on its projections from over a
year ago when it indicated that front-office applications and e-commerce
were two strategic areas of focus for the forthcoming period. It has even
gone a mile further by putting together a comprehensive product offering
that includes supply chain management and business intelligence. Great
Plains has indeed made a great noise and established itself as an undisputed
global small-to-medium enterprises (SME) market leader.
has significantly expanded outside of the US market and has the potential
of reaching $300 million in revenues in fiscal 2001. Its extensive and
efficient global indirect channel model that consists of over 2,000 partners
has been admired industry-wide. Further bolstering its channel architecture
is the company's endorsement of the Application Service Provider (ASP)
model, which it started more than two years ago (For more information,
Plains ASP - Evolution, Revolution, Innovation).
company has extended its product offering and geographic coverage by striking
a fine balance among strategic partnerships, acquisitions, and in-house
product development. Great Plains has been impressive in selecting and
attracting renowned vendors as its partners and in integrating disparate
products. It proudly touts its commitment to Microsoft's technology by
being one of very rare vendors that has a number of its R&D team members
located on the Microsoft campus and working directly with their Microsoft
another remarkable example, Siebel Systems selected Great Plains as the
partner to create a fully integrated back-office and front-office solution
for medium-sized companies. Great Plains Siebel Front Office includes
functionality for call centers, marketing, and sales, with a number of
other CRM modules being slated for the future release (For more information,
Great Plans For Great Plains" ). We also believe that its OEM partnership
agreement to sell Logility's Voyager Solutions will follow the similar
path and should bode well for both companies. The same should hold for
a number of other product alliances mentioned at the beginning of the
As for its acquisition ventures, the combination of Great Plains and Solomon
Software has resulted in a juggernaut within the SME market, with a formidable
combination of customers and channel partners. Great Plains offers fully
integrated front office/back office business applications for the SME
market. Its flagship product, eEnterprise, provides integrated modules
for financial, distribution, enterprise reporting, manufacturing, payroll,
human resources, service management, electronic commerce, and Internet
Plains' Dynamics product provides similar functionality for the lower-end
of the market. Solomon, on the other hand, offers a range of similar applications,
also on a Microsoft-based architecture. Solomon IV, its flagship product,
contains over 50 modules for financials, project management, bill of materials,
systems management, distribution, e-Business, and service management.
its prudent acquisition of FRx Software, a leader in the financial reporting
market, and PWA, a UK-based provider of HR software, although less publicized,
have both filled gaps in Great Plains' former product offering and have
provided additional revenue streams. Nevertheless, we believe that the
company will now need to take time to digest all of these acquisitions.
One should, however, not overlook the company's effort to develop significant
new functionality internally. Enhancements have been made to virtually
every major product series (e.g., Project Series, Distribution Series,
Manufacturing Series, etc.) within eEnterprise and Dynamics suites. One
of the most impressive enhancements is the possibility to foresee any
material shortages and conduct a necessary purchase order processing (POP)
and inventory control concurrently with a new sales order processing (SOP).
This SOP to POP integration capability should help customers manage supply
chains much more efficiently and effectively.
an updated user interface and shortcut navigation bar makes navigation
easier and more intuitive within Release 6.0. Notable Great Plains' Explorer
enhancements include Top 10 lists, queries using multiple filters and
several new views. Multinational customers will also benefit from the
new ability to run up to eight multiple languages against a single database.
its competitors, particularly the larger ones, may with a good reason
object that they had delivered similar product features in the past, possibly
more impressive is Great Plains' endeavor (and proven success) to deliver
bulletproof, bug free new generally available (GA) product releases, based
on extensive and stringent product testing. That has not traditionally
been the rule for most Tier 1 and Tier 2 applications vendors, whose new
releases are often bug ridden.
favorably regard the company's recent e-business initiatives, which are
in tune with the market trends and its customers' requirements. Moreover,
while Great Plains has long been cognizant of the Internet revolution
and delivered its first Internet-based products in 1996, it has subscribed
to a gradual change and extension of its back-office functionality in
order not to leave its current customers technologically stranded. As
a result, an impressive percentage (over 80%) of its current eEnterprise
users have been migrated to the latest release. This approach is captured
in the company's slogan "Revolution, through Evolution, with Innovation".
We endorse Great Plains' strategy to as uniformly as possible enhance
its core ERP products around all the 'hot buttons' of extended complementary
functionality (CRM, self-service, SCM, etc.) and continued emphasis on
integrating eCommerce components with its back-office systems.
Nevertheless, Great Plains faces a number of notable challenges. Both
unavoidable acquisition charges and the exorbitant costs of training its
staff in Siebel and other 3rd-party applications, as well as for in-house
major product enhancements and cross trainings in acquired products, were
major contributors to a significantly lower bottom line in recent times
(For more information, see Great
Plains - An SME Market Leader, But At What Cost?). It is realistic
to expect costs of training to continue to be high for some time to come.
merger with Solomon has been completed with impressive smoothness (with
minimal attrition) and will provide synergistic R&D endeavors in the future.
Solomon will leverage Great Plains' experience in developing internally
its manufacturing functionality, while Great Plains may benefit from gaining
insight into Solomon's experience in developing a fully browser-based
portal Solomon Desktop or by 'borrowing' some of its still superior project
the downside of the merger was that it did not expand combined product
functionality per se. Great Plains therefore had to internally develop
enhancements for its multi-site manufacturing and distribution functionality,
field service, and multi-national capabilities (such as support for 8
languages) to name but a few. Not to mention the impending need to broaden
Solomon's portfolio beyond its financial accounting sweet spot. Plans
to integrate it with Siebel and Logility are well underway. For more information
Takes All - Siebel Ousts SalesLogix From Solomon's Deal).
major challenge for Great Plains and its affiliate channel remains the
management of multiple flagship product lines. It will be difficult to
support existing customers and existing products, while juggling competitive
product lines. Since the product lines should remain separate for at least
two more years, this will add additional development costs, as well as
provide a challenge in explaining the position of the different products
and produce a sensible and simple pricing mechanism.
company will have to craft a sales strategy for optimizing the sales of
multiple product lines with much overlapping functionality, while avoiding
a likely internal competition within the resellers' channel. (One way
to resolve this is by slating eEnterprise, Solomon and Dynamics product
lines for different market segments, either by company size or vertical
industries.) Consequently, Great Plains can expect growing pains in assimilating
disparate product lines and training and possibly industry-specializing
its large affiliate channel.
Great Plains' e-commerce solution set, which includes e.Order Internet
B2B solution, e.Commerce B2C Solution, and eSell, to name but a few, is
impressive, it has yet to provide a crisp e-procurement and vertical digital
marketplaces solution. Although all e.Commerce objects are XML-enabled,
which is a good premise for building the foundation for integration of
technologies such as Microsoft BizTalk as well as integration among and
to B2B e-commerce sites and exchanges, the actual execution of these initiatives
is a monumental task.
our attendance at Stampede TEC was made aware that some alliance negotiations
were in progress, and the market should expect related press releases
in the near future. Any protracted delay in delivering these would aggravate
the challenge of protecting Great Plains turf from such Tier 1 and Tier
2 intruders as Oracle, J.D. Edwards and Lawson Software that currently
have a more comprehensive offering. The threat will remain even if the
Tier 1 vendors' offering is toned down for the smaller market segment.
One should also not overlook the fierce competition from direct competitors
like Navision, Epicor, and Sage Software. These players can still tout
their superior native manufacturing and distribution functionality and
vertical focus, which are indisputably ever more important tenets of competitiveness
within the SME market.
Existing Great Plains customers should certainly consider the new offering
and carefully determine their needs and/or time framework for a migration/update,
bearing in mind problems typical with major product releases. Although
all current Dynamics and eEnterprise customers on a maintenance contract
will automatically receive Release 6.0 at no additional charge, we recommend
identifying your clear e-business strategy and conducting thorough comparison-shopping,
at least for the sake of information leverage. Each component should be
put through its paces using a well-documented set of requirements, scripted
scenario demonstrations and rigorous reference checking.
for potential users, we generally recommend including Great Plains in
a long list of an enterprise application selection to the lower-end of
the mid-market companies (with $2M-$500M in revenue), which are staunch
users of Microsoft technology and have significant financial accounting,
project management, distribution, and service requirements, while currently
not needing rather complex manufacturing functionality. Great Plains should
be included on any package selection short list within the SME market
where electronic business, distribution, services and accounting modules
are the main pillars of an enterprise application.
with all new releases, users should employ a critical approach in their
evaluation of eEnterprise, Dynamics and/or Solomon IV, and require all
potential vendors to demonstrate specific business processes. Though demonstrations
do not guarantee a trouble-free implementation, they can go a long way
toward helping users understand how the software might behave in their
for the newly added CRM functionality resulting from the partnership with
Siebel, users are advised to ask for firm assurances on the availability
and timeframes for future upgrades, and more detailed scope of combined
product functionality. One caveat to be borne in mind is that although
this suite was developed from existing Siebel products, it is a first
version release. This means there are inevitable bug fixes to be made
over the next few months.
users of Great Plains eEnterprise with additional warehousing or transportation
management requirements may benefit from acquiring the Great Plains-branded
supply chain execution products from Logility. Improved technological
integration is seldom guaranteed by joint marketing arrangements, and
only comes after the arrangement yields considerable implementation experience.
Therefore, in the short term, these users should expect some bumpy ground
since Great Plains and Logility still need time in which to polish their
collaboration on delivering technical support for the products. As Great
Plains partners become familiar with Logility's products and the OEM partnership
solidifies, these problems are likely to diminish.
clients should conduct preliminary research on the industry expertise
and reference accounts of a regional Great Plains affiliate service provider
when the Great Plains' product is selected. They should also familiarize
themselves with the products' strengths and weaknesses within certain
vertical industries. Great Plains distributors generally offer vertical
solutions on an opportunity-by-opportunity basis only.
seeking a Web-based solution and out-of-box functionality with little
or no re-engineering effort may benefit from evaluating Great Plains'
ASP offering. Support, connectivity, ease of use, security, acceptance,
and scalability are only a few considerations. Current users of its traditional
client/server product may benefit from informing themselves of the ramifications
of switching to the ASP mode.