Great Plains is a leading small-to-mid-market provider of back-office
and e-business solutions. In March 2001, the company (still an independent
entity at the time) held Convergence, a four-day annual user conference
and international business event for its customers.
not given much attention at Convergence, Great Plains' foray into the
discrete manufacturing market caught TEC's attention. While the company
is admittedly aware of its limited success and brand recognition in this
market segment, partly the result of arriving late in the game (eEnterprise
Manufacturing Series was released only at the end of 1998;
the product was previously developed within Great Plains' development
environment by Great Plains' former VAR ICONtrol, which the company
acquired in April 1998), it is poised to significantly improve its posture
and product offering. See Market Impact for our view of Great Plains'
odds of success with this endeavor.
This was the fifth Convergence for Great Plains Dynamics and eEnterprise
customers, and the first for Great Plains Solomon customers. In
September 2000, Great Plains unveiled new e-business solutions and services
during its 15th annual Stampede, a four-day international business conference
for Great Plains value added resellers (VARs), consultants and solution
developers. These constituents sell, support and develop integrated products
for Great Plains e-business solutions, (for more information, see Great
Plains' Latest Product Offering - Ready to Stampede the SME Market?).
Convergence users had their turn to preview such new applications as release
6.0 of eEnterprise, although most applications has already been showcased
at Stampede. Release 6.0 of eEnterprise is the most comprehensive release
in the company's history, with significant new multinational and international
enhancements. Still, Convergence featured such recent events as the availability
of a time-tracking solution for hand held computing devices.
recent announcements included Great Plains' strategic alliance with Concur
Technologies Inc. (NASDAQ: CNQR), a provider of Corporate
Expense Management solutions, to resell the Application Service Provider
(ASP) model for Concur Expense. Concur Expense is a Web-based
travel and entertainment (T&E) expense management solution that will be
resold by Great Plains' 2,000 Value Added Resellers (VARs) to middle market
companies and existing Great Plains Dynamics, eEnterprise, Solomon IV
and Classic customers.
noted was Great Plains' announcement of plans to add a web-based budgeting
solution to meet the budgeting, planning and collaboration needs of mid-market
organizations. FRx Software, a wholly owned subsidiary of
Great Plains, will acquire the new budgeting solution, ebudgets,
and will re-brand it as FRx Forecaster. The integration
of FRx Forecaster with FRx's financial reporting application will automate
operational expense, personnel, capital and revenue planning and allows
multiple users and locations to participate directly in the budgeting
process via the Internet, a corporate intranet or a LAN-based network.
FRx Forecaster Professional will be available to
Great Plains eEnterprise and Solomon IV Premier customers in the second
calendar quarter of 2001.
the organizers' attempt to focus on 'business as usual', it was inevitable
that the audience's interest was in the status of Great Plains assimilation
by Microsoft (see Microsoft
And Great Plains - A Friendship That Turned Into A Marriage). The
acquisition was formally completed with Microsoft's April 5, 2001. announcement.
"Contentment without complacency" was TEC's impression that Great Plains
exuded during the conference with regard to becoming a part of Microsoft.
While relying on Microsoft's immense R&D resources (five times bigger
than the value of Great Plains' acquisition) is certainly pleasing, it
would not suffice in the long run without Great Plains' tenets of success
in the past, e.g., focus, product quality, channel, etc. Cannibalizing
the business of Great Plains' direct competitors that are still Microsoft's
partners is not an option - Microsoft has to be wary of being anti-competitive,
given the DOJ's constant attention to its moves. Therefore, Great Plains
continuation of business as usual is quite plausible.
and attracting renowned vendors as its partners and integrating disparate
products have marked Great Plains' strategy in the past. Great Plains
has impressively delivered on its projection from almost two years ago
when it indicated that front-office applications (through the alliance
with Siebel Systems) and e-commerce were two strategic areas
of focus for the future. The company has even gone a mile further by putting
together a comprehensive product offering that includes supply chain management
(through the alliance with Logility). Consequently, Great Plains
has indeed made great noise and established itself as a global small-to-medium
enterprises (SME) market leader. This is not the case in the manufacturing
part of the segment, but the company is determined to change its posture
in that regard.
first and foremost reason for maintaining a higher profile is finally
having a real product with tried-and-true functionality. The eEnterprise
Manufacturing Series provides a broad suite of applications designed for
discrete manufacturing businesses with Make To Stock (MTS), Make To Order
(MTO), Assemble to Order (ATO) and Hybrid manufacturing environments.
It features the following traditional ERP Modules:
Requirements Planning (CRP)
Forecasting, Inventory Management
Requirements Planning (MRP)
Production Scheduling (MPS)
Change Management (ECM)
in Process (with Lot/Serial Control and Data Collection)
Manufacturing Series integrates with other typical ERP functional series
available from Great Plains such as the Distribution Series, the Financial
Series and eEnterprise Payroll. The tight integration with HR, FRx enterprise
reporting, e-commerce and Siebel CRM modules, and with Logility Supply
Chain Planning modules (still in the future) will render the product even
more attractive to the target market segment.
The customer base is also getting to a critical mass, although it still
has to grow. The company cites approximately 160 manufacturing installations,
almost exclusively in the discrete manufacturing spot, with a small number
of batch process manufacturers. Although the company cites targeting the
companies with up to $250million in revenues, the real sweet spot is the
manufacturing companies with $10million - $75million preferably with a
single location. The customers are currently only North America-based
owing to Great Plains' endeavor to get all its ducks in a row before releasing
products for wide spread availability. The global availability is expected
within a year.
its competitors, particularly the larger ones, may with good reason object
that they had delivered the above product features a way back, the differentiator
for this Great Plains' endeavor (and proven success) is to deliver bulletproof,
bug free new generally available (GA) product releases, based on stringent
product functionality and performance testing. That has not traditionally
been the rule for most bigger applications vendors, whose new releases
are often bug ridden. The market where Great Plains is competing is quite
unforgiving to these kinds of flaws, possibly more so than with the vendor
candidly admitting the missing functionality.
should also bode well for the campaign is Great Plains' possibly unrivaled
global indirect channel model that consists of over 2,200 partners; it
has been admired industry-wide as the most appropriate delivery business
model in the target market segment. Further bolstering its channel is
the company's endorsement of the Application Service Provider (ASP) model,
which it started more than two years ago (For more information, see Great
Plains ASP - Evolution, Revolution, Innovation). Moreover, the speed
and low price, as well as the low hardware requirements may cause the
prospect to overlook the bells and whistles of other competitors.
For The Future
Nevertheless, Great Plains will have its work cut out for it. The product
still lacks in some functionality that TEC noticed as increasingly required
during recent software selections engagements such as lean/flow manufacturing,
intuitive visual (graphical) finite scheduling/plant level execution,
plant maintenance, document management/PDM, etc. The product also lacks
strong distribution requirements planning (DRP) functionality, which still
renders the product not particularly suitable for multi-site implementations.
There is also lack of vertical focus and industry templates - the fact
that the majority of customers are electronic manufacturers/OEMs is more
the result of serendipity than the company's orchestrated effort in the
that end, during our attendance at Convergence, TEC was made aware that
some alliance negotiations were in progress, and the market should expect
related press releases in the near future. While belonging to the Microsoft
family has advantages, the downside is that Great Plains' intended initiatives
would likely be hampered and tied to the strategy of the bigger brother.
The request for expanding the functionality of Microsoft bCentral
small business service may push aside some other initiatives that Great
Plains had earlier deemed necessary. Before integrating with Microsoft
bCentral can happen, in turn, Great Plains' stable of products has to
be re-architected/re-written for .NET as opposed to any proprietary development
tools (e.g., Dexterity). And only then, when all the products are interchangeable,
eEnterprise will be able to benefit from using the Solomon IV superior
distribution or project management functionality and vice versa. This
is not going to happen any time soon.
protracted delay in articulating and delivering these initiatives would
aggravate the challenge of protecting Great Plains turf from such Tier
1 and Tier 2 intruders as SAP, Oracle, J.D. Edwards
and PeopleSoft that indisputably have a more comprehensive and
deep offering. The threat will remain even if the Tier 1 vendors' offering
is toned down for the smaller market segment (see SAP
Claims Big Gains In The Low-End Battleground and PeopleSoft
Joins The Hunt For SMEs). One should also not overlook the fierce
competition from direct competitors like NavisionDamgaard, Epicor,
PRONTO, and Lilly Software to name but a few. 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.
a summary, Great Plains has most of what it takes to be a strong competitor
- product, channel, implementation methodology, market focus and corporate
viability. There is still much room for improvement in expanding the functionality
and the market awareness; with Microsoft's wind in its sails, one should
look for more effervescent activities in these matters.
As for potential Great Plains discrete manufacturing users our advice
eEnterprise if you are a small to medium, North American single-site
discrete manufacturing company or division, with a limited IT budget
and a timid IT strategy.
in mind that if the non-manufacturing modules (e.g., HR/payroll, CRM,
e-commerce, etc.) are also critical to you, then Great Plains brings
added value to the table, although the integration should be validated
during the technical review sessions as a part of a thorough selection
that require complex engineer to order (ETO) functionality, multi-site
and/or more intricate multi-national capability may benefit from evaluating
the selection process, question the company's executives about the positioning
of its manufacturing offering within the total business strategy of
to or visit existing users with a profile similar to yours to assess
their past experiences and confidence in the future of Great Plains'
manufacturing product and its track record relative to meeting the industry
recommendations for both current and potential Great Plains users can
be found in Great
Plains' Latest Product Offering - Ready to Stampede the SME Market?