Lose the Starry Eyes, Analyze: Reviewing the Ideal Candidate for Metasystems ICIM




Introduction

Metasystems develops its Interactive Computer Integrated Manufacturing (ICIM) software and provides consulting services for discrete manufacturers. Formed in 1975, the Ohio, USA-based company has been successfully helping its customers in the window and door, capital equipment, wire cloth, construction equipment, furniture and fixture, and medical equipment manufacturing industries.

The ideal candidate for Metasystems' enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution will need strong inventory and purchasing management capabilities, a well-rounded selection of manufacturing management, and financial functionality, as well as sales management support. The candidate will not need to rely on the Metasystems solution for human resources functionality. This high-level analysis of Metasystems ICIM provides a starting point for determining whether your company's requirements may be served well by the ICIM feature set.

Profiling Metasystems' Ideal Candidate

For each high-level criterion TEC uses to analyze a product, we create several types of graphs. One type is a baseline graph. In the baseline graph, we normalize all criteria to an equal relevance, which allows you to see how a vendor's product scores on its own merit, without regard to any one module taking precedence over another. By checking the vendor's results against a normalized baseline, you see the modules and functionality on which the vendor puts the most emphasis.

We take the baseline graph, adjust its benchmark, and develop the second type of graph in which the benchmark corresponds to Metasystem's focus. These newly prioritized graphs make ICIM's strengths visibly stand out against its weaknesses.

Examining Metasystems

The baseline contribution analysis graph (Figure 1), takes into account more than 3,000 criteria for evaluating the functionality of an ERP solution. The dotted benchmark line shows every module weighted such that the modules are equally important to the product's functionality. The solid green line in the graph shows how much Metasystems modules each contribute to its product's functionality.

Figure 1


Metasystems supports quite a few criteria in our evaluation. Initially, we can see that areas such as inventory and sales management extend closest to the edges of the graph. The human resources group reveals the greatest gap between the benchmark and the green ICIM line. By considering the benchmark as your company's requirements you could assume initially that ICIM meets a good norm for manufacturing management. You would want to be wary about the technical requirements for the system, since that portion of the graph dips below the benchmark, but this may not represent a problem--we will look more deeply at what it means later.

Compare the graph from figure 1 with the prioritized graphs of figures 2 and 3. These prioritized graphs show the benchmark prioritized such that the modules to which Metasystems has indicated the highest degrees of support, become the areas with the greatest contribution to the graphs. The idea is to make it easier to get an overview on whether your company's requirements would align with ICIM's functional focus.

Figure 2

Inventory and sales management have the tallest reach, while human resources drops quite a bit.

Figure 3


In Figure 1, it appeared that quality management was one of most important modules, but that was before we adjusted the benchmark. Quality management has only twenty-nine criteria. While, for certain organizations it might be as important to the whole package as some of the other modules, it's clear that its weight is spread out across a smaller total number of criteria than, for example, inventory management. While we might consider these two modules on par, it's likely that inventory management, based on 192 criteria, plays a more significant role to the system. Let's take a closer look at inventory management.

Inventory Management

Most of the inventory management module's criteria groups (figure 4) have high ratings, which signifies that Metasystems supports the majority of possible requirements.

Figure 4


Out of the 192 criteria, only six are not supported outright. These mostly fall into the online requirements section, which is why that area of the graph dips a little below the others. This however, is not enough to discount Metasystems' online capabilities as a weak spot. Most of the criteria for online requirements can be supported through modifications.

Sales Management

Another equally high point for Metasystems is its sales management module. The online requirements again have a few criteria which are supported by modification but aside from these, in figure 5, only the customer relationship management (CRM) group seems to detract from the overall sales management functionality.

Figure 5



Although it is one of six major groupings of criteria, the CRM portion of sales management contributes ten percent of the total criteria to our group. The areas that are not natively supported consist of criteria for call center features. If you require functionality such as an inbound call management queue that can distribute callers to available operators, Metasystems would take care of this though customization. Some other features, including contact synchronization support for PDAs, are slated for a future release.

Financials

Metasystems is strong in financials almost everywhere except for two groups of criteria. Its support for fixed assets functionality is accomplished through modifications, while project accounting will be supported in a future release. These two groups account for about nine percent and six percent respectively of the 1016 criteria we used to analyze the financial capabilities.

Figure 6

Metasystems has put a lot of emphasis on its solution's reporting, accounts receivable, and budgeting functionality. For each of those three groups, there isn't a single unsupported item. The remaining groups of criteria build on ICIM's financial strengths by supporting the majority of the functions that could be required.


Human Resources

As we saw earlier, the module that contributes the least to the Metasystems solution is the human resources (HR) module. Considering figure 7—a graph of the HR module by itself—it might appear confusing that HR was not one of the major contributors to ICIM's functionality. Each group of criteria appears to extend somewhat close to the end of the graph.

Figure 7




In fact, in this case Metasystems has indicated that it only provides HR functionality through the support of a third party, hence the HR modules are all equally supported as they consist of criteria not natively offered by the vendor. Human resources is the only major module not natively supported. If part of your company's key requirements includes an ERP vendor that can deliver HR functionality as part of its solution, Metasystems will not be your best choice. However, if this is not a showstopper you can continue by looking at the degree to which Metasystems supports other modules.

Manufacturing Management

Manufacturing management is one of the more feature-filled modules offered by Metasystems. We asked approximately 1100 questions to determine the company's manufacturing management capabilities. ICIM scored very well in product costing, with the few areas not supported outright, still available through modification. This was also the case for the sixty-eight criteria regarding product data management.

Reviewing figure 8, we can see that one area in particular, project management, dips close to the center. Field service and repairs also falls away from the graph's edge. Why? Project management is not supported in ICIM and may not be essential for your requirements (it makes up only about three percent of our total manufacturing management criteria) but Metasystems indicated it would support all of these criteria in a future release.

Figure 8


Field service and repairs dips a little because ICIM does not have support for call management functionality. Activities such as queue management, service call order or invoicing, and call escalation must be customized in order to be supported. This is consistent with the way in which we saw Metasystems treated call management in its sales management functionality. Call management consists of only thirty-three criteria out of the 1100 manufacturing management questions; so if purchasing a high-level of ready-to-go call management features is not a requirement for your operations, call management should not be considered a weakness for the ICIM system.

Finally, Metasystems emphasis on shop floor control is very well rounded; the line follows just slightly closer to the center of the graph than some of the other groups, possibly because of its WIP management section of criteria. In this section we have a few criteria such as "item shortage analysis by order number with look-ahead features," which are not supported by Metasystems but can be fulfilled through a third-party. Essentially, ICIM does fulfill the majority of possible manufacturing management requirements.

Product Technology

The group contributing the most functionality to the product technology segment is architecture. In this group we've inquired on 279 different criteria, only seven percent of which did Metasystems not support at all. Metasystems makes an admirable attempt at supporting over half of the architecture criteria, with the remaining features mostly available through modification or customization. With a strong architectural foundation and organizational features, the one main area that seems not to be a priority for the company is a wide-range of support for different messaging protocols. Indeed, ICIM-supported APIs include only object linking and embedding, ActiveX, open database connectivity, ADO, and OLE DB; but if these happen to be sufficient, the unsupported other possibilities will not be a consideration.

Figure 9


From a technology perspective, both reporting and workflow and document management are supported in their entirety within ICIM, which is reflected in figure 9. While Metasystems does not support Microsoft SQL Server or IBM DB2, it does support Oracle. If your requirements match in this area, the platform consideration is of little consequence because ICIM could fit your environment well.

Conclusion

We can imagine from the graphs that Metasystems' ideal candidate will not be interested in depending on ICIM to provide human resources and call management functionality. Instead, Metasystems' will be a good prospect for a company seeking not only inventory and purchasing management, but also many solid financial capabilities. In addition, Metasystems' manufacturing focus should appeal to customers needing a fairly deep level of product costing and shop floor control, but not project management or field service and repair functionality.

 
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