MAPICS Unifies The Brand And Interacts For CRM Solutions




Event Summary

On August 27, MAPICS, Inc. (NASDAQ: MAPX), a global provider of extended ERP applications for mid-sized manufacturers, and Interact Commerce Corporation, a division of the Sage Group Plc. and the provider of SalesLogix, possibly the leading small business and mid-market CRM product, and ACT!, one of the best-selling contact manager products, announced a partnership that will expand the CRM capabilities offered through MAPICS ERP for Extended Systems, formerly known as Point.Man, one of two MAPICS flagship ERP products (the other being former MAPICS XA now known as MAPICS ERP for iSeries platform).

The partnership is seen to enable MAPICS to market SalesLogix to its mid-sized customers in the high tech market, as well as to offer a complete front office/back office solution to new customers. For manufacturers who need to integrate CRM into their ERP system, SalesLogix will be integrated into MAPICS ERP for Extended Systems by the end of this year, according to the companies.

With the integrated MAPICS and SalesLogix solution, users should be able to connect or link information from their ERP solution directly into SalesLogix, creating an end-to-end CRM solution that follows the customer from initial contact through the sale and after-market support. Mid-market manufacturers should therefore be able to strengthen communications with prospects and customers by tracking customer information such as orders, invoices, and shipping status; track and measure targeted marketing campaigns; and project revenues. The solution can be deployed not only to inside sales teams, but also to direct sales representatives, manufacturers' representatives, distribution sales and marketing departments. MAPICS reportedly plans to implement and support SalesLogix, assuring customers that the product is installed and maintained by professionals that are familiar with their company and its business processes and systems.

On another matter, MAPICS' recent organizational realignment will focus on selling customized solutions, which include various ERP, SCM, plant maintenance, and collaboration components to address the unique business challenges of complex manufacturing and high tech manufacturing environments. The company therefore plans to eliminate the use of multiple product logos and names. MAPICS is now structuring all offerings around one brand - MAPICS ERP and its offerings will no longer be referred to by their current names: XA, Point.Man, Thru-Put, and Maincor.

To that end, later this month, MAPICS will be announcing major product releases for its ERP for Extended Systems (formerly known as Point.Man) and its ERP for iSeries (formerly known as XA). MAPICS aims to solve the many challenges facing today's mid-market manufacturer in both complex manufacturing (seen as the ERP for iSeries' sweet spot) and high-tech manufacturing (seen as the ERP for Extended Systems' focus). Based on customer feedback, the enhancements to both ERP solutions focus on three main common areas to help manufacturers remain competitive:

  1. Improved Collaboration with Business Partners: Deliver tools to help manufacturers work better with their customers, suppliers and distributors, such as customized Internet-based core business processes, automated transactions and system-to-system connectivity, and integrated private trading exchange (PTX) and portal.

  2. Industry-Specific Manufacturing: Deliver solutions specifically for manufacturers such as supply chain planning (SCP), product life cycle management (PLM) and configure-to-order (CTO) Web storefronts.

  3. Accelerate Customer Profitability: Help customers increase profit share with enhanced sales channel management and business intelligence (BI).

Market Impact

Having long believed in traditional values like partnership, customer satisfaction, and dependability, MAPICS has pursued additional partnering arrangements intended to help manufacturers move into a collaborative e-business realm prudently. The company has focused on opening and extending its applications so that all customers' data and business processes remain in place as they embark onto e-business. To that end, we endorse MAPICS' alliance with Interact Commerce, like those with Vanguard Solutions Group for business intelligence (BI) add-on modules, and with Access Commerce for the attractive Cameleon product configurator, but for its mature XA product.

We believe this is the right deal for MAPICS, given that the company could likely not afford any longer time-to-market latency or exorbitant financial and human resources to develop the CRM functionality in house. As several mid-market CRM pure players have broad, flexible products that can be relatively easily interfaced to ERP systems, small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) have increasingly been tempted to bolt them onto their current in place ERP systems. Partnering rather than developing CRM modules seems to be working well for a slew of smaller ERP vendors, e.g., Macola Software, Made2Manage, and ROI Systems to name but a few, and very often it is with either Interact Commerce or FrontRange Solutions (formerly Goldmine). The MAPICS' target market and existing customers are SMEs that will not swallow a Seibel's price tag and product complexity (see J.D. Edwards Fires Siebel, Hires YOU).

Interact, on the other hand, boasts one of the largest install bases in the SME CRM space. While ACT! is mainly a contact manager product, SalesLogix is a full-fledged sales force automation (SFA) application, with integrated graphics and wireless applications protocol (WAP) capabilities. If one would conduct a survey, the great part of MAPICS' users will likely have already installed Interact's contact management or SFA system. The downside, as a rule, is the inevitable integration effort yet to be exerted. While the mitigating factor is the fact that the integration task may not start from scratch, integration is never a simple task despite SalesLogix' Open CRM initiative, a number of mid-market ERP product alliances and subsequent product integration experiences.

Furthermore, owing also to the acquisition of former competitor Pivotpoint, MAPICS delivered over the last 18 months a plethora of new e-business modules and expanded its platform reach from its solely IBM iSeries (formerly AS/400) and DB/2 platforms to include Microsoft Windows NT, UNIX operation systems and Oracle DBMS platforms. MAPICS' solutions now comprise two ERP systems (XA and Point.Man), plus supply chain management (Thru-Put), and enterprise asset management (Maincor EAM) products. Other recent solutions worth mentioning include TeamWeRX, an enterprise portal that integrates business collaboration processes across the value chain, MAPICS Commerce, an Internet-based, interactive buying & selling environment (storefront), and product lifecycle management (PLM) software - Magik.

As mentioned earlier, all above products will loose their current trademarks. The above-mentioned applications outside the core ERP backbones can or will be used atop of both ERP systems, and will commonly be referred as e.g., portal, PLM, or SCM solution. The above initiatives should definitely help offset an apparent dip in sales for the company's erstwhile breadwinner - the ERP for iSeries - (still known as MAPICS XA), in addition to expanding opportunities for the entire product offering.

Challenges

Nevertheless, the management of multiple, complex product lines, assembled through a combination of internal development, acquisitions and partnerships, remains awkward for MAPICS and its affiliate channel. While we believe winning new accounts will continue to be a tall order, the existing loyal client base is the company's greatest strength and asset, and the company needs to more efficiently mine it by doing a better job of selling the broadened offering, by getting its affiliate channel both excited about the product portfolio and by upgrading the channel's ability to sell.

In the long run, however, MAPICS will have to solve the 'new deals' conundrum in a world where smaller vendors with older products have to overcome the market's perception (e.g., the association with the antiquated, green-screen, AS/400 product), in addition to limited resources and an onslaught of bigger brethren. To that end, the company's latest initiatives to architecturally rejuvenate the product via enabling it for Java/J2EE and XML technologies, to render it deployable to any client device (including mobile technologies too) in a secure manner, and by componentizing it based on core business processes, in the forthcoming Release 7, may prove to be crucial in overcoming the above proverbial perception.

The initiative promises to be the biggest technological shift in the product's long history, and should certainly breath a fresh air into its life. Also, the product should benefit from the functional enhancements too, such as CRM (Web configuration), SCM/APS, PLM, and new vertical solution for the metals industry.

Nevertheless, given the fact that the market opportunity for former Point.Man is apparently much more prosperous than for former XA, due to Point.Man's strong Web-enablement, personalization, interoperability and scalability capabilities, it appears that Point.Man will become the main offering for MAPICS in the long run, as seen from the company's action to rename it as MAPICS ERP for Extended Systems. It is also seen in MAPICS' efforts to deliver global functionality in its newest product release. The product includes financial capabilities, multi-currency functionality, and comes in several languages, which should make it more competitive. The product has already achieved success in the high-tech (electronics and semiconductor) vertical market partly owing to a strong functionality in virtual manufacturing (e.g., outsourcing/subcontracting and a complex sales channel management), which is often a 'must have' in that market.

The quandary remains in the fact that former XA is still functionally a stronger product than former Point.Man across the range, and in Point.man's poor acceptance by the company's indirect channel that predominantly has an XA-based skill-set and installed customer base. To that end, the MAPICS initiative to unify the product brand might in the long run remedy the situation. The unification of brands typically means more effective marketing, which is a big need at MAPICS.

While there will be an initial confusion about brand recognition associated with the product names and logos, this realignment is a good first step towards MAPICS' ability to deliver manufacturing solutions depending on the customers' unique needs. Still, there is a long way to go before the company will have a repository of components that can be assembled exactly to a customer's specifications. The positive news is that using the applications such as portals, PLM, or EAM on top of both ERP products will result in synergies. The downside is that it cannot be done within the core ERP products owing to a huge gap between the products' technologies and functional capabilities.

Another cloud on MAPICS' competitive horizon is the entry of Microsoft, through its Great Plains acquisition, into MAPICS traditional SME market (see How Great Is Great Plains' Manufacturing Offering (Did Somebody Say Microsoft)?). The traditional MAPICS affiliate channel, which still concentrating on the AS/400 based XA product, will have to wrestle with new, aggressive, technology savvy competitors from the Microsoft.NET world. The fact that the existing affiliate channel is not aggressively selling the open and technologically more advanced system (Point.Man) begs the question when its global and functional capabilities will be at least on par with those of XA so that the channel's heart is more into selling it. To that end, MAPICS' initiative to seek new resellers for NT-based ERP for Extended Systems should help in the interim until the channel's mindset changes and it starts thinking in terms of customers needs rather than in terms of products allegiances.

User Recommendations

MAPICS remains a stable company, with a depth of manufacturing knowledge, a strong customer service record and developed affiliate channel (over 80 affiliates worldwide), which has broadened its product offering. However, how well will it maintain strength within its affiliate channel given the recent unified brand; how well will it target the right e-business issues for the manufacturing mid-market; and, subsequently, how can it increase the growth of new licenses.

Existing MAPICS ERP for Extended Systems customers should review the above-mentioned enhancements (both developed by MAPICS and through alliances) with their local affiliate with an eye towards extending the value of existing applications. MAPICS customers with custom systems or products from other vendors should review the affiliate's development capabilities in order to gain data integration between their various systems. New customers evaluating MAPICS should consider the necessary enhancement modules an essential part of MAPICS product and insist on reviewing them as part of their evaluation.

Current users contemplating a CRM solution should be pleased with what is becoming available soon. North American mid-market manufacturers in the electronics and semiconductor verticals looking for SCM, e-Commerce or ERP solutions should have placed MAPICS ERP for Extended Systems (a.k.a. Point.Man) on the short list before this announcement. These enterprises should consider CRM as a requirement during their evaluation. MAPICS, for its part, should educate its existing user base in the value of CRM and BI and push to make the entire offering available as quickly as possible.

Existing MAPICS XA customers should be asking MAPICS management when the missing CRM abilities (e.g., marketing automation and call center) will be added to the ERP for iSeries product line. They should also inquire about any possible impact (or benefits) that MAPICS' ambitious product strategy and brand unification might have on their current XA investments.

More comprehensive recommendations for both current and potential MAPICS users can be found in How Has MAPICS Been Extending?

 
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