New Manufacturing Solution in the Cloud: Exact Macola On Demand

Editor's note, December 19, 2012: According to the vendor, the product discussed below did not become available.

Exact Software has recently released a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) offering in the cloud. Headquartered in the Netherlands and with offices in North America serving 100,000 customers worldwide, Exact offers two global ERP products (Globe and Synergy), as well as other local products (Macola, MAX and JobBOSS for the Americas, Exact Financials for the Netherlands, etc.). The company exclusively markets its products for small to medium businesses (SMBs) spanning many industry segments, with a focus on manufacturing, wholesale and distribution, and professional services.

Having just had the opportunity to discuss the new offering with the product manager for the Macola line, Michael McPherson, I recap that conversation below.

What is Macola On Demand?

Just like Macola, Macola On Demand is available only in the Americas. The on-demand version is based on the Exact Macola Manufacturing Pro, enhanced with customer relationship functionality. Even though Macola On Demand can be a good fit for distribution companies, the product caters to manufacturing companies looking for shop floor control, manufacturing cost accounting, inventory, and project management.

The on-demand product is hosted in six data centers across the United States (US), which are provided and managed by a third-party partner. And each customer has its own database, completely separate from those of other customers, which makes for a single-tenant delivery model, as opposed multitenant software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions. All data centers are SAS 70 type II security certified, and Exact guarantees 99.5% availability for Macola On Demand.

From a subscription perspective, customers pay monthly fees on a per-user basis, but they need to commit to a period of 12, 24, or 36 months. Premium services (e.g., more frequent backups) are offered for a fee. Customers can move from the on-demand version to on premise and still benefit from the same functionality.

How is Macola On Demand different from other similar solutions?

First of all, Exact Macola On Demand offers exactly the same features as Exact Macola Manufacturing Pro. This is not the case for other ERP offerings, where the on-demand version offers fewer—i.e., limited—features compared with the on-premise version of the same product.

Owing to its single-tenancy, Macola On Demand can be easily customized for each customer—as opposed to multi-tenant solutions, with customizations typically applied to all customers.

Macola On Demand can also be accessed on mobile devices, and integration with Microsoft Office is offered not only for document management, but also for better management of internal and external communications through Outlook.

Will we be seeing more Exact solutions in the cloud?

Macola On Demand is not the first product Exact offers in the cloud. The company already offers the Exact Online Portfolio for small businesses looking for business administration and financial management functionality. This portfolio is available only in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Even though the ERP market has been rather slow in adopting the cloud as a delivery model, Exact has noted an increase in demand—from a single-digit percentage 4 years ago to nearly 15% in 2011. The vast majority of manufacturing companies are still selecting on-premise software, but more vendors are at least considering the cloud as a viable option.

Most ERP solutions in the future will probably be on demand, not SaaS. The option to move to on premise appears to be a good incentive for companies that are still not very comfortable with storing their data outside their premises. But my prediction is that we will see more ERP products in the cloud in the near future, not only from Exact, but also from other vendors targeting the SMB market.

Two major factors will drive manufacturing companies to try a cloud delivery model: the savings they can make, particularly if they have two or more production sites (which will require much investment in terms of time and money for supporting their IT infrastructure), and dispelling some of the myths on the disadvantages associated with the cloud (e.g., unlike common perception, deployment in the cloud can be more secure than that on premise, because data centers are very well protected, and less expensive, because the provider is now responsible for ensuring protection of the company’s data).
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