SYSPRO - Awaiting Positive IMPACT From Its Brand Unification Part Two: Market Impact

Market Impact

Last fall, SYSPRO, a privately held global provider of enterprise software for small to medium enterprises (SMEs), with its US headquarters in Costa Mesa, CA (, announced a new global brand, representing the culmination of more than 18 months of extensive internal market research and preparation. To optimize brand awareness and increase market penetration, the company, SYSPRO and its product, IMPACT Encore, has been branded under the unified SYSPRO name.

SYSPRO belongs to an esteemed group of Tier 2 vendors that have been making Tier 1 vendors' strides of intruding the mid-market not an easy task. At least, the presence of the likes of Syspro, which offer a breadth of products with functionality that is often equal to the upper range of products, but at a much lower cost and implementation effort levels, has forced the bigger brethren to abandon their initially non-flying strategy of selling merely watered-down versions of their flagships products, and to attempt different tacks like the acquisition of an akin product (see SAP Tries Another, Bifurcated Tack At A Small Guy).

While small and midsize manufacturing and distribution entities may indeed covet easier implementations and lower price applications, they will nonetheless settle for less functional software to run their businesses. Also, while mid-market companies incline toward effectively packaged applications that are easy to use, require less skilled resources, and are reasonably low priced, the idea that these companies should settle for a pure-vanilla product rendition has increasingly become a fallacy. Since many Tier 1 applications vendors have increasingly been targeting the same market segment one should expect the bar to be ever raised. Such could be the case of PeopleSoft, which has lately avoided a cookie cutter' implementation approach for SMEs, as each of its mid-market solutions is preconfigured to reduce cost and complexity, but also allows for available extensions based on each customer's need, given the vendor has also developed industry templates for each solution (see PeopleSoft Internationalizes Its Mid-Market Forays).

With its latest moves, SYSPRO seems to have braced itself well for the bigger brethren's onslaught. Although it has been present in the market since 1978, SYSPRO has not been a very vocal and marketing-savvy vendor internationally, but the latest brand unification move may prove that the company is also changing its marketing approach, starting with clearer worldwide prominence and unequivocal identity. Namely, after almost one quarter of century, the vendor has ditched the IMPACT Encore from its name, hoping to build more market recognition exclusively under the common SYSPRO brand This is in addition to extending the scope of its product line to provide a comprehensive extended enterprise and supply chain solution.

This is Part Two of a three-part note.

Part One detailed recent SYSPRO announcements.

Part Three will cover Challenges and make User Recommendations.


Despite earlier dual monikers, SYSPRO product is one of the most widely used ERP solutions within the small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs), with over 6,000 customers, rendering it a serious incumbent in the SME discrete manufacturing and distribution market. The vendor has from its early days had a sole focus on the lower-end of the ERP discrete manufacturing and distribution market, which has pragmatic requirements of inexpensive but flexible products, fast and simple implementations, and good service and support. It has additionally achieved good coverage through its indirect channel, which is an important criterion for long-term success in the SME market segment. Not withstanding this, SYSPRO has sites across tier 1, tier 2 and tier 3 environments, enabling it to become a potential challenger in both larger and smaller organizations.

SYSPRO has worldwide operations and its software is marketed worldwide through offices in the US, Canada, Africa, Australia and the UK. As a result, its products have been installed in 50 countries, and it continues to offer its products and services through the reseller channel/value added resellers (VARs), which has also expanded during the last few years. The former flagship IMPACT Encore system, has traditionally covered the full spread of modules for single and multi-site manufactures and distributors, including accounting, order processing, inventory management, purchasing, materials requirement planning (MRP) including finite and infinite scheduling, shop floor control, data collection, and payroll (integrated with the ABRA payroll system), with the above-mentioned survey testimonies and common recognition for high levels of customer satisfaction. And, with the release of SYSPRO 6.0's new above-described capabilities in business analytics, workflow, CRM, and advanced planning & scheduling (APS) , the vendor boasts an expanded control beyond the four walls of the factory/warehouse.

SYSPRO functionality is equitably solid in accounting, manufacturing and distribution areas. Although its forte should lie within its manufacturing and distribution modules, by adhering to exacting standards like International Accounting Standards (IAS), Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), and eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), SYSPRO can often be competitive even for enterprises that would only need the core financial and accounting functionality. The above all-rounder trait often comes as advantageous compared to competitive products that are either mainly strong in accounting (e.g., Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS), Softline, BEST Software and ACCPAC) or conversely in manufacturing/distribution (e.g., Lilly Software, QAD, Glovia and ROI Systems).

Although SYSPRO is a comprehensive ERP solution for small- to mid-sized enterprises, the company has for some time been striving to also become a nearly total solution provider of extended-ERP applications. To this end, as mentioned earlier, it has expanded its solutions footprint with SYSPRO 6.0's latest enhancements and nearly 50 modules available (allowing customers to only purchase what they require) throughout the realms of ERP, APS, CRM, warehouse management system (WMS), Business Analytics and Collaborative Commerce, many customers' requirements could be addressed with this product suite.

With a slew of manufacturing capabilities including features for quotations & estimating; master scheduling; finite capacity planning & scheduling; order management; real-time shop floor control; work in progress (WIP), labor performance; cost accounting; lot, serial and warranty tracking; purchasing/receiving; engineering change control (ECC); backflushing; material verification; capacity and material requirements planning (CRP/MRP); returned goods management; vendor approvals; blanket sales orders and purchase orders; and so on, the software is fit to support both short and long production runs in various manufacturing environments. SYSPRO can, therefore, often offer one-stop-shop functionality for many versatile discrete manufacturing environments (i.e., from forecasts driven, repetitive make-to-stock (MTS), made-to-order (MTO), assemble-to-order (ATO), configure-to-order (CTO) to custom job shop, including mixed-mode/hybrid manufacturing), as well as batch process manufacturing in the low-end of the market.

Another important strength against most of its competitors SYSPRO would have is its international nature. Unlike Sage/Best Software, Softline, Exact Software, and Microsoft Business Solutions (MBS), SYSPRO is a single product line that operates on an international basis, whereas many others have multiple product lines through acquisitions, which they pasted together around the world but which, as a rule, are unable to work with one another. Moreover, its strong multi-site and multi-national product capabilities are stronger than those of many locally competitive products (e.g., Made2Manage, Lilly Software, ROI Systems, etc. in North America), which have also resulted in its much more evenly distributed revenue per geographic regions.

Vertical Specialization

SYSPRO's endeavor at some vertical specialization, as seen in its MYS module, is also commendable, although we would like to see many more similar nitty-gritty initiatives specific to multiple other discrete manufacturing industries. The module is specifically designed for suppliers that sell custom-cut materials and that rely on the cutting of shapes and pieces from standard size materials, e.g., sheets, tubes and rods, as part of the manufacturing process. In particular, it is targeted at the Plastics, Metal, Rubber, Paper and Lumber industries that need to maximize yields, minimize waste and, where possible, return remnants to inventory. Rather than purchasing standard size items, customers would preferably order materials that are cut to specific measurements. However, custom cutting typically leads to the creation of remnants (off-cuts) during the cutting process, which many suppliers consider as waste, since they cannot justify the time and cumbersome effort necessary to physically measure, value and assign inventory numbers for their return to stock. The MYS module elegantly takes care of the above producers' conundrums.

Although not evident from its historically low-profile international marketing, SYSPRO has developed extended functionality for a number of specific industries in addition to the Plastics and Metal, including Equipment /Machinery, Food, Automotive, Electronics and Hi-tech, Medical devices, Pharmaceuticals, Consumer Packaged Goods and Wholesale Distribution.

Additionally, on a more general note, the SYSPRO product excels at plant-level APS functionality going beyond all-too-common Gantt charts/schedules into the ability to split jobs in two, or to split them between multiple work centers, all with the aim of optimally fulfilling the customer's order. Further, contrary to most peer vendors, which have largely started their ERP applications' expertise in the manufacturing space, SYSPRO has also concurrently established a strong presence and functionality in the distribution field. With its extensive financial and accounting functionality, fully integrated with its own manufacturing and distribution systems, Syspro provides a product that also fits the needs of wholesale distributors, industrial distributors, over-the-counter operations, and retailers.

While traditional accounting and/or ERP vendors have always afforded some degree of distribution functionality via their Order Entry, Inventory Control, and/or Purchase Order modules, not many can yet natively provide more advanced WMS capabilities such as radio frequency (RF) support for remote communication and bar coding, and the ability to track product as it wends its way from shop/warehouse floor to customer sites. Its timely focus on distribution/supply chain execution (SCE) has seemingly been fortuitous particularly these days, since it remains a fertile enterprise applications area where companies still have ample opportunity to improve the dreadful practices of warehouse employees scurrying around with clipboards and pick lists, while its deployments are at the same time less time-consuming and more oriented towards return on investment (ROI), particularly if its deployment does not require multiple rounds of training.

To illustrate some of its distribution capabilities, SYSPRO enables order-lines to be split into partial shipments to meet delivery schedules for just-in-time (JIT) customers, while the Return Material Authorization (RMA) module automatically creates repair work orders if necessary, calculates associated return charges (such as a restocking fee), and facilitates a replacement cross-shipment, even allowing for inter-warehouse transfers.

Further, the Return to Vendor (RTV) module enables a company to control the return and exchange of items purchased from suppliers with visibility and tracking through the conclusion of the transaction. The module also interfaces with the above RMA module to facilitate the return of parts from customers back to the original supplier, and it integrates with many other modules, including Accounts Payable, General Ledger, Inventory Control, and Purchase Order Management. The RTV module removes any items to be returned to a vendor from available stock and holds them in a review area pending negotiations for the return, and, in addition, the module allows for credit notes and replacement items. It also tracks the costs of items not replaced, handles stocked and non-stocked items and retains an unlimited history of all RTV transactions. Finally, the RTV module issues return documents and creates purchase orders for expected replacement items.

Moreover, the Goods in Transit module provides an audited, documented approach to tracking product in mid-shipment (i.e., still on the truck), while the USA Shipping System automates the entire shipping process, from the packing of items, to carrier selection, to transit times. The system menu is divided into key components that guide users in setting up a shipment. The Setup component provides options for carriers, shipping zones, rates and defaults, while the Processing component details various packing choices, carrier selections, including "best way," and freight calculations, and the Reports component lets the user define the format of the Bill of Lading document, including number of shipments and customers covered. Up to date shipping rates and electronic scale interface ensure the accuracy of shipping charges, enabling intelligent estimates to be provided customers during order entry.

Since the system automatically updates the sales order module with shipping charges and tracking numbers, data entry is reduced, and the chance for human error is lessened. In addition to providing the most current shipping rates from carriers such as FedEx, UPS or Airborne, the system also caters to manually-entered rates. Consequently, SYSPRO's native integration should allow a distributor to make sure the product is in stock before committing it to a 20-line-item sales order for, e.g., a kitting set. As a result, its offering would be in the same league with Lilly Software, IBS, Adonix, ACCPAC and Frontstep, with varying competitive edge in platform/middleware standards support, multi-national capabilities and/or geographic coverage, but often therefore making it often competitive even with the likes of Intentia, J.D. Edwards, SSA GT, Oracle, and SAP. The fact that SAP and Oracle have released some of the above functionalities only very recently should point out SYSPRO's head start in the area compared to its like brethren.

Intuitive User Interface

End users of smaller enterprises have also been impressed with its intuitive user interface, which combines on-screen graphics with a functional flow for better visual orientation, and also provides consistently deployed keyboard shortcuts for heavy data entry. It also offers a wealth of administrative features like workflow & event management, querying tools and a built-in report writer, while events and triggers facilitate the tailoring of solutions without source code modifications. SYSPRO has also been technologically adequate for its target market, as it exhibits n-tier client/server architecture, is fully Windows 2000/NT/XP, Linux, Novell and UNIX operating systems compatible. Additionally, since the release of IMPACT Encore 5.0, Microsoft SQL Server (2000 or 7.0) has been an optional database.

SYSPRO has long been committed to the Microsoft technology and it has made significant progress turning its .NET vision of a year ago into a proof of concept reality. Still, the dichotomy of offering many OS platforms, but only on the SQL Server database and .NET platform (although many UNIX users in large enterprises might prefer possibly more scalable Oracle or IBM DB/2 databases and J2EE platform compliance) is somewhat confusing. To that end, SYSPRO might not be exactly a cross-platform provider, at least not to the degree Adonix or ACCPAC can claim. Further, if it attempts to target the upper mid-market enterprises, the company will also have to walk on the blurred balance borderline between functional depth across operating systems and ease of use, since an Oracle database is not available for the UNIX users.

Still, with its pervasive support of Component Object Model (COM) environments and XML integration capability, SYSPRO offers e-commerce applications tightly integrated to its back-office, as well as the interconnectivity to third-party products. The above-mentioned SYSPRO solutions architecture should provide a way of directly remotely accessing the functionality within the ERP system, and in such a way that does not compromise its business rules and security. The framework, which delivers the system's functionality as discrete objects of code, supports capabilities such as integrated e-commerce Web storefronts, access to ERP data via wireless devices, and integration with best-of-breed applications. SYSPRO also provides an extensive set of tools to assist third-party developers who wish to develop integrated add-ons that access, analyze and update the program's databases through protected business logic.

SYSPRO product functionality and its technology umbrella should help manufacturers pursue a concept of immaculate order fulfillment, which SYSPRO formerly denoted under its Strategic (e)Fulfillment initiative, and which was envisioned to enable management to make better decisions since it provides visibility and control of all aspects of the supply chain (i.e., from cradle to grave of the product). Moreover, given its cross-departmental pervasiveness, it becomes the means by which these decisions can be executed in the most efficient manner.

SYSPRO solutions has enabled the company to take advantage of wireless technology with the use of tablet PC's, PDA's and cell phones SYSPRO has enables mobile users to use this technology to access Price checks, inventory availability across multiple warehouses, and customer balances in real-time utilizing PDA's and cell phones. As a further example, tablet PC's can be used to obtain an electronic signature on receipt of goods on a truck route, facilitating real-time invoicing. This technology can also be used to enable remote notification via cell phone, of critical business happenings that can alert a field person of a new order being placed, or a customer exceeding credit limit or terms.

While order fulfillment's pain points have been an object of attraction for vendors, SYSPRO 6.0' prominence lies within its command of XML messaging, since the Microsoft .NET framework is giving SYSPRO 6.0 customers XML-level access to third-party applications and data repositories. Also, SYSPRO CRM supports order capture and validation directly from within a customer session, while Order fulfillment applications in SYSPRO 6.0 report back Available to Promise (ATP) and can be quickly modified for new transactions.

Given the fact mere functional software without service has never been sufficient, SYSPRO has long tackled the aspect of facilitating implementations as well. It first published its above-acclaimed implementation methodology, STARS, in 1998, but, in 2002, SYSPRO completely revised it. The new version is business process-based, whereas the first two versions of the methodology were "modular based" (i.e., focused on the typical enterprise system's functional groupings like financial, distribution, and manufacturing capabilities). Having realized that the most important step is often the mapping of basic business processes to best practices or, for some companies, the first real discernment of what business processes are, SYSPRO has fine tuned its methodology to mimic the business processes rather than the mere modular based perspective.

Reengineering internal processes should be a major step forward for companies that want to gain from utilizing the information technology (IT). Conversely, many businesses that fail to examine their existing business processes at the time new software is being implemented, and instead attempt to put a new software veneer on top of existing (typically inefficient) procedures, often afterwards discover that their expectations have not been fully realized. The approach has been endorsed by many vendors, including SAP's recently buzzing xApps (standing for cross-applications) and the most recent being Oracle with one of its main messages from its Oracle AppsWorld conference being its plan to reduce implementation costs and support incremental deployments using Business Flow Accelerators (formerly Fast Forward). The flows refer to implementing cross-functional business processes, such as procure to pay' and order to cash', commoditizing the configuration of the applications and workflow. Many of the vendors SME market place often ignore business process reengineering in their haste to slap in systems with a very short implementation schedule. This regularly leads to failure and grossly ineffective results from the purchase of their new software

This concludes Part Two of a three-part note.

Part One detailed recent announcements.

Part Three will cover Challenges and make User Recommendations.

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