SYSPRO - Awaiting Positive IMPACT From Its Brand Unification

Event Summary

Last fall, SYSPRO, a privately held global provider of broad 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.

According to its US President Brian Stein, the research showed that many survey respondents dividedly identified the company by its product, IMPACT Encore (as well as IMPACT or just Encore), and others by the SYSPRO name. The brand unification move was thus logical since a single brand identifier and unified value set, vision, and image are essential for the vendor to maintain itself as a dominant player in the worldwide enterprise software market. As part of its branding strategy, SYSPRO has since been promoting a new logo and the following vision statement: "To help world-class companies increase their value through the use of our innovative and easy-to-use software as well as those values which differentiate SYSPRO as a company: openness, responsiveness, reliability, and striving for excellence."

The vendor announced the new branding at its 2002 International Reseller Conference in Stresa, Italy, September 26-30, when it also took the opportunity to announce its latest software release, SYSPRO 6.0 featuring built-in core functionality for an integrated, possibly end-to-end supply chain solution, including enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), advanced planning & scheduling (APS), E-Commerce, Business Analytics and Warehouse Management. As well as ushering in a new generation of Web Services, SYSPRO 6.0 offers the following major new additions:

  • Business Analytics should enable users to create multi-dimensional views of their financial and operational data as a series of data mining cubes to produce dynamic, general and enterprise specific metrics, ratios and analyses. To that end, an administrator toolset reportedly allows for the manipulation of the cube(s) to suit customer requirements without any special On-line Analytical Processing (OLAP) knowledge.

  • The Document Flow Manager should allow an enterprise to automate business processes and build communication infrastructures that facilitate seamless collaborative commerce. Electronic business transactions are immediately processed as they arrive, at a company in a document format defined using XML (eXtensible Markup Language). Since it takes XML documents and transforms them so that they can be understood by SYSPRO solution, both inbound and outbound transactions can be tracked and posted directly and automatically into and from the ERP system.

  • SYSPRO CRM aims at closing the gap between the front office and the back office by integrating all intertwined activities without duplicating input, which allows sales, marketing and customer support operations to work collaboratively to achieve total customer satisfaction. SYSPRO CRM also offers synchronization features and web tools to facilitate remote and off-line access via browser, laptop, and web-enabled portable or handheld PDA devices (for more details, see Mid-Market ERP Vendors Doing CRM & SCM in a DIY Fashion).

  • SYSPRO 6.0 APS comprises four modules: Finite Capacity Scheduling, Factory Planning, Progress Tracking and Quality Monitoring, which should provide planners with an easy-to-use finite scheduling tool aimed at improving lead times, increasing production flexibility, reducing inventory levels and speeding delivery times.

SYSPRO 6.0 was developed on the solid foundation of its predecessor IMPACT Encore 5.1, which already had expanded system functionality with added support for multi-site facilities and new e-business-centric capabilities. Sales and work orders can be archived as XML documents which can then be recreated as HTML pages. Similarly General Ledger financial reports can be published as XML documents for HTML viewing on the Internet or intranet. Business-to-business (B2B) trading is enhanced with the optional use of XML documents with published schemas for transferring sales orders, purchase orders and blanket purchase orders. For more information, see SYSPRO Hatches 'Encore' IMPACT On SME Manufacturers).

SYSPRO 6.0 brings to fruition the development of the solutions; comprising of a Software Development Kit (SDK), a Document Flow Manager and Web-based Applications. SYSPRO 6.0 further offers functional and ease of use enhancements to nearly all-existing SYSPRO modules. For example, SYSPRO 6.0 incorporates a Report Writer that now produces documents in XML format. For example, the Quotations Module incorporates the hierarchical requirements for Projects and Contracts. Also, the functionality in the Product Configurator has been extended; the Point of Sale (POS) entry has been enhanced with a more efficient means of accepting payment/deposits against normal orders; drill-down capability has been improved in a number of areas with increased security and visibility throughout the product.

This is Part One of a three-part note.

Part Two will discuss the Market Impact.

Part Three will cover Challenges and make User Recommendations.

SYSPRO solutions

Based on Microsoft .NET architecture and the XML standard, SYSPRO solutions forms the foundation of SYSPRO 6.0. It is a component-based architecture designed to provide a cost-effective way for SYSPRO customers to directly access the business functionality within the SYSPRO solution, integrate best-of-breed applications, maximize business-to-business (B2B) trading and leverage wireless connectivity, while maintaining the software's built-in business rules and security. It is also the framework for a new generation of Web-based applications, which are developed using Microsoft ASP.NET (Active Server Pages) and Microsoft. NET architecture and will reportedly be customizable to meet customer requirements.

Developers can access the COM (Component Object Model) objects using popular scripting languages, such as Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) or Active Server Pages (ASP), while the components fully supported the COM Type Library and IntelliSense Internet Explorer (IE) browsing technology, making it reasonably easy for developers to understand and work with the document model. While the business logic that lies behind the COM interface may change from time to time (as a result of database changes for example), the 'methods' and 'properties' of the COM interface would instead remain the same for the life cycle of the component. Finally, solutions components could be accessed either directly on the application server or remotely using the Distributed Component Object Model (DCOM).

Web Services

However, expanding into the realm of Web Services, on November 18 2002 SYSPRO announced the release of a series of business objects that should further enable SYSPRO customers to speed the development of a variety of Web Services. The "business objects" are the above-depicted COM "building blocks" that should allow customers using SYSPRO solutions and Microsoft architecture to easily and quickly build and customize Web Services. For example, the business objects reportedly facilitate the rapid development of Web Services that provide a variety of real-time insight into such areas as supplier inventories, factory floor conditions, order status, and more. Among the Web Services business objects being announced by SYSPRO are those pertaining to financial, multi-mode manufacturing and distribution operations, such as Available to Promise (ATP) Query, Bill of Materials (BOMs) Costing Query and Goods In Transit Inventory Transfers.

Business Alerts

Most recently, On January 28 2003, SYSPRO USA announced the immediate availability of Business Alerts, a new business activity monitoring software which should further facilitate decision-making by "pushing" alerts to the desktops of managers and other key personnel upon the occurrence of pre-defined events as they are happening internally, at customer sites or along the entire value chain. It reportedly scans mission-critical information systems on a 24/7 basis to notify functional areas of the enterprise and supply chain in real-time via Local Area Network (LAN), Wide Area Network (WAN), Internet, Wireless and Fax technology, and to provide real-time event, exception alerts, workflow monitoring and executive summary reporting.

Alert messages can be configured in HTML, Text, Rich Text Format (RTF) and XML formats to further communications between disparate systems in a supply chain, and they may be sent as often as required, i.e., continuously or daily, weekly or monthly at specified times. Business Alerts can support multiple data sources within the same Alert, such as from ERP and CRM files, and it works with a company's existing data, including Microsoft SQL, Microsoft Access or any Microsoft/ODBC (Open DataBase Connectivity) or proprietary C-ISAM database compliant product. SYSPRO also provides a set of pre-configured alerts for its solution, thus allowing for quick implementation of these.

Positive Market Response

Consequently, the market has seen a spate of awards to date, honored to SYSPRO by numerous publications and associations, which comes as no surprise given the company's rather busy product enhancements' activity in recent times. Most recently, on January 7 2003, SYSPRO announced that the latest release of its enterprise software, SYSPRO 6.0, has earned five stars, the highest possible rating, from The CPA Software News in its annual review of selected accounting software solutions. SYSPRO 6.0 accounting functionality is reviewed in the December 2002 edition of the publication, an industry tabloid that is published for the CPA community by Cygnus Business Media. This would be the second consecutive 5-Star Rating given to SYSPRO 6.0 software by the publication, since a review in the November 2002 issue of The CPA Software News, also awarded five stars to SYSPRO 6.0 manufacturing functionality.

Further, on December 17 2002, SYSPRO announced that its manufacturing software scored exceptionally well in all key categories in the 2003 Edition of the CTS Manufacturing Software Survey: User Satisfaction Ratings for Leading PC-Based ERP Systems. The CTS survey results were compiled from questionnaires sent to users of the industry-leading manufacturing software systems. Survey questions were reportedly designed to "find out the general level of satisfaction with the products, implementation, and whether user expectations were met with regard to various characteristics of the product."

SYSPRO users reportedly returned approximately one-third of all questionnaires received by CTS and were by far the largest sample in the study. Of these, 85% had been using SYSPRO manufacturing software for more than a year, and 95% expressed satisfaction with their SYSPRO software systems. More than 97.5% of the SYSPRO respondents said they were satisfied with the flexibility of their SYSPRO software, while more than 82% said the software had been fully implemented in less than six months. Similarly, nearly 88% expressed satisfaction with the "time and cost of implementation," with 95% of the SYSPRO sites reported satisfaction with vendor support. More than 87% of the SYSPRO respondents felt maintenance costs were as expected, while 33% noted they were less than anticipated, reflecting the SYSPRO approach to be a cost-effective, long-term solution for businesses. On a weighted average rating system applied to all responses, SYSPRO earned the highest overall ranking, especially when also considering systems with 50 employees and above. The survey respondents represented a balance of small, medium and large manufacturers in Make to Order (MTO), Engineer to Order (ETO), Job Shop, Process and Mixed-Mode manufacturing environments. SYSPRO also had the highest number of respondents in four of the five areas.

Material Yield System

On December 5 2002, SYSPRO was the proud recipient of a "best of breed" award from its customer Tri-Star Plastics Corp. that reportedly chose to honor SYSPRO for the company's development of the Material Yield System. The module, which was released in July 2001, also prompted Start Magazine to bestow its "2001 Vision Award" to SYSPRO and to name SYSPRO a " 2002 Hot Company."

The SYSPRO Material Yield System (MYS) is an optional extension to the inventory management capabilities of the SYSPRO solution, which enables cut-shape suppliers to fill orders for customer specific dimensional requirements, automatically calculates yields from full sheets and remnants and returns remnants to inventory, creating new part numbers. The system accommodates orders from existing inventory, another branch's inventory and the purchasing of material from a vendor, or a combination of each.

Moreover, the MYS enables sales persons to easily calculate the most efficient yields from existing inventory, including scraps, while on the phone with customers, thereby eliminating extensive hand calculations and delays in order confirmations. The calculations take into account such factors as shapes and blade widths. Prior to the SYSPRO MYS, this procedure required significant labor time to gauge: if the order could be filled from existing inventory; if additional materials had to be secured from another branch 's inventory, made or purchased in order to satisfy the order; how to make the required cuts to maximize yields; and how to allow for blade widths. In other words, numerous calculations and decisions were necessary to determine how to best fill orders in the most expeditious and cost-effective manner. The Material Yield System automates this process, greatly saving time and eliminating costly miscalculations that can adversely affect profitability.

Furthermore, when the system places remnants back into inventory, it automatically creates new inventory codes and updates the cost of goods sold on that line item. Remnants returned to stock can be put back at zero cost or have a value placed according to needs, and they can even become first-line inventory stock items from which new orders are calculated.

Material Yield System for the Metal Industry

At the end of February SYSPRO announced the upcoming March 3 2003 official release of the Material Yield System for the Metal Industry. In addition to all the standard functionality in the original system including such features as optimizing yields based on customer specific dimensional requirements from sheets, rods, tubes or film; managing remnant put back to inventory; automatically assigning new part numbers for efficient remnant control and of course visibility over standard inventory and remnants; MYS for Metals goes further, meeting the specific requirements of the metal industry.

Metal producers face problems similar to those of cut-shape plastics distributors, that is, how to reclaim costly remnants. The SYSPRO MYS for Metals enables sheet metal distributors to maximize the use of metal remnants, saving them from the scrap heap. Metals, such as Titanium, can be very costly so the ability to restock drops and use them to fill future orders is extremely critical.

The system enables metal distributors to fill orders for customer specific dimensional requirements, automatically calculate yields from full sheet and remnants and returns remnants to inventory, creating new part numbers. The remnants (drops) maintain heat numbers identical to the original sheets from which the drops or remnants originate and are scanned and tracked by the system. When orders are placed, inventory availability is shown by heat numbers, bin and warehouse to determine the most expedient drop size and site from which to fill orders. To meet the need of multi-site international or foreign cut-shape metal suppliers, SYSPRO provides the option to specify metric or imperial measurements. This will be particularly useful in countries like Canada where both measurements are used.

Custom cutting in the metal industry typically leads to a lot of unnecessary waste and the SYSPRO MYS appears to be a total solution that resolves this problem for cut shape metal suppliers.

SYSPRO Implementation Methodology

Last but not least, on October 24 2002, SYSPRO announced that the SYSPRO implementation methodology, STARS, has been awarded the K2 Quality Award for "Installation Channel/Methodology." K2 Enterprises, an organization that provides technology consulting and lectures on technology topics, selected the SYSPRO STARS Implementation Methodology for the award based on a polling of the entire K2 teaching staff that had many categories to consider, and each instructor responded based on their experience, attendee feedback, etc.

The STARS (Structured Technique to Achieve Rapid Solution) Implementation Methodology is a structured, business-centric methodology that guides implementers in all aspects of the implementation procedure and provides a framework by which business practices can be examined and re-energized to maximize overall operational efficiency. The STARS methodology focuses on mapping SYSPRO enterprise software to business flows, and it offers templates for such major functional areas as inventory and warehouse management as well as processes related to planning, purchasing, manufacturing, sales, distribution, financials, administration, APS, CRM, and, .NET-based e-commerce

STARS was developed as a tool to shorten costly implementation processes by enabling a fast track approach when required, manage system requirements of both SYSPRO and any other software being used within the customer and to enable companies to correctly structure implementations. STARS gives visibility back to the customer facilitating greater control over costs and management over the project. By having a broad view over the implementation process a customer can ensure that all the right things are being done and that the costs of a system implementation are real. Too many companies are providing short cut implementations to meet budgetary requirements or more so, to win deals up front, but then only later unleashing much more extended and costly implementations on the customer.

STARS should help the customer to maximize the continuing utilization of SYSPRO software by providing, as it were, an "audit trail" upon which additional functionality and procedures can be built. Typically, the foundation of the implementation process is established via an internal evaluation, where the totality of existing business processes is noted and detailed, including the roles and responsibilities of individuals. With this analysis as a starting point, business process re-engineering (BPR) should be maximized, and STARS provides the guidelines for such an audit. In fact, the STARS library of documents can be used during Joint Application Design (JAD) sessions for the defining of business processes when the detailed requirements for each business area are being documented, during such sessions, any areas of the system that require re-engineering are highlighted as well as the suggestions for improving the processes.

This concludes Part One of a three-part note.

Part Two will discuss the Market Impact.

Part Three will cover Challenges and make User Recommendations.

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