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Two Highly Focused Vendors Team For Their Markets' Good

Written By: Predrag Jakovljevic
Published On: August 5 2002

Two Highly Focused Vendors Team For Their Markets' Good
P.J. Jakovljevic - August 5, 2002

Event Summary

Ross Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:ROSS , www.rossinc.com) is very focused on the ERP and e-business needs of the process markets. Privately held Prescient Systems (www.prescientsystems.com), on the other hand, is very focused on the supply chain needs of the consumer goods markets. Their recent announcement teams the two to provide a complete system for the target markets.

Under the agreement, Ross will embed Prescient's complete XEi supply chain management (SCM) suite and brand it as iRenaissance SCM. Ross is responsible for providing a standard integration to the XEi suite. That investment is underway. In addition, Prescient Systems' SCM specialists will train the Ross sales force in SCM and work with the SCM prospects. Prescient and Ross intend to undertake language translations for international markets. The combined product adds to the demand planning capabilities already present in iRenaissance, extending into integrated replenishment planning, order optimization and advanced planning and scheduling (APS) capabilities.

Their joint efforts have already shown market progress with the signing of a new iRenaissance SCM customer, a mid-market food manufacturer. Before this new partnership, the two vendors had a number of joint customers, including Vi-Jon, a manufacturer and distributor of health and beauty products, and Nu-Gro, a leader in the development of high-quality fertilizers, pest control and horticultural products for commercial and consumer use.

A positive sign is that the CEO's of both companies are focused on the success of the partnership. Pat Tinley, Chairman and CEO of Ross and Jane Hoffer, CEO Of Prescient have been personally involved with framing the relationship and planning for its success. Both have been involved in early customer directed efforts.

Market Impact

The apparent winners here are Ross' consumer products customers, as they now have access to an integrated, industry leading, Supply Chain Planning (SCP) suite originally designed for their needs. Other process manufacturing companies looking for a full solution now might have an additional option too, one that appears worthy of full investigation. The partnership is a good business move for both companies, since each has been successful in their respective application area, they have minimal functional overlap, and both have deep domain knowledge. Each has an historic strength of focusing on a tightly defined set of customers with a high degree of overlap. A successful, although somewhat sporadic, cooperation between the vendors in the past should help as well going forward. A long and deliberate process of forging a new, now official alliance might indicate the products' true seamless integration in the future, beyond typical marketecture'-like momentary nature of software industry alliances.

With the partnership, Ross expands its footprint to include Supply Chain Planning, closing thereby likely the largest gap it has traditionally exhibited compared to its fierce opponents such as Agilisys (see Announcing Agilisys (Formerly SCT's Process Manufacturing & Distribution Business) Finally Fully Focused On Process Manufacturing), SAP, Oracle, J.D. Edwards, Baan/Invensys, Intentia, and SSI. The Prescient XEi SCP applications within the areas of Demand, Supply, Collaboration and Performance Measurement were developed specifically for the needs of consumer product companies. Those applications include Demand Planning; Enterprise Forecasting; Inventory Planning; Replenishment Planning; Optimized Orders; Production Planning; Production Scheduling; PrescientConnections, a solution for collaboration that allows multiple parties manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers to oversee and participate in SCP; and Knowledge Foundation, a supply chain performance measurement suite that pulls pertinent information from supply chain applications and back-office systems, including Sales and Operations Planning, and delivers the information to decision-makers in an actionable form.

Presceint's existing customer list consists of more than 100 companies including Binney & Smith (Crayola Brand), AAi.FosterGrant, Interbake Foods and Wyeth Consumer Healthcare. The vendor claims that their customers have seen measurable results within an average of 90 days after buying Prescient Systems' solutions.

With Ross's recent announcement of the company's 4th quarter 2002 results, which included the 6th consecutive profitable quarter, and software license revenue growth of 26% over the prior year's same quarter, Patrick Tinley, Chairman and CEO of Ross Systems stated "We are pleased with our growth in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. Our success has come from a combination of new customers in the food and beverage, life sciences and natural products industries and additional products to existing customers."

During the recent period of its financial recovery that strangely coincides with the worldwide economic slump (see Ross Systems A Bright Spot On A Difficult Enterprise Application Landscape) one should also note that a significant portion of Ross' ever growing license revenue has come from new customers. These might mean continued direct victories over the above-mentioned fierce and revered opponents, some of them (e.g., SAP) reporting a notable decline of process industries related revenue. We see the Prescient partnership as a way to continue this trend.

The Ross Contribution

With the partnership, Prescient Systems gains access to Ross's sizable user base plus access to international markets. "Expanding Prescient's global reach is just another step in our plan to deliver the best supply chain planning solutions to the process industry, especially the consumer goods market," said Jane Hoffer, president and CEO of Prescient Systems. "In difficult market times, we remain ahead of plan and are on target to surpass 100 percent year-over-year growth for 2002. In the second quarter alone, we signed five new client wins, in addition to ongoing upgrades and add-ons with existing clients."

Ross's distribution strategy includes support for over 3,000 customers worldwide, as the company sells and supports customers in over 60 countries. Currently iRenaissance is available in 18 languages including localized versions to account for local country issues like taxation, local business practices and regulatory issues. Ross's products have been designed specifically for food and beverage, life sciences, chemicals, metals, natural products and other process manufacturers. The Company's iRenaissance family of software solutions is a comprehensive, modular suite including traditional and Internet-enabled enterprise resource planning (ERP) components such as human resources (HR), financials, materials management, manufacturing & distribution, plant asset & maintenance management, transportation management, plus supply chain management (SCM), customer relationship management (CRM), electronic commerce, business intelligence (BI) and analytics applications beyond ERP.

All the above modules are following in the footsteps of their ancestry being designed specifically for process manufacturers particular needs. To that end, Ross is adding functions to meet the new CFR 21 Part 11 (Code of Federal Regulations Title 21) for life sciences, and food & drug administration (FDA) safety functions for the food and beverage industries. Other functional features aimed at handling process manufacturing idiosyncrasies would be support for concurrent units of measure (UOM), pro-active shelf life control, non-linear process costing and supply-chain wide lot genealogy, to name only some.

As for the e-business side, the product also includes digital marketplace applications spanning procurement, sales, Internet trading exchange connectivity, supply and demand chain collaboration and employee self service (ESS). A part of the company's recent success stems from sales of add-on applications for iRenaissance suite, which makes use of an eXtensible markup language (XML)-based middleware layer to facilitate trading partner connectivity, and ties into Ross's iRenaissance Customer Portal offering. Ross customers can use the portal to, e.g., publish product catalogs, and facilitate on-line order entry, order inquiry, and billing status functions.

As for technology, the iRenaissance architecture is really flexible and open as it supports XML, the emerging Microsoft .NET architecture, and the Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP). Look for more Ross' announcements with regard to incorporating Microsoft's BizTalk integration server product, as well as further use of Microsoft's .NET Web services framework across the entire product range in the future. Supported platforms include Windows NT and various flavors of Unix, but the focus going forward will be solely on Microsoft technologies.

Beyond the obvious process industry focus which remains the key tenet of its success (see Ross Systems' Focus Yields More Value For Process Manufacturers), Ross' trumps would be the its global reach, with notable multi-national (e.g., multi-currency, multi-language support, etc.) product capabilities, and its well-attuned value proposition for mid-market customers (i.e., a 'one stop shop' stance, with unimpeded rapid implementations and product flexibility). The company, nevertheless, faces the challenge of delivering its ambitious undertaking of rounding up its product functional offering while keeping it technologically up-to-date, and while providing migration strategy to its existing customer base, particularly large older' Unix-based customers.

User Recommendations

Existing Ross customers looking to improve their supply chain planning should place iRenaissance SCM on their short list. Enterprises in the food & beverage, chemicals, life sciences, metals and natural products industries worldwide looking for a complete solution should place Ross on their long list. The company has achieved a good track record within companies having annual between $30 and $500 million, although it has had successes with larger companies as well, including Alcoa and Eli Lilly. Existing Prescient customers looking for ERP should place Ross on their short list.

Enterprises that fall in the general category of "process" manufacturing but do not fall within Ross' target markets should still consider Ross for their long list. However, they should be careful to evaluate iRenaissance at a detail level to understand the potential fit for their needs. Existing Ross customers should be active in the special interest groups to continue to push Ross into greater functionality for their industry.

It is suggested that evaluations of Ross and all other vendors be conducted at a detail level, looking at not only what a vendor does, but also how it does it. Most vendors claim to support certain industry-endemic functional features, which they may indeed do, but how they do it varies greatly (with many buts and ifs' as the process fit-gap analysis unfolds). Only by looking closely at "the how" aspects during the process of scripted software demonstrations can any company understand which vendors can meet its specific demands.

Both Prescient and Ross need to work hard to gain the maximum advantage from this relationship. Both need to turn up the volume on their marketing to more effectively reach their highly targeted markets.

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