Ultimate Connection Seeking Its US Retail Connection Through Solomon Software Partners

Ultimate Connection Seeking Its US Retail Connection Through Solomon Software Partners
P.J. Jakovljevic - September 20, 2000

Event Summary

Ultimate Connection (www.ultconnect.com), an independent South African software vendor dedicated to the development of retail software and related technologies, has decided to enter the US market more aggressively. The company distributes the ActiveRetail suite of products through a global channel of retail certified service and implementation partners. Ultimate Connection won the Microsoft Retail Application Development '99 Award for the most innovative retail solution.

During a Solomon Partner Conference in August, ActiveRetail 4 Solomon, an international award-winning software suite developed by Ultimate Connection in collaboration with Microsoft and Solomon - already embraced by some leading Fortune 500 retail companies in Europe and Africa - was demonstrated. Sold and supported through a community of Value Added Resellers in Europe and Africa, this possibly attractive retail business solution will be made available to Solomon Channel Partners to resell in the United States.

Preceding the official launch of a full-scale Ultimate Connection's business development initiative in the United States, Solomon Business Partners have been offered a unique opportunity to join the Ultimate Connection reseller channel. The company has also cited its plans to open its US subsidiary in the near future.

Market Impact

The announced moves put the company in a position to take advantage of the growing small to mid-size company retail market segment, a demographic it has been very successful with in other regions of the world. Ultimate Connection's geographic diversification into the world's largest market increases the noise in a North American retail market segment with a dearth of robust and comprehensive product offerings. We believe that the company is prepared to overcome certain barriers to entry and its low local brand recognition.

First, Ultimate Connection gains a number of opportunities and good references worldwide. The partnership with Solomon Software provides access to a large partner and customer base. Moreover, it offers ActiveRetail, a sleek and comprehensive Internet-enabled enterprise resource management (ERM) suite of products based on the Microsoft DNA architecture, aimed at growing retail chains that want to be more profitable and productive. The company targets the mid-market enterprises that have a pressing need to leverage the Internet as a new sales channel. Solomon, on the other hand, will benefit from offering a product with a sharp vertical focus for the retail industry.

While ActiveRetail can be implemented in a stand-alone mode, as it exhibits its own back-end system and business intelligence capabilities, the company provides bridges to ERP and/or legacy systems in place, which are based on Microsoft technology. Beside Solomon, we are aware of the company's successful partnership with Navision in the European market. We expect Ultimate Connection to pursue a number of alliances with other mid-market ERP vendors. Ultimate Connection's products are particularly appropriate for those ERP vendors who have failed to provide their own vertical solutions, which are aimed at retail industry specific solutions.

Its value proposition may be welcomed in this market and will infuse fresh air into an industry that has traditionally been underserved. However, nobody should expect an easy ride and a passive reaction from local competitors. The latest IBM move, to take stake in retail software vendor Retek and aggressively market it, speaks in that regard. This will, nonetheless, give the competition a run for their money and force other retail software players like JDA Software, SVI, Radius and STS Systems to thoroughly re-think their business models and further focus on customer satisfaction.

User Recommendations

We encourage potential North American retail users of Microsoft-centric technology and Solomon partners to familiarize themselves with the newcomer company's value proposition, since we believe that it provides some extra leverage to their negotiating position with all vendors involved in a particular selection exercise for the retail industry. However, users should be wary of Ultimate Connection's global service and support capabilities given that its existing North American infrastructure is only at a pre-embryonic stage. Further, one should bear in mind the significant differences in taxation and business practices between US and South Africa and make sure that the product functionality completely supports local requirements.

We recommend identifying your unique needs and comparison shopping. The least you will gain is information to use for leverage during negotiations. Each product should be put through its paces using a well-documented set of requirements, scripted scenario demonstrations and rigorous reference checking. Despite promised tight integration of ActiveRetail, Solomon Software maintains its openness and interconnectivity to other products, which is one more incentive for considering all viable candidates.

In any case, users are advised to ask for Solomon's firm assurances on the availability and future upgrades timeframes, and more detailed scope of combined product functionality. Also, make sure that Solomon Software or its partner offers a single contract and help desk for all embedded components within its product offerings.

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