What's in a name? or Enterprise systems' reincarnations (Part II)




While the Part I of this topic focused on Consona Corporation (former M2M Holdings), this time the discussion continues with the recently minted Solarsoft entity, privately owned by Marlin Equity Partners. True, in Part I, besides Infor, I could have also mentioned as old news the renaming of Verticent ERP Plus (formerly PowerCerv [evaluate this product]) as part of the ASA International parent and SoftBrands (formerly Fourth Shift and AremisSoft), but these companies have not that candidly professed their appetite for more acquisitions.

In any case, in April 2007 Canada-based CMS Software merged with the United Kingdom (UK)-based XKO Software Limited, a provider of specialist enterprise software. CMS has been in the enterprise resource planning (ERP) business for over 20 years, and, naturally, it has always looked for ways to improve the services and products it delivers to its customers. As the market increasingly demands consistent local service delivered on a global basis, the company hoped to enhance its ability to meet that demand via the merger.

But, when CMS and XKO merged they knew that they would eventually need to find a new name for the combined business. Namely, both firms were relatively well known in their local markets but the names have lost their original meaning and communicated little to new customers in new markets. According to the letter sent to all customers and partners, putting together a six-letter acronym didn't make sense, so the company held an internal contest and the name "Solarsoft" was chosen, as suggested by a member of the staff.

The name was reportedly liked for its power and simplicity and, critically, the company could acquire the domain name. After careful consideration, the management felt the time was right to re-name XKO and CMS. Thus, from early November 2007 CMS Software, Inc. has been doing business as Solarsoft Business Systems. In the UK XKO has been re-named Solarsoft Business Systems Limited. The old names have been retired, except for Mattec Corporation, the manufacturing execution system (MES) subsidiary, and the joint venture business in China, which will not change their names at this time.

Since Solarsoft is in its early developmental stage compared to Consona or Infor, it intends to extend its manufacturing and distribution ERP software range through a series of point solution acquisitions over the next year or so. While time will only tell what possible target purchases these will be (given that someone has recently said that the current ERP market is like a post-Thanksgiving turkey -- all good stuff has already been picked), Shawn McMorran, CEO of Solarsoft, says that the company intends to build on the recently dubbed Solarsoft Open Services Architecture (SOSA) framework to offer integrated systems across front and back office operations, including supply chain integration, e-commerce and process automation.

SOSA (not the once popular baseball player!) is a web services architecture that builds on the simple client/server model that powers the World Wide Web (WWW). Using flexible Extensible Markup Language (XML) messages, SOSA applications are envisioned to be easily integrated across the network within an organization or with trading partner systems across the Internet. All Solarsoft customers will eventually leverage SOSA to deploy a suite of plug-in applications to extend their core ERP platform beyond the back-office.

Such an open architecture framework was required since Solarsoft ERP systems are built on vendor platforms from former CMS technology partners IBM and Microsoft. In addition, via former XKO, Solarsoft also supports a range of UNIX implementations including AIX and open source Linux. XKO is best known in Europe for various systems aimed at managing finance, inventory and production in businesses ranging from builders’ merchants through fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) distributors to high-tech engineering firms. The company has grown organically and through acquisition since its formation from the merger of KSE and Xavier Computer Group in 1999.

Regardless of the underlying technology used, a future standard architecture (i.e., SOSA) must ensure that all platforms work together with a suite of value-added options offering flexible configurations for the targeted manufacturing, distribution and wholesale & merchant sectors. For now, it appears that the vendor will group its offering into three platform-based product suites:

  1. mVP, building on the Solarsoft CMSm5 ERP [evaluate this product] foundation;

  2. iVP, building on the Solarsoft CMSi5 ERP [evaluate this product] foundation; and

  3. xVP, or a cross-platform solution that will most likely enable tailored integration of former disparate XKO systems and future acquisitions.


The last offering seems the least defined at this stage, but we will have to wait to see how this noble concept will work in all product cases, since there is always some significant time and work to take place before a concept comes to realization. Also, we should wait and see whether Solarsoft acquisition strategy will be close to those of Infor or Consona. The company just acquired VantagePoint Systems, Inc. (TSX VENTURE:VPG), the lesser-known packaging manufacturing industry ERP provider. It is too early to judge whether Solarsoft is bottom-feeding or has a well-devised strategy of targeting some defendable niches.

This brings us to another general issue for all those companies that have been (and still want to be) on an acquisition trail: can they really continue without running out of steam. But, that is a topic on its own. For now, dear readers, what is your opinion on the strategy of the above-mentioned, recently renamed acquisitive companies? Which of them are (or are not) in for a brighter future?
 
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