I am glad I was among the analysts invited to the traditional December analyst roadshow, which takes place in the beautiful city of Boston, by the event organizer, Judith Rothrock, the energetic and vibrant president of JRocket Marketing. In this event, several software vendors announce their latest software offerings and convene with analysts for friendly and informal discussions. The 2012 event hosted two ambitious business software vendors—the UNIT4 and SYSPRO. Both companies are well represented in North America and have significant operations and major offices on the continent. And, of course, they used this analyst-gathering event to announce new and important aspects of their business (they are presented below in alphabetical order).
SYSPRO, the developer of SYSPRO ERP software for small and medium-sized manufacturers and distributors, shared some announcements, as well as some interesting facets of ERP software.
- First of all, SYSPRO introduced a future release of the new version of SYSPRO ERP, version 7, and presented ideas on and images of a the new user interface (UI). The new version is slated for general availability in the second quarter of 2013. Similarly to the current version, it can be deployed on premise, or in the cloud depending on the customer’s requirements. The core message of the Einstein Strategy that the company has carried out over the recent years has not changed—it continues to be a customer-centered ERP software vendor focused on the responsible delivery of value to its clients, using proven technology and methodology, as well as knowledgeable and highly skilled resources. The new release looks very attractive and simplified compared with the current version. SYSPRO offers users the ability to interact with the software via graphical tiles that are movable and, of course, customizable in any conceivable way—new menus and navigation, new themes, new UI controls, new design capabilities and expanded roles, and a business flow–enabled interface. Overall, as the changes in the new version are substantial, the system warrants to be seen in action, for “Seeing once is better than hearing a hundred times.”
- Another great near-future capability of SYSPRO ERP was unveiled—SYSPRO Espresso Mobile Framework. Here SYSPRO has extended the capability of working with the SYSPRO ERP software to mobile devices. This framework, which will be released along with SYSPRO ERP version 7, is natively optimized for multiple popular devices based on widely used operating systems—Android, Apple iOS, and BlackBerry—and will be also able to support shop floor touch screen and other mobile equipment. The application extends SYSPRO customization capabilities, and user-developed or third party–developed apps will be available via the new SYSPRO App Store. Current SYSPRO ERP users can use their credentials and security features for mobile access, rather than needing to create new ones. Mobile users will be able to not only see reports and graphs, but also perform many other functions, such as orders creation and tracking, data entry and editing as well as use the platform to create business-specific mobile applications quickly and cost effectively. The interesting thing here is that users may work with the system while the system isn’t available on-line using data cashed on the device, and the system will be synchronized with the database as soon as the connection is restored. I would assume that Espresso Mobile Framework is much anticipated by users of the current version, and there may be an argument in SYSPRO’s favor for potential new customers as well.
- The vendor also announced the results of a new study performed by the analyst firm Eval-Source on their current mobile functionality requirements, which confirmed the strategic development directions selected by SYSPRO. This vendor’s consistent focus on its value-delivering and development strategy to its clients should bear fruits for both SYSPRO and its clients.
UNIT4, the other participant of the event and a notable global business solutions player in the non-manufacturing environment, brought us several announcements as well.
- The vendor began by making the statement that UNIT4’s strategy is to transition toward the vendor becoming a cloud-focused company. The company has been in the market of cloud-based business applications for quite a while, and those efforts have resulted in €50 million annual revenue from cloud offerings only. Still, this represents only about 10% of the company’s total revenue of about €450 million, so there is definitely room to grow. The vendor, however, confirmed its serious intent about the cloud and its future perspectives, continuing to focus on servicing businesses that operate in constantly changing environments.
- The major announcement was the upcoming delivery of UNIT4’s new UI to its major solutions. There will be a new UI for the flagship Agresso ERP software, with other UNIT4 solutions to follow suit. The interface will bring a completely new approach to the tasks of end users working for organizations constantly undergoing change. Those users generally are more challenged in performing their tasks, and so the new interface brings them some relief with simple and transparent logic and the use of a more human language. For example, the expense reporting page will be called “My travel expenses,” with the subsections “Where I went,” “What I spent,” and other similar phraseology that a user would need to fill out regularly, instead of the typical sciolistic information technology (IT) terminology, some of which can be hard to decipher. The new interface will have highly configurable social connectivity tools embedded and, of course, it will continue to explore mobility and a company’s unique easy-to-adopt-change approach for Businesses Living IN Change (BLINC), whether it’s using the VITA architecture of Agresso ERP or the LINK architecture of Coda Financials. All the aforementioned changes are expected to enhance adoption of the software, increase user productivity, and simplify leveraging of business changes. The new interface is expected to be generally available in mid 2013.
- The second major announcement of UNIT4 was on extending the functionality of its Higher Education and Research solution. The company isn’t a newcomer in this market segment, and has already proven its competence in many regions, particularly in Europe, for many years. Nevertheless, existing and prospective clients of UNIT4 will probably appreciate the new capabilities in research management, delivering and managing pre-award and post-award grants and research projects, and in constituent relationship management, allowing embedded collaboration and managing existing, prospective, and graduate students. UNIT4 provided several case studies of high education and research institutions that lend support to the vendor’s messages. For example, Södertörn University in Sweden has redeployed its existing on-premise Agresso solution as a cloud-based Agresso ERP system, and Cranfield University in the UK has benefited from the lower cost and more agile Agresso Campus Platform.
- Finally, the company presented two new pieces of research that describe the unique technical and business approach taken by UNIT4. The first is the Eval-Source report on UNIT4’s next-generation multitenancy, describing advantages over the traditional multitenant model in terms of reduced number of redeployment steps and overall process simplification. The second is UNIT4 Coda Financials’ survey results, which discovered intriguing data that only 56 percent of mid-market CFOs that use Coda Financials software in North America and Europe take all of their allotted vacation time. The data looks more optimistic for larger organizations, with only 21 percent not taking all their vacation days. People are either too busy to take vacation, or have too many vacation days that they aren’t able to take. The former is more likely, as the physical presence of key people in finance and accounting is still required owing to far-from-ideal internal processes in these areas.
Overall, 2013 is expected to be an exciting year for both SYSPRO and UNIT4 with their new initiatives and releases of their solutions. I’m really looking forward to seeing the announced solutions in action and test driving the upgraded interfaces. Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Judith Rothrock for organizing this informative event.
Read the report by my colleague, TEC principal analyst P.J. Jakovljevic, with his take on some of the major announcements from the 2012 analyst roadshow, which is now available in the TEC Reports page.