At the end of May, Rich attended Epicor Software Corp’s Insights user conference as Epicor’s guest at the Gaylord Opryland Resort in Nashville. Epicor delivers business software solutions into the manufacturing, distribution, retail and services industries. Epicor is one of the major software companies serving our industry through its distribution software offerings: Prophet 21 and Eclipse.
Insights is Epicor’s annual user conference that provides more than 500 sessions for attendees. Sessions range from a Q&A with Peyton Manning, product announcements and product roadmaps, education/training sessions on how to use existing/new features in its packages and, just for fun, a concert at the Grand Ole Opry. More than 4,000 users attended the four-day meeting.
The meeting also includes a large solutions pavilion where the Epicor team and Epicor partners gave attendees hands-on opportunities to review and test products.
As a reminder, Epicor has approximately 3,700 employees, 20,000 customers in 150+ countries, and sales of around $0.8 billion. The company has development groups located in every major operating region including the Americas (U.S., Mexico), Europe (Russia) and Asia (India, China, Australia).
Epicor brings hundreds of employees to Insights, including Steve Murphy, its new President and CEO. Most of the senior management team is three as well, so attendees have many opportunities to ask questions and, most importantly, provide feedback to all levels of the Epicor organization.
Last year’s Insights was the first user meeting since Epicor was purchased by KKR & Co. L.P., a global investment company, in September of 2016. At that time, a lot of the company was in transition. This is the first meeting since the organization has stabilized in its go-forward configuration and several new senior executives have been appointed. Former President, Joe Cowan, has retired. Joe was brought into Epicor by the previous owner, Apax Partners, with the mission of grooming the company for sale. With that mission accomplished, Joe is off to other fun. In October of 2017, Steve Murphy was appointed President and CEO. Steve was previously President of OpenText Corp., an enterprise information management company headquartered in Canada.
Steve has appointed a new CFO, David Mehok, a new Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President, Colleen Langevin, and a new Head of Global Human Resources, Jignasha Grooms. Himanshu Palsule will continue in the role of Chief Product and Technology Officer and Executive Vice President.
As with past years, this was a well-executed meeting. Kudos to the Epicor team in putting together a great meeting.
I had the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with four members of the Epicor management team: Lee An Schommer – SVP of Global Product Management, Colleen Langevin CMO, Tony Corley, senior manager product marketing, and Mark Jensen, senior director product management. Due to space limits, I am stitching together some excerpts from my time with each of them and some of their significant sessions.
The keynote talked about the roadmap which included progress reports and announcements:
Himanshu Palsule reported “Our product strategy embraces the unique strengths of Epicor industry-specific platforms, underpinned by a modern service fabric and topped with cross-platform applications that achieve digital transformation and raise the bar for automation, analytics, and customer experience.”
Cloud - One area of much discussion was “The Cloud.” Epicor believes that most companies will eventually embrace the cloud, but the question is: “when they will embrace it.” Epicor announced an expanded partnership with Microsoft to deliver enterprise-class solutions globally on the Microsoft AZURE platform. Epicor will initially standardize cloud deployment of its Epicor ERP and Epicor Prophet 21 on Microsoft Azure. Steve Murphy, Epicor’ CEO announced, “We looked at several public cloud options. Microsoft Azure offers the best foundation for building and deploying enterprise business applications that will enable our customers’ businesses to adapt and grow.” Currently, Epicor will continue to offer on-premises versions of packages as well as the cloud versions. Customers can decide which platform best serves their needs.
Epicor Kinetic Design Framework – A set of guidelines and patterns for building applications in and on top of Epicor applications. Delivering unified colors, typography and icons, user interface (UI) elements, and page layouts, Epicor Kinetic Design empowers partners to deliver value-added solutions consistent with Epicor usability best practices and interaction guidelines to enhance customer experience. This also includes a suite of tools, user interface components, APIs and test environments to support partners in developing user solutions that operate seamlessly on the desktop, tablet and mobile platforms.
As always, they presented some of the leading-edge innovations implemented by Epicor customers like robotic product picking, a glove with an integral barcode scanner, a button/transmitter on each inventory bin and location that transmits information directly to the ERP and inventory cycle counting system using robotic drones.
Questions & answers
Rick Schmitt: Mark, there have been a bunch of changes at the top since the KKR acquisition. As it all settles out, what does this mean to the Eclipse and Prophet 21 user base?
Jensen: The changes are driven by KKR’s plan to make these products part of their growth portfolio as opposed to an income portfolio. For the Eclipse and Prophet 21 user community that is good news. That means investment. That means we are continuing to look for ways to grow the products and grow the company. The Kinetic Framework and the APIs that we are building for both products are examples of the investments we are making.
Corley: Let me add that we already have a significant presence in your readers’ companies, but we have been challenged to go back to our customers and look for more ways to work with them to enable their success. Their success is our success.
RS: Talk a little about the Application Program Interface (API) work you are doing.
Jensen: We are working to separate the user interface (UI), the business logic and the database. This separation allows us to better respond to user needs. We can support new devices as they are developed. We can modify business logic as needed. We can move applications to the cloud when that is the proper solution for our users.
RS: Colleen, you are fairly new, having joined Epicor in February of this year, any observations?
Langevin: One thing stood out, how the well the senior management team has gelled. I’ve worked at big companies, little companies, big brands, little brands and it is not always the case that the leadership team gets along and works well with each other. We really work well together as a team. It is authentic and that makes it easier for our respective teams to work together and to work with our customers.
RS: What do you see as your biggest challenges?
Langevin: As we look out in the market at buyers and prospects, we have an awareness challenge. We have incredibly good technology and that’s makes this exciting for me. I believe in the product and plan that Himanshu has put together and the corporate strategy so I’m excited about the future. We will be working to develop our brand and increase awareness of our products in the markets we serve.
RS: Talk more about technologies.
Langevin: We are at an exciting tipping point where we are quickly empowering our customers with technologies that previously may have seemed out of reach for them. For example, the robotic picking and pro-glove allow wholesalers to react to the growing labor shortage…these are technologies that are here for them today.
RS: Any recommendations for wholesalers on getting started?
Langevin: Look at your process end-to-end and marry up the analytics about your biggest lag times, errors, low-value labor activities and prioritize them, attack the first one, complete it, enjoy the payback, recheck the list, then work on the second item and so on. Do one or two things, get the pay back and move on to the next opportunity. Many wholesalers may not have a technology focus but if they keep chipping away at it, at the end of three years, they will be a lot further ahead with their business.
RS: Lee An last year when we first met, you had only been with the company a short time. Tell me a little about the last year.
Schommer: I have spent a ton of time with customers… walking the shop floor or the warehouse as well as digging into customer data.
RS: So what did you find?
Schommer: Our customers are passionate about our products since they are the backbone of their business. If they were apathetic, my job would be so much harder. However, they told us that they didn’t know what we are doing. So we need to do a better job of communicating with our customers. Hopefully, you have seen some of the things we are doing as you attend the sessions. We have really “upped” our communications to customers. In all different forums. We’re not going to make everyone happy and there is always room to improve but it is a real focus for us.
RS: Do you have some examples?
Schommer: We have rolled out a bunch of programs to dramatically increase the amount of listening we are doing and to improve how we are pushing out information. We were doing a lot of good things like putting requested changes into releases but not communicating the completion/success to customers. So we listened to the customer, implemented what they asked, for but didn’t communicate it to and celebrate it with our users. So the process worked but the user didn’t know that it had worked. We need to continue to work on the feedback process when we completed a task requested by the user.
RS: Any new thing that you are excited to show the users?
Schommer: With our new releases we will be collecting telemetry data. We will be able to share sanitized data with wholesalers comparing how they are using the system with how other similar wholesalers are using the software. We are not becoming the NSA but we think the data will help wholesalers to understand where there are opportunities to improve their processes and use of their particular software.
RS: Other discoveries?
Schommer: We also discovered that, at times, there were disconnects between the roadmap and software release schedules. We have addressed that and now, if we say we are going to release, we release. If fact, we are surprising some customers as we are on track with commitments.
RS: Any final comments?
Schommer: We are trying hard to act like a customer could leave at any time. We want to earn their business every month.
RS: Thanks again to my Epicor hosts for inviting The Wholesaler to their meeting.