ERP is now helping in making dynamic, intelligent decisions: Epicor Software’s Himanshu Palsule
Instead of being a system of records, ERP is now helping in making dynamic, intelligent decisions, says Himanshu Palsule, Chief Product & Technology Officer and EVP – Epicor Software
Bangalore: Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) as technology has come a long way to find its place at the core of large enterprises and organisations. Over the years, the dependency on ERP software has increased significantly and has become one of the key technology components in the enterprise architecture.
To an extent, cloud has played a big role in expanding the reach of ERP software beyond the manufacturing vertical to businesses across segments and geographies. Epicor Software is among the top ERP software providers globally, which has closely observed how the ERP software has evolved over the years.
In this interview, Pankaj Maru of ETCIO speaks to Himanshu Palsule, Chief Product & Technology Officer and EVP – Epicor, to discuss about the changes in ERP software, trends that are shaping the ERP software and also talks about the product and innovation strategy of Epicor in 2018 and how enterprises and organisations are leveraging ERP today than in the past.
Q1. With the software and IT industry undergoing rapid changes where does ERP as a software offering stands today? Is ERP seeing any major impact due to those technology changes in recent times?
Manufacturing sector or manufacturers were the early adopters of ERP and over the years the manufacturing sector has evolved in the way it uses technology. However, there are four major forces, including - cloud, intelligence or predictive analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) and the experience that have impacted ERP in a big way.
With the advent of cloud, ERP is offered as software-as-a-service (SaaS) that has expanded its reach. Instead of being a system of records, ERP is now helping in making dynamic, intelligent decisions and so intelligence is the second force. The third force is the ability to collaborate across the top floor to the shop floor and bespoke systems, which people call it IoT or communicating with smart machines, communicating within context of data. And the fourth one is the experience, where I think the expectation is no longer -18 month cycles, large, complex implementations, and long time frames for realisation of value to cash.
So if you take these four together - cloud, intelligence and analytics, IoT and the experience, this is causing a seismic shift in which CIOs is looking for, when they are making the next ERP buying decision. And as we are building out Epicor ERP we certainly want to participate as the only manufacturing based ERP available in the cloud solving the needs with predictive intelligence with specific modules. That is what I think is different today from the ERP 10 years ago.
Q2. What are the key trends you see around ERP software?
The first thing is that ERP needs to be context aware, whether it is how data is entered, how it is processed and reports are done or how decisions are made. The ERP need to be much more aware than it used to be. It used to be largely a transaction posting engine, where it took all this data and then sort of balanced it out. So this whole data aware part of it is a massive trend that sits in the centre of it. The second area where ERP is evolving is the collaboration. I call it combining the shop floor and the top floor. They were largely disconnected. The guy on the production floor had to worry about - how many pieces get produced, what is his capacity planning and forecasting and the guy sitting upstairs had to worry about budgets and vendor and supplier planning and all that. I think that’s where the integration needs to be seen today. It needs to enable these customised systems and manage them centrally.
The third thing is this whole intelligence - ERP need to be able to project for customers. Most people are on their third or fourth ERP by now, so they are not looking for another large monolithic ERP system. They are looking for something that can provide insights. So in the design of the recent version ERP 10.2, we added something like the Epicor data discovery as a functionality where the data easily in a Google like fashion can be discovered anywhere within the ERP pro natural language interface. And the social stuff is almost an upside down way in which ERPs used to work which is very menu driven, very sequential, very time based. So I think those are some of the trends that we are all over, within the next release of ERP and the market is going to start demanding.
Q3. What sort of product and innovation strategy are you driving at Epicor in 2018?
Here are the four important factors in our roadmap that we are coming out this year around the world while supporting on-premise solutions. When you talk to customers, cloud is obviously the future, but there is a significant amount of customers that are still looking at hosting their own application. So number one in my goals and objectives for this year is to become a first class cloud citizen and that means way more than just working in the cloud. It’s about the business model, support, training all of that.
The second is what we call - ease of everything. From an experience perspective, some of the bigger ERP players have added a lot of complexity. We have something which is called - Project Cirrus, which is a one click migration from the old Epicor ERP releases to the new one - whether it is migration, upgrade or installation workflow - we want things to be dead easy. We are using Amazon B2C as a model that we are trying to go after.
Project Cirrus - it’s an internal name. We bought a UK based company specialised in migration. Project Cirrus is our ability to take old versions of our or any other product and have the ability to look at all the customisation that has been done. And then take this product, move it to the cloud, do the ETL and send an upgraded version back to customers. So the commitment we are making to these customers is - in a fixed bid, we will analyse your current system, upgrade it and will return to you the latest version of the system in a very short time. At the end of the day I want every customer on the most recent release, so that they can get the value of all the R&D work going on.
Number three is an ecosystem. When you are a global ERP product you cannot predict for the country you are going in, what the local providers are going to be for tax, payroll, treasury or all of that. We have open APIs, we have 1400 public APIs and are building a toolkit that allows third parties to quickly on-board themselves within our ecosystem. And the fourth is business intelligence. We have a product called Epicor data analytics and Epicor data discovery and are making them more context aware and more machine aware of this year’s road map. So what you’ll see this year coming out of us is in these four areas - cloud, ease of everything, ecosystems and the area of business intelligence and all of this will come out as features and functionality in the road map.
Q4. Has there been any noticeable change the way enterprises and businesses are leveraging ERP today than in the past?
I think there are two changes - first is that the role of the CIO is changing with the whole democratisation of IT. So the CIO is now looking for more end-to-end solutions that work across their organisation. They are looking at choice in deployment such as cloud. They are looking at a different ways to look at capex and opex, so subscription pricing becomes important. So I think the changing role of the CIO as a very strategic executive in the company is changing how ERP buying decisions are being made.
Secondly, the mid-market companies are on their second or third version of ERP. There are lots of failed ERP promises from the past that the buyers are very aware of. Anyone now looking for multi-million dollar implementations, the realisation of value, the expectation -- it is much faster. The reason we have moved to a three month release, instead of 18 months is because I wanted to put pressure on ourselves that, can we put a non-breaking backward compatible changes, because customers are looking for more instant gratification.
And with the whole globalisation in manufacturing, there is a lot more pressure on production to be able to realise value faster. Combine these two forces and I think it is going to change the way ERP is going to be selected and how ERP vendors are going to have to perform. And some of the larger monolithic ERPs that might have dominated the space are going to be brought under tremendous pressure because of these two factors.
Read the full article here: