Calgary’s Harvest Ventures reaping bumper crop from refocused Macola

Exact Macola’s largest Canadian partner is benefiting from the company’s reinvigorated channel focus, and sees great potential for Canadian customers in the new Macola product release.

Calgary-based Harvest Ventures is ERP provider Exact’s largest partner in Canada. Harvest has worked exclusively with Exact’s Macola product since their inception in 1999, with a focus on designing customized automation tools for the product. While the relationship had some bumps during a long period when Exact sold primarily direct, the vendor’s move back to a channel-preferred strategy in 2013 has been a boon to Harvest. Exact’s recent increased investment in its channel program, and the redesign of the product towards a modernized ERP have further strengthened Harvest’s competitive position.

While Harvest’s base is in Calgary, they have expanded significantly beyond that. Of their staff of approximately 20, seven are based in Toronto, one in Montreal, and one in British Columbia.

“We also have a contractor in Chicago, so we have an American face should we need it,” said Nola Hofman, Harvest Ventures’ President.

“Being not solely focused on Alberta has helped us immensely,” she added. “If Alberta is down, Ontario is on the rise, and we are seeing manufacturing in Ontario come back again. Montreal was crazy busy for us last year. It’s a strength that we aren’t just a local presence.”

Harvest’s practise is fairly diverse, extending well beyond oil and gas, although they have service company customers. Their manufacturing customers include ones in plastic, rolling stock, small goods manufacturing and electronics, and they also have a lot of distributor customers. They almost never compete with another Exact reseller, with their primary competitors being SAP Business One, Microsoft Dynamics’ AX and NAV, Sage and Global Shop, a Texas-based company that is strong in oil and gas.

When Harvest began to work with Macola, Dutch-based Exact had not yet entered the equation. Exact purchased Macola in 2001, and changed the business model from partner-led to direct led.

“When things were direct-led, we had to work twice as hard because we were the underdog,” Hofman said. Ironically, the change in focus to the direct model wound up helping Harvest in another way.

“Because of way things were structured then, we expanded into business automation tools to augment the Macola product and build on its strengths,” said Bruce Henderson, Harvest’s Vice President of Business Development. “That helped us tremendously.”

Henderson said that they never seriously considered changing ERP providers during the direct period because the Macola software is extremely flexible and extremely feature-rich.

“It allows us to play in any industry,” he said. “We often do specific customizations to make it fit better in specific environments, and the automated tools we designed make things much faster.”

In 2013, Exact’s Macola division moved back to a partner-led model when Alison Forsythe took over as the division’s Managing Director. Another change that helped Harvest was Exact’s decision last year to once again make Macola the primary brand.

“Changing the primary brand back to Macola last year has given us better brand recognition again,” Hofman said. “It was tougher when Exact was the primary brand.”

On the heels of getting its licensing revenues through partners over 50 per cent (at 57 per cent) in fiscal year 2016, Exact has just rebooted its Macola partner program. The new program, which the company is terming Unity 2.0, adds a new entry level tier and more investments in deal registration and MDF funds.

“Unity 2.0 will help our practice and give us more chance to grow,” Hofman said. “While Unity 1.0 was good, 2.0 was better. The deal registration had a high margin to begin with, but the new deal registration is such a high margin that it allows you to lock down a prospect.” Hofman also said that the new program allows them to give better training to their employees, and that it is also providing them with more leads than before.

“Since 2013, when the focus changed back to partner-led, we have received very good support from the Exact sales and marketing teams,” Henderson said.

Last week, Exact released the 10.5 version of its software, which is focused on simplifying and automating things, and improving the customer experience, particularly around order entry, which will also be the focus of the next several releases.

“Order entry is a huge piece of the puzzle, and it will take quite a bit of effort on their part to completely modernize it,” Hofman said. “The design and look and feel of the new screens will make it much more competitive when presenting the product, because it looks very modern. We also like the expanded open APIs with a lot more of the plug-in capabilities. It’s something we have been waiting for for a long time.”

Henderson pointed to the expanded capabilities in 10.5 to configure the user experience, and the management tools to spawn those out quickly.

“All the new automation will see some of the tools we designed be replaced internally by the automation – but we have many tools,” he said.

The inclusion of multi-site and cash flow enhancements on the road map has raised optimism at harvest that foreign exchange issues, which are more critical in the Canadian market than the U.S., will be addressed.

“We see this as an evolution of Macola to be a much more global product,” Hofman said. “Exact has so many solutions, and when they bought Macola, they were looking for a regional solution, and wanted to focus on it for the U.S. market. The new roadmap gives me hope for additional capabilities around foreign exchange. There’s a fair amount now, but we get a single rate for exchange, not buy and sell rates, which is what our customers want.”

“In Canada, every company has complex exchange issues whereas in the U.S., it tends to have a smaller impact,” Henderson said.