Epicor sees new Epicor ERP as game-changer

Enhancements to the new release feature the option of a dedicated tenancy cloud deployment model, and enhanced visibility and control from January’s DocStar acquisition.

Himanshu Palsule, Epicor’s Chief Technology and Product Officer, onstage at Epicor Insights

NASHVILLE – At their annual Epicor Insights customer event in Nashville, Epicor has formally unveiled the new 10.1.600 version of Epicor ERP, their core ERP solution, which officially hit GA last week.

Epicor has been on a multi-year strategy of modernizing its solutions, including making a cloud-first commitment, which they see as the inevitable future of the industry even though a significant portion of their customers aren’t ready for a move at this point. The new features and capabilities of Epicor ERP reflect this focus.

“What you will see here is a complete transformation  and re-imagination of the design of our products,” said Himanshu Palsule, Epicor’s Chief Technology and Product Officer. “And behind that are our people, who have years and sometimes decades of experience that they put into designing these products.”

This is Epicor ERP’s first release on the desired fall and spring cadence, speeding up their development cycle from traditional software design to the more aggressive pace that is now becoming the norm in the industry. The fall release, 10.2, is scheduled for the end of October.

“This is the first time that our development teams were aligned with new product development and sustaining engineering,” said Scott Hays, Epicor’s senior vice president, product marketing. “The  new alignment increased our overall throughput substantially. Our development time with 10.1.600 went from 18 months to 6 – which was done in half the time of the duration of the 10.1.500. It has the same amount of code lines, but was done in half the time, and we also doubled the Quality Assurance coverage.”

The new Dedicated Tenancy cloud deployment option –  reflecting Epicor’s new cloud-first approach – is intended to make the cloud option much more attractive to customers, giving them an additional option from traditional on-prem, or single-tenancy or multi-tenancy in the cloud.

“I think this is going to be a game-changer,” Palsule said. “We’ve been in single tenant or multi tenant cloud mode for a whole, and we have seen a ramp up of multi-tenant adoption, but some customers are not yet ready for it. They have two big challenges. One is the cadence of adoption. While they like the cost structure of multi tenancy, everything upgrades at the same time, and customers were asking for some leeway there. The second issue is that they wanted some more control of the process.”

While multi-tenancy puts clients on the same application server and the same database, Dedicated Tenancy gives each client their own database, with the dynamic elasticity and cost benefits of shared application servers.

“It’s a virtual space shared along databases dedicated to you specifically,” Palsule told customers in his keynote. “It provides the ability for you to enjoy the same cost benefits of multi-tenancy, but to have some control, such as the ability to do customizations and configurations.”

“For example, you can defer upgrades by up to 90 days,” Hays said. “This makes us unique in the marketplace and in the industry.”

In January 2017, Epicor announced the acquisition of enterprise content management provider DocStar, and indicated their document management and process automation capabilities would be integrated into their product set. Epicor ERP is the first solution to have this done, with the Prophet 21 distribution solution next on the schedule.

“DocStar provides fully embedded document management capabilities which give enhanced visibility and control of the entire process,” Hays said. “We now have tight two-way integration with the ERP application.”

The new integrated ECM functionality ensures file integrity with time and date stamps, automatically archives for best-practice audit trail documentation, makes business processes transparent – and even open if desired – to customers and suppliers, and improves Accounts Payable automation.

The openness promoted by the DocStar integration fits into a broader strategy of furthering integration, which also sees Epicor open up public APIs in the ERP 10.1.600 release.

“We need to continue to do a better job of opening up our products to our partners,” Palsule said. “We now have the public APIs in Epicor ERP, and they will be in Prophet 21 starting with its 2017 release. We will make it easy for you to integrate with us.”

The ERP release has 1400 public APIs.

“We are also beefing up our certification program for this, especially as we move into the cloud at an accelerated pace,” Palsule said.

Epicor has significantly upgraded its analytics capabilities in Epicor ERP with two separate processes, Epicor Data Analytics [EDA] and Epicor Data Discovery. EDA has been incorporated in this release, while Epicor Data Discovery will be in ERP 10.2 in October.

“Data Discovery is operational, while EDA is about long term trends,” said Lawrence Martin, Epicor’s VP Development Engineering.

“Epicor Data Analytics gets past asking what happened and starts to probe into why,” said Dave Getty, VP of Product Development at Epicor. “Why didn’t sales surge? Why are margins shrinking?

Getty said that EDA is able to aggregate different data sources, taking transactional data and aggregating it to a higher level.

“With this kind of predictive analytics, EDA could put together a list of all customers who ever left you and why – and then place it against your current customers,” Getty stated. “You can then give them a risk score, so you can see who is at risk for attrition. Understanding the risk lets you put together a plan to save the customer relationship.”

EDA comes with modular, prebuilt content packs for sales, financials, materials, and production, to help organizations to ask and answer questions about their business.

“Business intelligence has moved past fancy portals,” Palsule said. “It’s now about extracting information, and not just pretty screens. The old focus was on apps, and not on data. We are turning that inside out. In this release, with both EDD and EDA you see clever use of analytics integrated right into the product.”

Another innovation is the Electronic Compliance Engine, designed to get Epicor out of being tied to the release cycle as far as responding to regulatory changes are concerned.

“Both small business and global businesses are now subjected to more global regulations, and so we are launching our Electronic Compliance Engine,” Palsule said. “It allows our people, partners and customers to make modifications in reporting, to be compliant in whatever country you are in.”

Palsule said that when the pace of regulatory change was slower, and penalties weren’t as stringent, it was possible to make the changes solely in the new releases.

“We wanted the ability out of cycle to generate this,” he said. This will be available internally and to partners now, and to customers after training on it. A second phase at the end of the year will allow the same changes to be made outside the release cycle in code.

Other enhancements include improving the configure-to-order design function with a 2D Design Visualization Tool, and enhancing Epicor Manifest automated shipping software to streamline shipping processes with new integrated shipping rates and parcel carrier options  at the point of order quotation, order entry or shipping.

Palsule said that the new release is designed to build on Epicor’s traditional strength of providing more granular, industry-specific customization.

“Being in electrical components is different than being a distributor of HVAC,” he told the audience. “We don’t see you as one, while some of our competitors do. Understanding the nuances of industry is extremely critical for us, and that’s how we differentiate in this market.”