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Playing to strengths 

Hesham El Komy, Senior Director, International Channels at Epicor discusses the ERP company’s verticals of focus and strengths and points out with a highly configurable product, why Epicor needs to do less of customisation



Elaborate on the mid-market focus at Epicor?

Epicor’s core focus is in the mid-market while we do have customers in the enterprise. Primarily, our customers are in distribution, automotive aftermarket and manufacturing.

Discuss your product for manufacturing? is that a major focus in the UAE and the region?

For core manufacturing, Epicor Manufacturing is a comprehensive solution portfolio that enables you to plan, schedule, execute and monitor the entire manufacturing business. Manufacturing is a domain where we have 30 plus years of experience. We have deep understand of the domain and are able to enhance the processes of our customers by transferring our knowledge.

There are plenty of manufacturing companies in the UAE and in countries like Saudi, Egypt, North Africa and even Oman, involved in manufacturing cables to plastic and other articles and we have a good number of clients. 

Which are the other sectors of focus in the region?

Beside manufacturing, in the GCC, we have other areas of focus such as distribution and even in logistics, we have a very strong services arm as well as in Food and Beverages, we have other products such as iScala. Our footprint in hospitality segment is also significant. Many hotel chains worldwide use  Scala worldwide in their back office operations such as the Hyatt, Radisson, and the One & Only hotel groups. 

The objective of our software is to improve end user’s business processes and profitability.

How important is analytics within your products?

We are in a data driven world. for instance, from a manufacturing perspective, understanding machine productivity, supply chain etc is important, including giving the management a view of what they are manufacturing, where there is loss, where there is profit, optimizing raw material stocking etc. Good analytics for pretty much any businesses gives the ability to create better efficiencies. Dashboards, trackers, and data visualization tools built into the core ERP platform help you visualize data and get a better understanding of what is happening in the company in real time. Epicor MES offers real-time production and process monitoring for discrete manufacturers. There is also diagnostics and predictive analytics, the former for analyzing what happened by looking through large data sets and the latter for planning out successful scenarios through demand planning and inventory optimization.

Is customization an important attribute in ERP deployments?

That is where Epicor stands out. customization is not something we focus on as the product itself ships out as a completely friendly end product for manufacturing, distribution workflows etc. It is a complete ERP which we can customize but we tend not to because the original product is configurable for most deployments without the need for customization. Customization can be counter-productive in ERP deployments. When you in fact look around examples of some of the large implementations that have failed, in many instances it is because the customizations failed.

When a customization is in place, it is very difficult to upgrade or enhance. When a new release comes along, you have to customize that as well so that you can move on to the next release.

We have a very configurable product built on which gives us the ability to configure to the point of near perfection so that hardly any customization is required. So there is very little impact on the system and therefore on the products when future updates come along. So they can continue to grow with us as we continue to enhance our products.

I had feedback from a customer in South Africa from the manufacturing industry recently as to why they chose us and the reason was that while Epicor ERP needed as less as 11 minor customizations around ports, the competitor product that claimed to be an expert in the vertical, would have required  200 or so customizations. Further, the product wasn't as complete from the offset.

Are there different product flavors for different verticals?

The product is the same bu there are different templates that the professional services can use when it comes to implementation. For manufacturing, there is a standard manufacturing template and then you can configure the workflow, the reports etc. All of that is only configuration and none of it is customization.

Discuss your cloud strategy? Do you have cloud deployments in the region?

Our on-premise and cloud product versions are based on the same code and this is the unique distinction between us and our competitors. We don't however aggressively push customers to go for cloud deployments if there is no need and if they are happy with the on-premise deployments, we continue to support them on that, unlike some of our competitors who may force customers to move to cloud by making an upgrade unavailable on their on-premise deployment.

We do have some large cloud customers in the region. One of the largest outside the US is in Saudi Arabia, a military modernization organization. That is a multi-tenant cloud and that pretty much shows the quality of the products, which off the shelf can pretty much do everything with very little customization because if customization is required, it cant be on a multi tenant cloud. This is prior to the recent announcement of strategic partnership with Microsoft on the cloud  where there is dedicated hosting.

Do your partners enable cloud deployments?

We give our partners the flexibility to decide if their customer need a cloud deployment. if the deployments are quite complex and cannot be on a multi tenant cloud, we give them the SaaS licenses to host the solutions from a dedicated server in the data center, providing directly to the customer and fully managed by the partner.

Elaborate on your partner focus?

We have about 30 partners across the GCC. We are stringent with selecting our partners. we changed our partner program about two years ago and have gone with the program quite aggressively. We have reduced the number of partners with a view to improving quality. Worldwide, you would see vendors looking to have as many partners on board. That leads down the path of price competitions, poor quality or failed implementations etc. the reduced number of partners gives us the opportunity to work with them on one on one bases, enabling better knowledge transfer and giving us the confidence of their capabilities in sales, marketing, implementations as well as post implementation support. we are quite comfortable with the partners we have but not every one of them is certified for cloud deployments.

Discuss about your service team in the region?

We have a regional services team based out of Dubai. We have project manager, consultants etc that are required in that team to  do our own implementations, execute project governance etc and there is a services director. We also use partners to augment our services. when there are requirements that we know our partners can fulfill and in time.