SYSPRO is a 35-year-old software vendor that focuses on selling enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to midsize companies, particularly those in manufacturing and distribution. In manufacturing, SYSPRO supports make, configure and assemble, engineer to order, make to stock and job shop environments. The company attempts to differentiate itself through vertical specialization and its years of ongoing development, which can reduce the need for customization and cut the cost of initial and ongoing configurations to suit the needs of companies in these industries, thereby reducing the total cost of ownership. Worldwide its targeted verticals include electronics, food, machinery and equipment and medical devices; in the United States, SYSPRO adds automotive parts (original equipment and after-market) and energy. The company’s development efforts follow a design philosophy that balances its target customers’ need for software capabilities that are on par with larger enterprises with their resource constraints (chiefly limited financial resources and technical staffs). Its software can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud.
The ERP system is a pillar of nearly every company’s record-keeping and management of business processes. It is essential to the smooth functioning of the accounting and finance functions. After a decade of stasis, the evolutionary pace of technologies that shape the design of ERP systems began accelerating over the last couple of years, as I have noted. Reflecting this trend, SYSPRO recently introduced new capabilities to
- Facilitate business process collaboration and information retrieval
- Provide integrated customer relationship management functionality
- Enhance the user experience
- Expand its Web hosting offerings.
Because almost all business processes require collaboration, users of ERP systems need to work with colleagues in performing some functions within the application itself. In the past this typically required using email or a third-party instant messaging service, but recently vendors have started to incorporate collaboration services in their application suites. To this end, SYSPRO has added Harmony, a cloud-based platform that enables internal and external collaboration (the latter to interact with suppliers and channel partners). Harmony also facilitates the use of data analytics and reporting, which is helpful because it hasn’t always been easy to get information and insight directly out of ERP systems. In our Office of Finance benchmark research fewer than half (48%) of companies said they find it easy to get information from their ERP system. SYSPRO has added new predictive search capabilities to quickly provide the most relevant answers. Its Web “robot” enables users to interact with SYSPRO’s applications using a natural language approach. For example, writing “Show me all invoices from ABC Co. over the last 12 months” will retrieve those records.
SYSPRO’s new CRM application enables companies to manage pipelines and marketing campaigns as well as handle service contracts. It also integrates with Microsoft Outlook to facilitate contact management. In its initial release the capabilities are basic, but it will likely meet many companies’ customers’ requirements. It has the advantage of being an integral part of the system so its total cost of ownership can be lower than that of similar systems. It is available as a cloud-based, multitenant offering or can be installed on-premises. The mobile version has a responsive user interface design that adapts to the specific device on which it’s running.
Keeping with an industry trend, SYSPRO has worked to simplify its user interface. Its Workbench UI is designed to make it easier for companies to tailor screens to the specific needs of individuals based on their roles or tasks without the help of a professional developer. Self-service configuration is an attractive capability for midsize companies because it reduces the cost of ownership and provides the application with greater flexibility when roles or processes need adjusting to meet changing business requirements.
SYSPRO provides customers with two basic cloud options. Its BusinessLive software as a service is a subscription offering that fully outsources the operation of the application and requires no capital outlays. Customers also can use SYSPRO to host their licensed software and avoid having to perform routine software maintenance or take care of hardware and security. SYSPRO recently added Microsoft Azure as an option for managed service in addition to Amazon Web Services.
As I’ve noted, deciding when to replace an ERP system can be complicated. Usually, companies need to do it because the business has outgrown (or will soon outgrow) its capacity to handle transaction volumes. Another trigger can be when it becomes too difficult to configure it to specific requirements because the company’s business model has changed significantly, it had to adjust its go-to-market strategy, added a new product line, expanded geographically or made an acquisition. I recommend that companies that operate in SYSPRO’s target industries and are considering replacing their existing ERP system evaluate the company’s software. Its ERP suite is functionally rich, and the company has demonstrated a commitment to protecting its customers’ investments by its dedication in applying technology advances to its applications.
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