Epicor Unveils 'next-generation' ERP

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Epicor Software's anticipated Epicor 9 ERP (enterprise resource planning) suite will be generally available before the end of this year, the Irvine, California, company announced Monday at the start of its annual customer conference in Las Vegas.

Epicor 9 was designed to pull together the best features from various Epicor product lines into a "next-generation superset" based on a SOA (service oriented architecture) and including functions such as CRM (customer relationship management), SRM (supplier relationship management), BPM (business process management), GRC (governance, risk, compliance) and EPM (enterprise performance management).

Existing customers will be able to adopt the newer applications at their own speed, with no forced migrations to the new platform, said Epicor, which focuses on the midmarket and divisions of large enterprises.

It's a similar story to that told by Oracle with its Fusion Applications strategy, which will bring together features from product lines like J.D. Edwards, Siebel and E-Business Suite. It also echoes Microsoft's Project Green, an effort to bring that vendor's Dynamics ERP applications closer together.

Epicor 9 is closely aligned with Microsoft technologies such as Office 2007 and SharePoint. Users can access the software through various means, from standard application forms to Office applications and mobile devices. Epicor's "Everywhere Framework" captures user-interface attributes as XML metadata, allowing the applications to maintain the same look and feel across multiple client types.

The initial release of Epicor 9 is expected to support 20 languages and countries. The software is available in both on-premises and SaaS (software as a service) forms.

Overall, the release represents a major moment for Epicor, which claims to have more than 20,000 customers in more than 140 countries. The company had about US$430 million in revenue during its fiscal 2007.

Epicor plans to continue supporting older products, but Epicor 9 "will be the one path forward for new customers in manufacturing, distribution, retail/hospitality, and services," AMR Research analyst Bruce Richardson wrote in a recent blog post. "Getting to one brand obviously offers the potential for greater efficiencies in sales, marketing, consulting and services, and product development."

While midsize vendors like Epicor can get overlooked due to the high profiles of Oracle and SAP, if the 9 launch is done well, Epicor will "have a much higher profile by the end of the year," according to Richardson.

In the meantime, the company could see some changes in the ownership department. Board members are weighing a hostile takeover bid by Elliott Associates LP, a hedge fund.

Also, in a separate interview Monday, Richardson said it's possible that Epicor could be bought by another vendor -- such as acquisition-happy Oracle -- despite the link to Microsoft's technology.

That's because Oracle's leadership knows it is easier to buy customers than go out and secure new ones, according to Richardson.

Sales cycles, already expensive and time-consuming, "aren't getting any shorter, and won't as long as there's [economic] uncertainty," he said.

There is also plenty of ERP business left in the midmarket, he added: "A lot of people are still sitting there with AS/400s and green screens saying, 'We need to put in a better system.'"

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