New Epicor Program Seeks to Hold Down ERP Project Costs

Epicor on Monday announced a new program aimed at containing the cost of ERP (enterprise resource planning) projects, which are notorious for running late and over budget.

Like any ERP implementation, Epicor and its customers will work together to define the project's scope, goals and expected return on investment. The twist is that both sides stand to gain by keeping projects on steady course. If a project comes in under budget, the extra money will be split 50-50. The same approach applies for any cost overruns, as customers will pay only half of any additional consulting hours, Epicor said.

The program gives customers "some of the comfort" of a fixed-price contract, as well as the potential to get money back, said Craig Stephens, Epicor vice president of consulting. Under a standard fixed-price agreement, Epicor would keep any excess funds, he said.

Also, since Epicor is also agreeing to share the cost of overruns, it "has no incentive to milk the customer" for excess consulting fees, Stephens said.

Epicor has been sounding this sort of cost-containment theme for some time. In 1999, the company announced a "1:1 ratio" initiative, with a goal of ensuring implementation expenses are not greater than the software's list price. That approach has some wiggle room, of course, since software licenses are frequently subject to significant discounts off list.

Meanwhile, Monday's announcement drew a moderate nod of approval from Vinnie Mirchandani, founder of the Deal Architect procurement consulting firm and a well-known blogger on enterprise IT issues.

"[With] many large companies I help negotiate implement contracts for, we try and include a bonus/penalty piece based on budget, time, customer satisfaction and business results," Mirchandani said via e-mail. "So not unusual, but good to see a vendor proactively offer it."

From a strategic standpoint, Epicor's announcement could have resonance with companies that changed ERP systems around the Y2K scare, and are now looking to upgrade the aging platforms, said 451 Group analyst China Martens.

It also comes about a year after the vendor launched Epicor 9, a "next-generation" superset of features from various product lines, supported by a SOA (service- oriented architecture) framework and available in both on-premises and SaaS (software as a service) forms.

The vendor has big hopes for the strategy, which has echoes of Oracle's long-delayed Fusion Applications.

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