Epicor Ships ERP Update 'for the Recovery'

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Epicor on Wednesday announced a new version of its flagship ERP (enterprise resource planning) application that it says is packed with features meant to help customers as business rebounds from the global recession.

Epicor 9.05's new features fall into three general categories: industry-specific tools, such as an upgraded project management module; improvements to financial management capabilities; and a mobile reporting framework aimed at casual business users.

It is the successor to Epicor 9, which the company unveiled with some fanfare in late 2008. The software uses an SOA (service-oriented architecture) framework, allowing modules to be easily added as well as integrated with the company's legacy application lines.

About 140 customers have gone live so far on Epicor 9, with roughly 1,000 units shipped, according to James Norwood, senior vice president of product marketing.

Back when Epicor launched version 9 "we were all excited about it, but then the world's markets dipped into recession," he said.

"This is the right release for the right time in the market," he said of 9.05, which is available in more than 50 countries now and should be released in more than 60 by year's end. "The general feeling is things have bottomed out and there are some green shoots."

Epicor 9.05 also features an improved e-commerce component, including features such as search engine optimization.

"We heard very clearly that our customers are selling less, and therefore they needed less salespeople, but still needed to bring in customers," he said.

Meanwhile, the new mobile framework joins the company's application platforms for localized handheld devices and for "ruggedized" devices used by workers in the field.

Epicor Everywhere allows business users to quickly access information in the back-end system, as well as make updates, through a Web interface on a smartphone. For example, a salesperson might want to examine the sales history and open orders for customers they are visiting one day.

While Epicor 9.05 is available in on-premises form, as a hosted application, or as fully multitenant SaaS (software as a service), Epicor isn't ready to make a big marketing push behind the last option just yet, Norwood said. "We haven't made a big noise ... We're still building out data centers, making sure we can handle the volume."

Epicor has generally succeeded in giving customers the sort of features they need at this time, said Altimeter Group analyst Ray Wang.

He singled out the updated project-management module as one of the most essential. "You're tracking people more than widgets these days."

The vendor's global footprint and breadth of functionality could also see it play a role in two-tier or "hub-and-spoke" ERP strategies, where Epicor is used on a divisional basis by large enterprises with backbone systems from Oracle or SAP, he said.

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