This week, cloud ERP vendor Acumatica held an analyst event in Boston that was immediately followed with a product launch. Specifically, the company was announcing the contents of its new 2017 R2 release.
Acumatica 2017 R2 - release highlights
Acumatica does two major releases annually. This one contained an abundance of new capabilities. Some of the more material ones included:
- A significantly enhanced Project Accounting module that is integrated with the rest of the ERP suite. Contracts and billings can be analyzed for their revenue recognition impact. Various billing methods (e.g., progress billing, T&M billing, etc.) are supported. Users can even choose to write-off some time, substitute different service personnel on individual projects, etc.
- An in-depth integration with the third party software Smartsheet was announced. This appears to be more than basic API-level integration. Customer and partner attendees were very happy to see this.
- The JAAS Systems JAMS (JAAS Advanced Manufacturing System) manufacturing application suite is now officially within Acumatica’s ERP solution. This brings a lot of discrete manufacturing functionality (and potential customers) to Acumatica. The Jams solution was already built on the Acumatica platform so customers will already see a consistent look and feel, data model, reporting tools, etc. The deal also opens up Acumatica for more aggressive marketing into Food manufacturing, medical device firms, job shops, make-to-order manufacturing shops and much more. This is not a loosely-connected integration and should be highly accretive to both JAAS and Acumatica. It should also trigger a lot of net-new channel partner signups, too.
- New/enhanced UI – Remember how a few years back, Coca Cola had two formulas and drinks: Classic Coke and New Coke? Well, Acumatica now a new UI for its hip, cool, customers while it’s retaining its prior UI (Classic UI) for the nostalgic users. The new UI is cleaner and a bit more intuitive. The best aspect of the user interface though is that users always see personalized BI dashboards as they come into the system.
- Acumatica has many pre-configured BI dashboards, with more to come. While the solution has had a number of horizontal user-based dashboards (e.g., ones for Finance executives), vertical dashboards will now be a focus area. This is especially important since the Jams deal opens up large numbers of vertical and sub-vertical markets for Acumatica.
- Amazon Marketplace integration was showcased and represents a more substantial push by Acumatica into e-tailing. I suspect Diginomica colleague Jon Reed, an omni-channel expert nonpareil, will have lots to opine on this. Nonetheless, the different fulfillment modes Acumatica supports with the Amazon transactions were a hit with the attendees.
- The new Adobe Sign (nee Echo Sign) relationship will supplement the pre-existing DocuSign relationship. Every ERP solution needs to have a lot of cloud-based, easy to integrate partner solutions. We heard from tax partner Avalara, credit card processors, and many more. This is actually a good thing as no ERP vendor can have extensive, global expertise in dozens of functional and technical disciplines. And, if one document signing partnership is good, then the second one with Adobe must make things even better.
Here is a look at how the pieces come together on the Acumatica xRP platform:
In other news….
Acumatica’s global expansion continues. We learned that there has been a lot of major channel partner action with more to come (sorry, many details are still under NDA). Key focus of this partner activity is outside of the U.S. Acumatica’s OEM partners, their largest partners, have re-badged the solution and sell it in approximately 15 countries.
The Acumatica team has updated the software to comply with tax requirements in 15 countries with more in the works. While almost all Acumatica product sales are via channels (only a scant few are sold direct by Acumatica), Acumatica’s Marketing organization does generate a material number of leads for its partners. Because so much of the company’s revenues are due to the sales efforts of third parties, Acumatica can use its payroll budget predominately on product R&D activities and not sales roles.
A couple of years ago, Acumatica decided to bet on Amazon AWS for the bulk of its could computing capacity. That commitment to use Amazon continues to gain support. The scale, security, utilities, etc. that Amazon offers provide value to Acumatica, its partners, and, most especially, to its customers. Other ERP vendors have realized this as well and more computing load seems to be moving Amazon’s way.
My take - looking ahead
If you have ERP software today, chances are it comes from a firm that started creating it at least 20+ years ago. Some solutions have roots back to the 1980s. Newer, all-cloud ERP solutions may date from the 2005-2007 timeframe. So, when you look at Acumatica, you have to remember that it’s relatively new in ERP terms. It takes time to create all of the functionality a relevant, regulatory-compliant solution must have. Creating a solution for the small-business space is one order of difficulty, while mid-market solutions are much more difficult and the enterprise-class solutions are a beast to create and create well.
So, here’s a 9 year-old firm that’s clearly teeing up to play in the mid-market. They’ve already had successes in the small-business and lower-end of the mid-market. Now, they’ve got to acquire additional channel and other capabilities to win in this space.
One of the things Acumatica must address now is what they want their brand to stand for. With so many bad actions and bad actors out there in the ERP space today, I’d posit that there’s room for some vendor to become the good guy in the area. ERP customers are fed up with vendors’ frequent and over-zealous audits, massive price increases at renewals, litigating their customers when customers are using customer data in other systems, etc. Shale-fracking ERP customer wallets is NOT creating great customer experiences for many ERP users. This could be a white-space marketing opportunity for Acumatica.
Targeting these larger mid-market firms will test the Acumatica channel network. Can the current crop of partners do projects that cross countries or continents? Do they possess non-technical skills like change management, complex program management, radical process redesign, etc.? Can they deliver solutions in clients with considerable numbers of users and conflicting cultures within those customer firms?
When the Acumatica user conference kicks off next spring in Nashville, I hope the Acumatica executives also have roadmaps, prototypes, etc. to show how they’ll deliver newer technologies (e.g., IoT, sensor and other critical manufacturing tech) and external data in ways that help customers and partners redefine their businesses. Why then? Because it’s time for ERP vendors to quit trying to push cloud (and social, mobile and analytics) to cloud-hating Luddites when technology is already moving on from there. They need to focus on the companies, prospects and partners that will drive material change and ignore those firms that will be victims of it.