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Acumatica Summit 2022 roundup - is agile ERP an oxymoron? Vertical news and customer views

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed January 26, 2022
Summary:
Acumatica Summit 2022 is in the books. But does Acumatica's "cloud ERP agility" message resonate with customers? I hit the ground in Las Vegas to find out.

Acumatica Summit 2022
(Acumatica Summit 2022, day one keynote)

I'm not going to lie: when I first started saying that "the future of cloud ERP is vertical," it was more of a gut belief. I didn't have the proof points. But the proof points are coming. I've written about Acumatica's industry numbers before:

Acumatica CEO Jon Roskill told us that Acumatica's Construction, Distribution, Manufacturing, and Retail-Commerce Editions were driving the bulk of the SKUs:

The industry editions now make up 78% of the Acumatica SKU mix. That's from 20% four years ago. This shows you the growth and the reception we're seeing from our customers.

Fast forward to Acumatica Summit 2022, day two: Acumatica's Chief Strategy Officer & EVP of Products Ajoy Krishnamoorthy told attendees that 85 percent of Acumatica customers are using an Acumatica industry edition. Almost all of Acumatica's day one news announcements hit on industry priorities.

Acumatica Summit 2022 news - a vertical theme

During the keynote, Roskill announced the acquisition of IBS Imperium, a property management system. This bolster's Acumatica's multi-tenant Construction Edition. Unlike most acquisitions in enterprise software, this one is already fully integrated. Roskill: "This will be available immediately on our price list as the Acumatica Property Management module."

How is that deep integration already possible? Because IBS Imperium's financial management and reporting suite for property managers was built on the Acumatica platform in 2018. This is really a sub-vertical or "micro-vertical," stemming from Acumatica's construction projects.

More construction industry news: Acumatica also announced an enhanced Autodesk integration, enabling customers to track construction project costs and project planning documents.

The day two keynote included a slew of industry expansions as well. One that caught my eye: an upcoming R2 2022 Retail-Commerce edition feature: "native integration" with Amazon, which was described onstage as the number one requested feature. This adds another commerce option to the BigCommerce and Shopify platform integrations.

ERP helps you with... agility? Acumatica customer views

As always, I want to put the news to the test - via customer reactions. The customers I interviewed on day one weren't impacted by these particular announcements, but I seized the chance to "sense test" Acumatica's messaging. In particular, I wanted to ask these customers: is Acumatica's "agility" message holding true for them? As Roskill put it on day one:

Whether you're a non-profit or for-profit, small or large, a government or an NGO entity, public or private, we want to give you the ability to be able to compete in today's digital economy. We believe that adaptability and business agility can help you avoid negative outcomes, and go beyond that to being able to seize the opportunities that they're there in front of all of us.

Now, "agility" is one of the buzzwords that's hard to get around. Let's face it, it's been around for a long time. ERP vendors have recently given it a new polish, to separate themselves from legacy ERP software that might be utterly reliable, but is most certainly not agile. In the day one keynote, the word "agility" was used ten times. The customers on stage didn't use that exact word. But I was struck by this quote from Green Bay Packaging, Acumatica's 2022 customer of the year award winner. In reference to their project, which will integrate 35 different locations onto Acumatica: 

Having all of our data in one place will give us more visibility and transparency across those distinct business units that we really haven't necessarily had before. So we're excited to get everybody on and get that visibility. I think it's going to help us anticipate different things happening in one of those business units into the other.

I don't tend to use the word agility, but I do talk about "continuous everything." As in: no more static reports, no more one year performance reviews. The more we continuously adapt and improve with (near) real-time data, the better. As in this Green Bay Packaging keynote quote:

A quick example of that is just the ability to drill down from our financial statements, down to the transactional level stuff. It takes seconds for us to do that [on Acumatica]. In our mainframe process, we used to spend hours at the end of the month doing that. Now, instead of just the people that process the transactions and are the scorekeepers. we're really the business interpreters, telling the story of what's happening every month.

In my subsequent interview with Jason Briesemeister of Green Bay Packaging, I asked him: has this shift to more continuous financials made his team more agile? He told me their experience in Green Bay Packaging headquarters is giving them a good flavor for that. They intend to share it, as they roll Acumatica out to 35 field locations:

Absolutely. It's a good test for us too, because it's much less activity, less transactions than what our sites will have. We wanted to make sure that we do have a pretty good runway of using it now. When they get on, we'll be even more experts at using the system.

I also followed up with the team from Cornell Cooperative Extension, Acumatica's impact customer award winner for 2022 (some of those team members are pictured above). Does the agility talk live up to the hype? They responded:

With the former product that we had, everything didn't finally get closed until March. They were spending blind from January 1 to March 30. They couldn't close and start a year. Batches are being created, but they couldn't be posted. So you could never get a financial statement until you physically closed the books.

That's changed now. Another example? Expense approvals:

If you've gone out and spent $500 on widgets for your brand, you're going to get an email notification saying 'Hey, you need to approve this.' Then you can look at your financial reports as well, later that day, and you can see that expense.

During the keynote, Acumatica featured a customer video with Cornell Cooperative Extension. That video included a spontaneous moment:

I think the perfect example of agility is Robert in the video. Just as we were doing the taping for that video, he just stepped aside on the spot and approved a [scholarship voucher]. That's the type of agility that would have never happened in the old system. Author's note: you can view this video during the day one keynote replay.

My take

Acumatica didn't have major news stories; that's not really their style. Even the IBS Imperium acquisition is organic to their platform. But, as is their habit, they announced a boatload of new features for each industry edition.

Other announcements spanned industries. One to note: Acumatica expanded its Acumatica Document Cloud, in partnership with Adobe. That means Adobe's eSign capability is now offered with the PDF Annotator in the same bundle - which is intended to "streamline document management" while reducing "complex licensing." If that's the case, it should be well received.

In truth, I don't really have a problem with Acumatica asserting "agility" as a core value. As Roskill said to me during our meeting, it's not easy to find a good synonym for agility. Acumatica's customers don't seem to object to the word. They may not use it as much as Acumatica does, but: the customers I spoke with believe it fits their experience. Given the legacy attached to the term "ERP," that in itself is an accomplishment.

I find the assertion about "future proof your business with Acumatica" to be an even bolder statement, worthy of some dissection. I pressed Roskill on that in our 1:1 - I'll get to that next time. I have more questions: the need to boost the supply chain forecasting functionality in the core offering is on my mind once again - as is the need to productize sustainability. I got some candid answers on both fronts. Then there are the customer use cases, always worth a write up. Stay tuned.

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