Epicor Extending its Core ERP into the Cloud

New enterprise apps extend capabilities for business intelligence, social networking capabilities

Epicor Software has introduced two new product initiatives for its enterprise software family, one designed to maximize the advantages of the Epicor 9 ERP’s service-oriented architecture (SOA) with Microsoft-based analytics and cloud-computing capabilities; and another conceived to allow users to reap “practical and manageable benefits” from social networks within the enterprise application. Both new concepts were presented at Epicor’s recent Perspectives user conference in Orlando, FL.

Each of these new applications was created with Epicor ICE Business Architecture, so current users of Epicor (and non-Epicor) products will have access to them through Epicor True SOA.

Earlier this year Epicor introduced a cloud-based ERP delivered on a subscription-basis, Epicor Express, for small and mid-sized manufacturers, with functions that include customer relationship management (CRM), financial management, production, product and material management functionality. It also offers business intelligence, business process management, and business architecture modules.

The new, cloud-based offering — called Smarter Business Intelligence (BI) — is aimed at users of Epicor 9, its core ERP package. By uniting Epicor 9’s SOA architecture with advanced analytics and cloud computing, the developer claims its ERP is able to offer more valuable insights, predictability and performance guidance to businesses. James Norwood, Epicor’s senior vice president for worldwide product marketing, said the Smarter BI initiative "is about delivering the right information to the right users at the right time, based on their business role and their company's business performance goals. It's a unique new approach to comprehensive business insight."

Determining first that business want to be able to accomplish their reporting and analysis with little or no reliance on IT professions, the Smarter BI package is built around “role-based,” embedded software analytics that are delivered to the users “in context to the task at hand.” The functions are also said to be easy to create, deploy, and access by the users. Some of the tools offered as standard in the Epicor ERP are business activity queries (BAQ), operational reporting and role-based dashboards that can be combined with more advanced analytics to create powerful, Web-based composite applications within Microsoft SharePoint (or on mobile devices) securely, and easily.

Microsoft senior director Bob Maher stated, "The development Epicor is doing around advanced, predictive analytics that will utilize SQL Server PowerPivot and the Windows Azure platform will help transform the way business users utilize the abundance of data inside their ERP systems, with the ability to model and analyze information rapidly for greater business insight."

The second initiative that Epicor introduced is an enhanced Enterprise 2.0 application that combines Epicor 9 ERP applications with SharePoint 2010 (the latest release in Microsoft’s family of software products for collaboration, file sharing and web publishing) to integrate social networking features into business applications.

Epicor claims its strategy addresses two critical aspects of social networking. First, it allows businesses to be “collaborative” with their suppliers and customers, with social networking tools within business applications that make this effort easier, more engaging, and make the business more responsive. Second, it helps businesses and users to control and manage the flow of information they receive, for relevancy without information overload.

"Epicor is now building ERP solutions that incorporate social concepts applied to the enterprise at every level," said Norwood. "Epicor ICE business architecture was one of the first to blend the social and technical aspects of Web 2.0 concepts with SOA, and this new extended strategy is designed to help businesses get the maximum benefit from Enterprise 2.0 without the associated deluge of data."

Epicor will incorporate social networking to ERP by integrating status updates, news feeds and broader SharePoint communities, which it expects will advantage workers by bringing “contextual information” to their tasks (e.g., about the environment, processes, communities, and persons) to improve the quality of their interactions.

"Epicor truly understands the value of productivity and we are thrilled that they have chosen SharePoint 2010 to extend the capabilities of today's information workers who increasingly need to be able to complete day-to-day tasks based on access to relevant and timely information from anywhere and from any device," said Eric Swift, Microsoft’s SharePoint general manager.

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