Another emerging trend that may shape buying decisions is the move to what AMR Research analyst John Hagerty calls the financial supply chain, a term that describes the flow of cash between organizations. “CFOs want more efficiency, and they want to accelerate cash flow,” says Hagerty. Adopting a financial supply-chain model allows them to do that, because it provides a window into what trading partners are doing. “Instead of waiting for a check to show up, for example,” he says, “you could look into your partner’s systems and see if an invoice had been approved, and when, so you’d know when you’d have the money.”
Right now, a handful of specialty players are leading the way (Hagerty cites TradeCard, Aceva Technologies, BillingZone, Xign, edocs, Clareon, and others), but ERP vendors are taking notice — SAP announced plans for this arena in December, a move Hagerty expects will galvanize the other players. That may mean some important changes will be made to core financial applications in the months and years ahead.
Below we offer snapshots of some of the major vendors of ERP and integrated accounting applications vendors. This collective portrait of broadly focused companies with at least $200 million in annual revenue shows the trends most likely to influence buying decisions in 2002 and beyond.
If Best Software doesn’t sound as familiar as most of the other companies included on these pages, there’s a reason: until last December, it was known as Sage Software. The name change is part of a strategy for this U.K. firm to significantly advance its presence in the U.S. market. With more than $630 million in revenue last year, Best is also now the parent company of Peachtree Software, giving it a major presence among small and midsize companies. The goal for 2002, according to David Butler, president and CEO of the company’s midmarket accounting division, is to become more of a “one-stop shop,” extending its offerings from core financials to human resources, E-commerce, and other areas so as to become a complete ERP player. Butler also says that with fewer first-time ERP customers available, providing a smooth transition from a prospect’s current ERP implementation to a Best product is a priority.
Dedicated to midmarket companies, Epicor sounds a theme common to most ERP players today, that of “collaborative commerce.” Epicor moved early to adopt Microsoft’s .NET architecture and is redesigning its product family to work in a “Web services” environment. John Hiraoka, Epicor’s senior vice president of marketing and business development, says the aim is to provide customers with “agility and lower total cost of ownership.” Epicor has also embraced portal and business intelligence technologies as part of its grand plan to provide better supply-chain visibility and greater collaboration among supply-chain partners. The company says that its rollout of rearchitected products will follow in lockstep with Microsoft’s shipping of Visual Studio .NET and the .NET Framework, expected this quarter.