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If Your Software Don’t Dance then it’s No Friend of Mine – Understanding Epicor’s Release Cadence

If Your Software Don’t Dance then it’s No Friend of Mine – Understanding Epicor’s Release Cadence

Don’t ever let grass grow on your wheels

According to sociologists, my brother and I are from the same generation.  Sometimes I wonder… with nine years between us, we occupied two very different points of time, especially when it came to music.  My brother was a man without a hat, a child of the 80s, while I left my toque at home so I could let my hair hang low à la Kurt Cobain.  But in spite of the age gap, we shared an abiding mutual interest in contemporary sounds, and my brother once remarked, when comparing my Pearl Jam to his Bruce Springsteen (Springfield, after all, had been his generation’s Eddie Vedder), that my music was sure easier to dance to.  That was certainly a surprise to me.  I always thought of myself as a double-left-foot biped, and moreover I’ve long suspected that I have no genetic predisposition to dance—our father’s visits to the local dancehalls were to roughhouse, not to two-step, and I’ve often wondered if he only met my mother because he couldn’t find another ruffian to dance with that night.

 

For many years I was close with a World War II veteran who also met his spouse at a dance hall.  As a man of the Greatest Generation, he felt the Great Depression firsthand, served in the European Theatre, and returned to the States to become a successful business owner and family man.  But if you asked him what he really was, he’d tell you he was a dancer.  

 

His greatest joy was to fling himself and his dancing partner across the parquet of a long-forgotten ballroom, with the band laying it down in the corner.  And whenever I’d make it home to see him after an extended consulting gig, he’d ask me if there were any polka bars in the town where I’d been.  It broke my heart to disappoint him that I couldn’t find a polka venue to spend my nights, as his dance hall culture had long since become an American timepiece.  

 

My crowd, for one, never caught onto it, and I personally never learned how to dance.  I didn’t exactly need to be Jean Erdman to make my way through a mosh pit, and my crowd later gravitated to house and electronica music, where dance meant minimal vertical sufficiency while moving to the beat.  Even still, I found one abiding continuity between my companion’s old-style Polka and my Mosh.  Always keep moving, always keep to the beat.  Or, as he loved to say after reminiscing about his dancing days, “Don’t ever let grass grow on your wheels.”  

 

Good software is like a good dancer—it doesn’t stop moving. 

Has anyone on this dance floor ever worked on a green screen application?  Or does anyone remember the look and feel of Netscape Navigator?   In spite of my nostalgia for 90’s apps, baggy jeans, three-chord anthems, and a full head of hair, I realize that software doesn’t stand still—a software package that can’t dance soon becomes a two-left-feet wall-flower.  And a software package that can’t teach its users how to dance might lose out to nostalgia.  It was the twist that put my polka buddy out for good: “I just can’t understand how a guy can do nothing but put out cigarettes all night on the dance floor and call that dancing.”

 

Fresh off Epicor’s annual Insights conference, I’m ready to tango and tangle with all the new capabilities that are in development or already in the process of being released to the user community.  Needless to say, there is a whole lot of shaking going on at the great Epicor Code Laboratory, where Epicor’s waltzing wizards ply their trade.  And the release of this functionality for public consumption is more than just movement for its own sake.  Like a good ballroom turn, software release requires a cadence, and Epicor has been hard at work perfecting its rhythms. 

 

New releases of Epicor functionality conform to the Major.Version.Release.Update structure. 

For example, a company on version 10.2.300.4 would be broken out in the following manner:

  • Major: 10
  • Version: 2
  • Release: 300
  • Update: 4

 

These different elements are further described below:

 

Major:  

  • Major Product changes occur when fundamental architectural changes are made to the product.  From a customer perspective, a new product level may require significant changes at the database or application server level. 
  • Any customizations in the previous product level need to be retested, and many may need to be rewritten entirely.
  • Significant functionality or user-interaction changes may also be included, which may require retraining of the user community.
  • The most obvious example of this was Epicor’s monumental move from 905 to E10.  This was a fundamental change to the database and all the levels of its server-side business logic. 
  • Major Product deliveries are planned to occur approximately every 60 months. 

 

Version:

  • New versions may have a significant impact on Epicor’s data schema—fields may be added or removed. 
  • These changes may be substantial to BAQs, BPM’s, and screen customizations.  As such, ample testing in a pilot environment should occur prior to deployment. 
  • For example, Epicor’s move from its 10.0 to 10.1 brought with it important improvements in performance, stability—not to mention a ton of new features.
  • New versions of the software are planned to occur every 18 months.

 

Release:

  • Releases are fully-packed new instances of the software, with significant functionality enhancements, but the enhancements are limited as to allow for an easy upgrade process from a prior release. 
  • Releases (or patch-levels) include additive changes to Epicor’s data schema, but no deletions.
  • These changes may have minor impact to BAQs, BPM’s, and screen customizations, but these are smaller in scope and gravity than with new versions.
  • For example, in the .300 version of Epicor’s 10.2 product, Epicor’s License Plating (PCID) functionality was greatly enhanced. 
  • New releases are deployed every 6 months. 

 

Update: 

  • Updates are smaller, release-specific changes, constructed with the intent of addressing issues within the current release.  Changes are restricted to minimize disruption.  As such, technology or schema changes are not present in these packages. 
  • User training is not required for updates—the system will function as it previously had, only with fewer issues.
  • Updates are released every 2-3 weeks.

 

Within this structure, it is important to understand the rationale of Epicor’s release cadence.  The goal of their rhythm is to minimize business disruption, while at the same time quickly providing resolution to issues, and providing functional enhancements at a reasonable rate.  The implementation of this cadence has allowed Epicor to balance functionality and support, while allowing the customer base to focus on running their businesses without interruption. 

 

For cloud customers, these upgrades happen automatically, with prescribed periods set aside for preparation, testing and validation, prior to deployment.  For customers who have the application installed on-premises, the cadence is customer-defined.  I have found that customers who keep their system up-to-date reap the benefits of this decision—new versions are easier to maintain and support, and they perform better and have fewer issues.

 

As such, my advice to customers with regard to the frequency of upgrades is simple: learn how to dance and don’t ever let grass grow on your wheels.

Have a question about Epicor ERP, Prophet 21, or ERP system updating cadence? Let us know.

Why on Earth Do I Need an ERP System?

Why on Earth Do I Need an ERP System?

My boss once said to me that nobody wakes up in the morning and cries “I’m going to implement an ERP system!”  

 

It’s a fair point.  Apart from a few business process masochists that I’ve met over the years, few people out there really go out of their way to implement an enterprise system.  Enterprise systems are costly and they drain a lot of time and energy from key resources within a company.  They can be generally…painful to implement.  And yet I’ve seen so many companies make the move to enterprise systemand benefit greatly from the transition, in spite of the challenges.  This raises a question that I’ve had more than a few prospects ask me: “Why on earth do I need an ERP system?”

 

Pundits have long noted that the “E” in “ERP” is the most important of the three letters.  The value ian ERP system comes iits applicability to the entire enterprise and not just to a few selective functions within the organization.  And while ERP has been around now for many decades, there continues to be ample opportunity for better enterprise-level integration among companies.  Quite often, the “why” of ERP comes in a quick analysis of a Company’s current-state application architecture. 

 

With many of the customers that I’ve helped migrate to Epicor’s ERP platform, I’ve observed a current state application map to include one or more of the following:

  • The utilization of stand-alone financial modules such as QuickBooks for financial management.  Such systems are good for counting waves, but not for making them.
  • The use of manufacturing oriented work order systems for managing the shop floor.  Job Shop-oriented systems can be effective in defining product structures and working them through the shop-floor, but are less effective in managing the selling and shipping of manufactured products anin comparing the resultant revenues to costs.
  • 1980s-era ERP systems, with one or more bolt-ons for managing product configuration and/or the shop floor.  First-generation ERP systems are generally solid when it comes to inventory management, and basic order-to-cash cycles, but are limited in many areas, and are a burden to maintain.
  • Paper-based systems for inventory management & time card entry—some customers are still pounding the paper when it comes to basic warehouse and shop floor transactions.
  • Varieties of macro-enhanced spreadsheets for doing one of many things.  Spreadsheets are a great gap-filling tool, but their limitations quickly become apparent as multi-user capabilities and large data requirements become a necessity.

 

Based on the above, iis no surprise that companies come to us looking to implement Epicor because their current state is a drafty quilt of poorly-stitched and poorly-patched legacy applications, homegrown boondoggles, and siloed modules.  Customers come to us believing that there must be a better answer, anin most cases there is.  The problem is, most companies took a lifetime to grow into their patchy ponchos.  At certain early stages in their relative existence, most companies can get away with the above scattershot array of systemand pseudo-systems.  But these same systems become hindrances as the company looks to scale up, expand its offerings, ramp up its output, or better integrate with customers, suppliers or best-of-breed applications.  As these challenges become clear, the “why” of ERP begins to take shape.

 

Our work as Epicor partners quite often has to do with explaining the “why” of ERP.  My own “why” came to me many years ago.  At the time, I was still a customer and still quite naive regarding the ERP space.  Working on a process-improvement project with my company’s Vice President of IT, I asked him point blank whether our recent ERP implementation had been a success.  “Yes!” he replied, emphatically.  “Why?” I responded.  I was a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt at the time and was practicing my “5-Whys” methodology.  I only needed one of them, for his answer changed the way I’ve seen enterprise systems ever since.  By implementing an ERP system, we were laying the foundation for everything that was to come.  In our case it was configurability—we were an engineer-to-order company, living ian increasingly configure-to-order market, anneeded to make moves toward configurability before our old methodologies priced us out of that market.  By implementing an ERP system, we set in place the building blocks for product configurabilityand our subsequent initiatives took these building blocks and reshaped the way the company did business.  Fifteen years anan ERP system later, my old company is still successfully competing iits target markets, proffering configured products, andoing so profitably.

 

Now every company owns its own specific point in time, and faces its own set of unique challenges, as it tries to grow and thrive in changing markets.  I’ve seen a lot of good reasons for moving away from a patchwork of solutions to a more integrated and comprehensive system.  My own story may resonate with some, or there may be other stories that better answer the question as to why a company might make the move to an enterprise system.  This is all to say that there are a lot of reasons for implementing an ERP system.  And everyone here at the EstesGroup would love to hear your story.  Anif you don’t think you have a reason for implementing ERP, we’d love to talk to you about that as well.

 

Have a question for our consultants? Trying to determine if your company needs an ERP system?

Epicor Selects EstesGroup as Prophet21 Partner for Western USA Region

EstesGroup honored to be selected as Epicor Prophet 21 reselling partner. 

EstesGroup was selected as the Western United States Territory Partner for the Epicor® Prophet 21® distribution software solution.  Partners are selected based on customer service, software expertise, and successful implementation of solutions to improve company business structures. 

EstesGroup CEO Bruce Grant explained why he is proud to have his company chosen as the US Western Territory partner, “We strive to be a partner not only with our clients but also with the technology partners we resell and represent.  We have been an Epicor ERP partner for 10 years and now will be representing their Prophet 21 solution as well.Epicor Prophet 21 is a robust, flexible, and elegant solution for the distribution industry and Epicor designs the best ERP solutions in the market. 

“We are extremely proud to be an Epicor Partner,” Grant said. “In this constantly changing economy, companies need to streamline operations, effectively manage supply chain, and have systems that grow with them. Epicor Prophet 21 has that flexibility to fit small and mid-size distributors requirements in an ERP system, and we are experts at helping companies learn to thrive on their software solutions.” 

“We are pleased to welcome EstesGroup as an Epicor Distribution partner” said Todd Daubenberger, Senior Director, Sales and Strategic Alliances, Epicor Software.  “They were a natural fit for us, and our expanded partnership will enable both organizations to deliver our industry leading solutions and provide unparalleled service and support to distributors.” 

About EstesGroup 

Headquartered in beautiful Loveland Colorado, and established in 2004, EstesGroup employees averages 25+ years of discrete manufacturing and distribution industry experience which they leverage to ensure client success. Their employees are spread-out throughout the United States which maximizes talent and local presence for their clients. EstesGroup is a Prophet 21 and Epicor ERP 10 reseller, implementer, and hosting provider. They also sell and implement on-premise and cloud technology managed services depending on client needs and requirements throughout the United States.  For more information, please visit www.estesgrp.com. For more information on Prophet 21, please visit Estes Group’s Prophet 21 page.

About Epicor Software Corporation 

Epicor Software Corporation drives business growth. We provide flexible, industry-specific software designed to fit the precise needs of our manufacturing, distribution, retail, and service industry customers. More than 45 years of experience with our customers’ unique business processes and operational requirements are built into every solution―in the cloud or on premises. With this deep understanding of your industry, Epicor solutions dramatically improve performance and profitability while easing complexity so you can focus on growth. For more information, connect with Epicor or visit www.epicor.com. 

Epicor, Prophet 21, and the Epicor logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Epicor Software Corporation, registered in the United States and other countries. Other trademarks referenced are the property of their respective owners. The product and service offerings depicted in this document are produced by Epicor Software Corporation. 

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