Dining and whining with the end users in the trenches of Prophet 21’s annual conference can elicit frank and poignant sentiments regarding the state of software and the state of the broader markets that it works to support. Listening to the triumphs and tribulations of the P21 customer base, we’ve gained a much better understanding of the challenges that face the distribution world in 2021 and beyond. With this in mind, we thought we’d pass along a few lessons learned from our time in our P21WWUG CONNECT booth this year.
Many business owners find themselves at a crossroads, where they need to take the next big step to scale up their existing operations and to compete more effectively and support strategic growth initiatives. This growth might even involve developing a more global footprint, and this has massive infrastructure, cybersecurity, and compliance regulation needs.
Distribution Industry Material Supply Challenges
Material supply continues to be a primary concern for organizations, one that unfortunately extends beyond the capabilities of an ERP system. Shipping lane stagnation, port congestion, raw material shortages, truck driver labor shortages, offshore vendor shutdowns, and a variety of additional factors have thrown traditional supply chains into disarray.
Addressing the Challenges
Companies are taking various approaches to address many of the above situations. Pathways might include outward-focused initiatives like EDI, punchout, SRM, e-commerce to improve communication between suppliers and customers. More internally-focused approaches also abound, as companies try to get more efficient and effective in the areas of warehouse management, AP automation, AR collections and credit, and in the pursuit of more cost-effective application deployment strategies.
Suppliers vs. Distributors
Over the years, suppliers have developed an increasing and disproportionate influence on distributors, more than ever before. Supplier mandates are forcing distributors to sometimes take radical actions to reorient themselves to address new demands. The breadth and depth of new demands often corresponds with the comparative size of the suppliers in question, but may also relate to the commodities being supplied and their relative scarcity. That is to say, when demand outstrips supply, the suppliers can be more demanding.
New Software, New Support Needs
The release of new versions of the software, coupled with the expiration of legacy version support, has put many users in a heightened state, as they scramble to determine what the next steps of their upgrade and deployment lifecycle will entail. Related to this, the migration to the web-based interface is an area that many companies are struggling to work out, given their existing application footprint, and the differences in look, feel, and functionality between the new and the P21 legacy client versions.
While material shortages are a well-known and overarching concern related to the pandemic, shortages in labor are also becoming increasingly problematic. The inability to find able-bodied individuals to fill positions within supply chains caused significant changes for organizations in 2021 and distributors are concerned that they will persist into 2022.
As supply chains become more complex than ever, Prophet 21 customers are looking for control, access, and visibility. Critical to the goal of ultimate control, especially in terms of access, cloud deployment can make or break the chain.
Cloud Crossroads or Crosshairs
Also overheard at the conference: “Cloud without access means no job—cloud with access means I still have a job.” A common theme with the P21 customers we’ve talked to with regard to cloud deployment has been a question of access. Customers generally require varying levels of control and access over their application deployment. Solutions that limit access and control create problems for companies not only in terms of employment but in terms of efficacy. At the end of the day, distribution industry leaders are hoping the crossroads of growth won’t put them in the crosshairs of a cluster-cloud.
This concludes our episode of “tales from the booth.” Were you able to attend this year? Tell us what you learned. Did you miss it this year? Let us know and we’ll tell you all about everything we learned at P21WWUG CONNECT 2021!
The 2021 Prophet 21 user conference (P21WWUG CONNECT) is less than a week away. For those of us in attendance, it is an exciting time for collaboration and discovery. User conferences are a great opportunity to trade ideas with other users and get a sense of the shared and unique challenges faced by different companies, in different industries.
Having manned a few booths over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to hear many ERP stories and more than a few customer ERP quandaries. One such quandary that cyclically arises has to do with the question of application deployment. As hardware ages and operating systems expire, customers often find themselves scrambling to determine whether to replicate past deployment models or explore new options.
Software-as-a-service, public cloud, private cloud, managed hosting, infrastructure-as-a-service—the options abound and overlap, and it’s easy for options to slip though the cracks. As such, customers sometimes approach our booth simply looking to understand what options are available, relative to their current situation. In our conversations with such customers, we normally run though a set of questions to better understand our customer’s current state, the issues they face, and the opportunities available to them.
Do you have outdated hardware? How old are your servers?
As your hardware ages, it becomes an increasing risk to your organization, and many companies are accustomed to the 5-year cycle of hardware replacement. But the technical footprint of our current world differs considerably from five years ago, and this provides new options in 2021 that would not have been viable in 2016. Server deployments do not mandate an on-premise data center. Review the options for private cloud server deployments before signing the check for a new server stack.
Does the customer have outdated operating system of RDBMS versions causing downtime, security risks, lack of backups, compliance or cost?
Like hardware, an operating system can exceed its use-by date, creating several potential issues. This overlaps with version upgrades of your P21 ERP, as ERP versions are restricted to specific operating system and database versions. As such, ERP upgrades are often partnered with upgrades to a customer’s database and operating system.
Like hardware, an operating system can exceed its “use by” date, creating several potential issues. This overlaps with version upgrades of your P21 ERP, as ERP versions are restricted to specific operating system and database versions. As such, ERP upgrades are often partnered with upgrades to a customer’s database and operating system.
Are you struggling to find the right IT support for your hardware, your server, or your application?
Whether IT support is internally supplied, or outsourced from a managed service provider, companies frequently encounter support challenges, whether it is with capacity, capability, or delivery. Most often, as your business grows, your IT capacity might be stretched beyond its original capacity. Such is an opportunity to evaluate a cloud deployment, to apportion the management of the application to a partner, allowing you to focus on mission-critical IT projects and initiatives.
Is your P21 application currently hosted by another provider and are you looking for different options? Are you unhappy with your current situation due to downtime, latency, security, compliance or cost?
Even within a private cloud hosting environment, different options are available, in which certain resources are dedicated, while others are shared. These differences can impact price, performance, and service levels, and its important to understand whether the cloud configuration you’ve been provided is meeting your needs, or whether a different configuration, perhaps though a different provider, would be preferable.
Are you thinking about moving your Prophet 21 install “to the cloud” and looking to know more about what that might mean?
Is the customer on P21 SaaS and considering moving back to an on-premise / hosted /perpetual license version?
A software-as-a-service (SaaS) deployment of any ERP application can bring many benefits to an organization. But a SaaS deployment does not work for all customers, and it is not uncommon for customers to purchase a SaaS version of an ERP and decide to shift to its more robust and fully-functional perpetual-license counterpart. But moving back to a perpetual license does not mandate a move to an on-premise deployment. Cloud options are still available.
Are you planning for a P21 upgrade and looking for options?
An upgrade, especially a major release, can be an opportunity to consider your deployment options. What is the best way to deploy the new version? Does the new version change the server configuration in any way? Prophet 21’s deployment evolved across versions, as Epicor deployed a middleware application server layer as part of the new architecture. The change required a new server stack. Understand how big a jump you have in front of you by developing a P21 upgrade roadmap that includes a deployment that matches your business needs.
Are you concerned about Epicor dropping their support for the Legacy client and looking for options?
The rush to Epicor’s middleware server is too hasty for many in the user community, and customers are still trying to make sense of P21’s web client and hybrid client deployments. With this change comes opportunities to deploy hybrid client models, to allow certain users to continue to leverage the legacy client.
Is the customer looking to update overall technology stack as part of the implementation of an integrated system (E-commerce, SRM, CRM)?
Sometimes, the integration of a third-party platform requires an upgrade to the overall ecosystem. Such is an opportunity to review your server installation and consider your options.
Will you be at the P21WWUG CONNECT user conference this year? If so, come find us at Booth 25. We’d love to talk about application deployment, or whatever else is on your mind.