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Custom Cloud: Public Cloud Choices, SaaS Challenges

Custom Cloud: Public Cloud Choices, SaaS Challenges

What to Do When ERP Turns SaaS

I once sat in at a sales conference for an ERP vendor and listened as the CEO explained sales strategy as it related to their ongoing movement to the cloud. He described the situation as one of configurability vs. customizability. There were some customers who could live with and work within the configurable features and capabilities of the base application as they existed “out-of-the-box.” These customers would be targets for the vendors single-tenant and multi-tenant cloud (or SaaS) offerings. For the subset of customers whose needs extended beyond the system’s base configuration, and were in need of custom functionality and integrations, the vendor would still offer the traditional perpetual license. This would allow customers with more complex needs to deploy their applications on-premise or in a private cloud.

ERP Public Cloud Software as a Service

That was the CEO’s perspective. Customers have their own perspective. 

Configuration & Customization to Order

I recently talked with a customer who was struggling to implement the cloud version of an ERP to the vendor’s public cloud. The customer had purchased the software based on a set of assumptions, assumptions that were not instantiated by the vendor’s public cloud (or SaaS) platform. For one, the customer had come from a highly customized in-house suite of applications, and had a highly developer-centric approach to application implementation: if the app didn’t do what you need, customize it so that it would do what you need.

This approach is anathema to ERP implementations in general, and as a customer implementing on a public cloud SaaS platform, the shock was only intensified. The customization toolset to which they believed themselves to be privy to was less than advertised. And the documentation that explained just what was and was not possible was all but nonexistent. As the customer put it, his team’s vast C# skillset went largely underutilized.

Frustrations abounded on all fronts. Creating the necessary reports and labels, whether through Bartender or SSRS had been a disaster, as both the licensing and underlying architecture made for an untenable situation. Development and deployment of new solutions was cumbersome and time-consuming, as it required the vendor to perform the deployment every time a change was made. Similarly, the approved third-party applications that they had purchased in conjunction with the base package didn’t integrate as well as advertised, and they turned out to be even less configurable than the base ERP system.

Worse still, the customer was a user of the ERP’s product configurator module. This mode was itself a mini-development platform, but its features were largely server-side and thus greatly hampered in the vendor’s SaaS platform. The ability to use the module to look up and retrieve data, for instance, was greatly limited on the SaaS architecture, and the customer struggled to construct configurators to handle their complex product needs. Beyond functionality, the overall performance of the application was a drag. For many customers, the move from whip-fast, green-screen legacy platform to a contemporary ERP brings an unfortunate surprise when it comes to basic performance at a user interaction level. But in this case, it was magnified by the performance of the underlying cloud platform.

It was a disheartening conversation and I struggled to offer suggestions, outside of a reimplementation under a perpetual license model. The strange thing was that the customer did not really even come to me looking for help. He was really just venting his frustrations. He had learned enough of the application, its architecture, and the Service-as-a-Software (SaaS) deployment model to know that whatever help he might receive, he was constrained by the architecture to which he had bound himself. The cloud, whose name implies boundless opportunity and possibility, had become a crippling constraint.  

Different ERP systems provide different levels of configurability and customizability. Some systems offer a basic platform with robust tools to use to build custom functionality with which to tailor the base platform. Others provide extensive configurability, as to avoid the need for additional tailoring. The systems that best combine configurability and customizability capabilities stand the best chance of supporting the needs of complex organizations. Even still, the unbridled requirements of a given company can often exceed the combined abilities of an ERP system to handle it.

This may necessitate the need for third-party integrations, to atone for liabilities in the base system. It may require integration to a pre-existing home-grown system, to address the specific needs of the organization. In the most extreme of cases, customers may look to modify the system’s source code to make the system do what it needs. At some point, it should be considered whether such extreme measures justify the investment in ERP at all. Sometimes it is simply a cultural conundrum: if an organization is unable to bend some of its needs to the will of the application, they may truly be better off with a homegrown system, and live with the liabilities that come with such a decision. 

DRaaS for SaaS: When the Public Cloud Vendor Needs to Adapt

Beyond configurability and customizability, the questions of functionality and integration as they relate to an ERP system’s deployment model complicate matters further. The textbook cases regarding ERP customization nightmares from the 1990s all occurred within an on-premise context. The evolution of cloud computing had not yet thrown this new variable into the mix. But with the improvement of server processing power, the expansion of data centers, and the ability to pass larger and larger amounts of data over networks, ERP vendors were able to construct ERP applications that conformed to the public cloud software-as-a-service (SaaS) deployment model.

This shift toward a SaaS model allowed for highly available and highly scalable ERP solutions, whose subscription-based model provided ERP services for a monthly rate. But in doing so, the features and capabilities that these vendors offered were often scaled back significantly, when compared to their on-premise, perpetual license predecessors. Similarly, the integration capabilities of such platforms were drastically reduced to the web APIs that the ERP SaaS platform supported. This made the extension of the application’s capabilities much more difficult to achieve. For customers needing robust and expansive ERP functionality, as was the case with my customer above, the results of a mismatch between business requirements, customization tendencies, and deployment models can lead to a perfect storm of failure and disillusion. 

How does one avoid such a problematic situation? To begin with, there are some key questions to answer at the time of software selection before you’ve signed the dotted line:

  • Firstly, you need to understand the background of your own organization. Are you coming from a standard system or from a highly-tailored home-grown system? Are your business requirements of the variety that are commonly managed by a packaged system? Is the shift from your current system to the future system a small shuffle or a quantum leap?
  • You also need to understand your own expectations for the new system: are you trying to fit your organization into the system, or are you trying to tailor the system to fit your business? Do you see an ERP system as a packaged application or a custom development platform? Companies differ in this approach, and this greatly affects how they intend to use the system, so you need to be explicit about your expectations.
  • Finally, it should be noted that in many cases, a software’s public cloud version will differ markedly in functionality from its cloud cousin. As such, be careful to understand the version from which the Sales Engineers are basing their demonstrations. If you’re looking at a cloud deployment, ensure that the sales team demonstrates the application, as you will experience it as a customer, and not the products more robust, on-premise version.

Cloud services are as unique as business processes, and SaaS companies / SaaS, or public cloud, applications aren’t always as “internet connection, web browser, go” like they’re often advertised to be.

If your corporate office is mandating some form of “cloud” solution, understand that not all clouds are created equal. A system’s deployment mode is not as simple as choosing between an on-premise dinosaur and a public cloud popsicle. One significant alternative to the SaaS vs on-premise dichotomy is a private cloud deployment. Private cloud allows an ERP customer to install an on-premise, perpetual license version of the software, but in a virtual cloud environment. This allows customers to leverage the full set of capabilities, functionality, and integration opportunities that the software offers. For customers bent on heavy tailoring and customization, this allows them to leverage the full set of tools tailor the application to the customer’s specific needs. Further still, this model makes integrations much easier, as it provides access to the application and database server layers, as needed, which can greatly simplify integration architectures. 

Cloud Customs of Custom Code

A company’s implementation story should be neither a laughable comedy nor a disheartening tragedy. With planning and discretion, companies can formulate a successful narrative. Are you in search of an ERP story with a happy ending? Talk to us, and we’ll spin you a yarn.

You can consolidate everything from software licensing and updates to hardware inventory management with EstesCloud Managed Application Hosting. We offer custom solutions for web-based transactions. We might not be famous like Amazon web services, but our private cloud, hybrid cloud, IaaS, and PaaS solutions offer you the personal attention of world-class IT and ERP consultants.

ERP Deployment Options & Cloud Services

Infrastructure as a Service

Platform as a Service

Software as a Service

IT Management Models

In pure form, a public cloud deployment limits your control and troubles cybersecurity and compliance management efforts. Know your enterprise resource planning options before you deploy. The cloud should be one of your most powerful tools as you move your company forward. But cloud computing terminology is hazy, and cloud migration can be a step backward if the deployment model isn’t a good fit. Do you understand your cloud options? Our cloud ERP experts can walk you through the cloud spectrum and help you find the best platform for your business. When a complex ERP like Epicor’s Prophet 21 is going through client-server architecture changes, EstesGroup consultants are here to answer questions so that you can focus on your business, rather than on its supporting software.

Feeling the pressure to upgrade your ERP system to a new SaaS version? Know your options before you commit to the public cloud. Get a free demo and consultation with our cloud experts today.

Hosted or SaaS ERP? Understanding the Differences

Hosted or SaaS ERP? Understanding the Differences

In the world of enterprise resource planning (ERP), companies spend a lot of time on the software selection cycle. Determining which application will best fit the needs of the business also brings deployment model questions to the table. Currently, many manufacturers and distributors are trying to understand the differences between hosted ERP and SaaS (software as a service) ERP. Whether you’ve already chosen your ERP or are in the process of selecting your software, understanding your on-premise and cloud deployment options is key to enterprise resource planning success.

Hosted or SaaS ERP Infrastructure with Cybersecurity Locks

An application’s functionality is understandably important. The best fit that a company can find with its ERP system will very likely lead to a better implementation, with lower costs and reduced risk surfacing as essential benefits. Ideally, you’ll build a solid foundation for all business activities that follow your ERP implementation. Your computing costs should go down, and time formerly spent on technology and software should shift into more time to spend on your business.

What is ERP deployment? 

A key consideration, one that I do not believe receives enough time and effort during the software selection phase, has to do with the deployment of the solution itself. The implications of such a deployment are life-changing for any company, and particularly influential in the manufacturing and distribution industries.

At the time of software selection, it’s important to understand how you intend to deploy your new ERP system. An application’s functionality is almost as important as the functionality itself. For this reason, you’ll want to ensure that the deployment model you choose successfully overlaps with the functionality that you need.

What is a deployment model?

By deployment model, I am not referring to the operating system or the underlying database management system, whether the system is Windows-or Linux based or whether it sits on top of an SQL server or Oracle database. Those are in themselves important considerations, but the deployment model has more to do with installation and accessibility. How will the application itself be installed and accessed by the customer?

What is cloud deployment?

There are two very general classifications of cloud ERP deployment models that you can make to try and understand your cloud options. I would classify these as SaaS (software as a service) and hosted deployments.

The Software as a Service Deployment Model

Software as a service, or SaaS, is the model in which the application lives somewhere in the vendor’s data center, and the consuming customer has no line of site to its deployment. The customer subscribes to the software and consumes the application on a client-only basis, often in the form of a web browser. There is no need to manage a complex installation or oversee the application’s administration. The SaaS deployment model limits your control by limiting your responsibility in regard to application management.

The Hosting Deployment Model

The other common deployment model you could classify broadly as hosting. In a hosted environment, the application is deployed to a known server architecture. This architecture could be an on-premise or a local host, or a colocation facility, but I’m seeing much less of that these days, except with larger organizations that are comfortable with large hardware investments. Most often, I find hosting to refer to some form of cloud data center hosting, where the resources are consumed over the cloud as a service. In this scenario, the software itself is purchased using a perpetual license model and deployed to and administered from a discrete platform.

Hosted & SaaS ERP: Two Roads Diverged

So SaaS and hosting are your two basic options for the underlying technology that will serve as the foundation for your ERP. If you are a customer in the midst of an ERP software selection journey, you need to understand what deployment options are available and how they differ, relative to the specific software you are evaluating. That said, I think some generalizations can be made regarding the two models.

SaaS itself can be divided into two categories. The first would be the family of applications that were built from the ground-up to be browser-based, web applications. Plex, NetSuite, and Salesforce are examples of purely web-based applications. 

Another class of applications would be vendors who are retrofitting their older, on-premise applications to be web-enabled and centrally installed and administered, like any other SaaS application.

In general, SaaS is a great option, especially for what I would consider lightweight applications. The software as a service deployment model provides the functionality you need with a costing model that your accountants will like, and it does this without a lot of administrative IT overhead. 

I say lightweight because I’ve found some challenges with some of the limitations of SaaS functionality. In my own efforts, working within various applications, I’ve found that SaaS applications provide a more limited functionality when it comes to the need for more robust capabilities. This is especially true in terms of reporting or administration, or in the construction of specialized business logic.

If you take a well-known software like Salesforce, for instance, and compare its capabilities to traditional on-premise enterprise systems, you’ll see some challenges or differences in the relative functionality of the two systems. An example might be the administrative tools provided to manage, load, and update data. The capabilities are somewhat comparable, but on-premise applications will almost always be more robust, easier to use, and more effective.

The Future of ERP Deployment Makes All the Difference

Currently, ERP software vendors understand this gap and are working to close it over time, but this process is years in the making. For vendors that offer both on-premise and SaaS versions of their applications, I’ve found that the functionality available in SaaS has a long way to go to catch up with their on-premise antecedents. If you were to purchase the SaaS version and the on-premise version of an ERP from the same vendor, you should expect the SaaS version to underperform compared to the on-premise version.

The resources on ERP deployment out there are not always very clear on what those differences actually are, especially when the information comes from the vendors themselves. 

For a hosted model, whether it is some form of self-hosting on top of an infrastructure as a service model, or a managed hosting situation, where a group is providing the entire platform, you can think of it as an on-premise installation without the risks and costs and overhead that come with an on-premise install. This is great from a functionality standpoint, as the control provides over the server architecture allows you to really leverage the full functionality available to you as a customer.

From my perspective, the difference between SaaS and hosted ERP really comes down to expectations with regard to functionality.

I have seen cases during the software selection cycle where the solutions engineers of various companies demonstrate the capabilities of their ERP systems using their full-bodied on-premise versions, only for the sales reps to actually sell the SaaS-based version of the application to the customer. 

This is done with the implicit assumption that the SaaS-based version contains all the rich features and functionality of its on-premise sibling. But as we’ve discussed, that this is not always the case, and I’ve known more than a few customers who express tremendous frustration over this experience—believing they are buying a luxury car, only to have the dealer deliver them the base model. 

How to Choose SaaS or Hosted ERP

If you are looking at a software that sprung from the web fully formed, like a NetSuite or a Plex, the question is a little more straightforward. There is no option to host the application, and from a functionality standpoint, what you see is what you get.

But if you’re working though the decision as to whether to purchase the SaaS subscription license or the perpetual license of an application, you really need to understand whether the functionality will be available in both versions. Essentially, you need to understand how the user experience might differ between the two versions, and then make your choice from there. 

Companies that need the robust functionality that comes with a perpetual license and an on-premise installation and can’t afford to lose that in moving to a pure SaaS or purely web-based architecture have hosting options. If you wish to avoid the liabilities and costs of an on-premise install, then you need explore some of the hosting alternatives available. There are plenty of benefits to be gained through leveraging the cloud:

  • the scalability
  • the dynamic consumption model
  • the benefits of adaptive computing

With these in mind, your cloud migration should also be done in a process that ensures that you are leveraging the full functionality of the software and not limiting yourself, your business, and your future in the process.

Cloud environments like hosted or SaaS ERP systems demand that your team is ready to handle everything from basic business processes to highly sensitive data. Cloud ERP is becoming the go-to jump, and a cloud based software solution could become a downfall without expert project management.

Software applications are becoming more complex, and your ERP solution will change regularly as your vendor adapts to changing technology. Are you looking for help understanding cloud infrastructure? Our cloud computing consultants have answers. Whether you’re trying to head out of community clouds or get lightning-strike level understanding of single tenant infrastructure, our EstesCloud team is here to help make your business run better.

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A Business Automation Nation – How AI Helps Us Connect

A Business Automation Nation – How AI Helps Us Connect

The 2020 shift to remote work forced small to medium companies to increase business automation. To quickly become touch-less and contactless, owners used technology solutions managed by third-party suppliers to guide the new network of online business communication, home offices, and third-party vendors. As the world reopens, AI continues to help businesses network for future growth, especially for organizations leveraging ERP (enterprise resource planning) software.

Business Automation Virtual AI Interface

Artificial intelligence (AI) is human, too

Do you trust your software? Do you trust the humans supporting your software? Consider everything that your ERP software and its underlying technology supports:

  • Internal and external communication
  • Supply chain management
  • Customer transactions and interactions
  • Software integrations
  • Sensitive data

Large companies and global enterprises shifted their cultures to automation long ago. Cloud-based solutions are not new. Successful management of company resources has depended on internal or external IT support since the dawn of the internet. Now it the time for small and medium-sized organizations to access the same business automation tools used by the world’s wealthiest companies.

“As a Service” Business Strategy: Automation as a Service

AI supports your company reputation and culture, so it’s often best to consider automation with experts guiding the process. Focus areas might include the following:

  • GENERAL: How to automate business processes
  • SPECIFIC: How to use data analysis to optimize insight
  • INTERNAL: How to support employees securely as they interact with one another and with your customer base
  • EXTERNAL: How to keep your customers happy, even when supplies are running low and shipping times are burdening relationships

AI, AI, O!: Create a Real-Time Data Window For Your Business

Business owners use tracking tools and data analysis software to understand everything from organization performance to customer behavior. Google tracks search quantity and quality. Amazon compiles endless data on customer purchase intent. Apple allows customers to use their fingerprints, their voice, and their app interactions to optimize device interactions. Microsoft creates data for every email click and innovates based on how clients are using the software. All of this data is useless if not organized and managed properly.

The Automation of Cybercrime – When Malware Uses AI Against You

Ransomware is in the daily news because cyber warfare leverages the same technological innovations that global companies are using to stay ahead of the competition. If malware gets into your backups, you might have a security breach that turns your own AI against you.

Software as a service platforms are especially vulnerability because you’re completely depending on the third-party to handle a large piece of your automation. A hosted environment often provides a more secure infrastructure, especially for companies on the move. An off-site data center can be regulated by compliance regulations. The IT team is required to abide by best practices for cybersecurity. As a result, your data is set up, monitored, and maintained according to the highest security standards. This keeps ransomware from troubling your servers or your software.

Automation for CRM (Customer Relationship Management)

A business wouldn’t be a business without a product or a service to market and sell. Customer data is key to streamlining your sales process. AI allows you to track, analyze, and save valuable information about your relationships:

  • Buyer behaviors
  • Market trends
  • Customer preferences
  • Budget concerns
  • Business direction / business strategy

A business process review can be a great way to get instant insight into how your employees are supporting your customer base.

Pricing Automation: The AI Will Bill You Now

Automated pricing and billing is everywhere in the virtual world, especially when it comes to e-commerce. When customers shop for something using the internet, pricing visibility is critical to buyer engagement. “See the price in cart” might work, but “contact us for pricing” can be a turnoff in this new world of instant gratification automation and digitization.

Pricing can get complicated if you’re offering custom products or complex services. Let’s look at medical billing as an example of a complex business service. HIPAA regulates all third-party interactions. So medical professionals need to ensure that any automation tools that are outsources are in compliance with these medical industry standards. In manufacturing and distributions, everything from shipping costs to supply chain management falls within similar, often less famous, compliance regulations. Pricing and billing can benefit from automation, but the AI software must be managed according to professional standards.

Outsourced Services: A Bot That Never Sleeps is Part Human

To use the medical industry as an example again, anyone offering professional health services needs 24/7 IT support. Why? In the off-hours, portals are still open, networks are still vulnerable, and emergency services are offered around the clock. Often, small and medium-sized businesses can’t afford an in-house employee to handle the 24/7 monitoring of sensitive information and infrastructure. Automation software can help monitor your system while sleeping. If your data is sensitive, your AI tools should come with a 24/7 IT help desk that is continually on watch for a potential or an attempted security breach.

Computer systems are nothing without people. AI systems are developed as a way for machine intelligence to supplement the problem solving skills of people. Strong AI is impressive: computer science continues to build automation systems that play chess or accomplish specific tasks that most humans want to avoid. AI development continues to reduce mundane tasks within a data management system, for example. AI research is focused on creating vast and intelligent artificial neural networks capable of driving cars. To control systems remotely is no longer science fiction. With an intelligent system, even small business owners can save time on routine tasks.

Automate Your Virtual Presence

Your virtual office makes your online presence paramount to the reputation of your business. Other online interactions create a complex representation of who you are as a business owner. Do you have a website or a virtual storefront? A strong web presence can bring you global success, or propagate mass reputation damage. With an internet culture of constant connectivity, automation can help you reach potential clients, even while you are sleeping, by promoting your brand, your ethics, your differentiators, and your value that only you can bring to your customers.

E-commerce comes with high risk, but with proper technology management, the virtual markets can only bring success to your business. You might be able to open new sales channels by offering direct supply to potential and current customers. Don’t be limited by your zip code: use AI to grow your business outside of your region, offering more people the services and products that you believe in as a business owner.

Using Business Automation to Scale While Lowering Costs

AI should help you streamline operations so that you can optimize your budget. However, poorly managed automation solutions can quickly overwhelm your staff, opening the doors to chaos. Fortunately, this loss of productivity is easily avoided when automation begins with expertise. EstesGroup’s staff includes ERP and IT experts that bring complete understanding to your business:

  • Project timing
  • Budgeting
  • Software selection
  • Infrastructure planning and deployment
  • Enterprise risk management
  • Enterprise resource planning
  • Business process improvement

Save time and money while focusing on the work you love. As a Managed Service Provider and ERP consultancy, we can help you choose the latest business solutions that can help you avoid time-consuming tasks by safely using business automation to gain wealth, health, and reputation.

Are you ready to automate success? Let our IT experts help you up your AI IQ.

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6 Steps When It’s Time for a Software Demo

6 Steps When It’s Time for a Software Demo

STEP 1: Contact providers and arrange demonstrations

A new day is here and you can finally start contacting potential suppliers for your new software. If you already have a short list to begin with, you can start right away. Software suppliers come in several flavors, so it makes sense to set up multiple ERP (enterprise resource planning) solution demos. A variety of demos with help you find the perfect ERP software for your business. It might seem boring to sit through one software demo after another, but putting in the time to find the perfect fit will allow you to swiftly return to focusing on your business, rather than on its infrastructure. During your demo, be sure to also consider and question ERP deployment options. Your company might be heading toward SaaS (software as a service) when it’s truly a private cloud hosting platform that you need to sustain operations.

Enterprise Software Demo

STEP 2: Compare different types of software suppliers

You might see a particular brand of software and one option is to get your software directly from the business that developed the system. Many work directly with end customers and have adequate tools to provide the support you need for implementation and maintenance of your system whether you choose to install it on premises or use the cloud version of the system.

There are providers that primarily are third-party consultants that can help you with some of the same software brands. Often these will provide better ongoing support compared to the developer company that has a continued interest in maintaining the software and perhaps less time to provide support.

Some of those third-party consultants represent more than one software brand. You might contact them regarding brand X but after getting to know your business they might suggest brand Y could be a better fit. You will need to make the choice and keep in mind that it is also possible that they earn more money from brand Y.

Another possibility is open-source software. These can be downloaded free or at little cost for your use. There are consultants that specialize in these systems much like those that represent branded software. If your business has substantial resources in software development and maintenance, this could be an excellent choice.

STEP 3: Make the right software selection contacts

Any of these sources can provide the support you need. Contact them and provide some background for your business, why you are looking, a description of your business, and a list of the requirements you have defined. Most of them will reply quickly and will be happy to introduce themselves and begin to get to know each other.

STEP 4: Control your software demonstrations

A vendor might suggest a demonstration of their software to enable you to make a choice. They already have a standard, prepackaged demonstration ready. Hold off because you should keep some control over the demonstrations. The company has your requirements you’ve provided, so they should be ready to demonstrate how the software answers to every one of your needs. Ask the vendor to customize the demonstration to show exactly what you have requested from the software.

Keep an open mind though. Their business is the software and they have experience with many customers. If they suggest that one of your requirements should be modified, they might be right. If they suggest that a requirement is not possible using their software, they might have a work-around that will satisfy your requirement. These are your choices. You can insist on your requirement list and simply keep looking at other software providers who can fill your needs.

Schedule a demonstration. Find a time that allows representatives from all your stakeholders to attend. Even if the software is intended for production, it will affect finance and engineering and others and they should attend for their own evaluation. If two demonstrations are needed to ensure your team can attend, ask the supplier to schedule two demonstrations.

STEP 5: Evaluate each software demo systematically

Before the first demonstration, prepare a common survey or questionnaire for your team. Ask each attendee to use a common format to evaluate the demonstrations. Collect the questionnaires quickly after the demonstrations. After several different demonstrations no one will be able to remember specific points and how each supplier covered specifics.

When the demonstrations are finished, combine the individual questionnaires into a common report. Work up a point value system for each question point. Summarize the demonstrations and total the points for each supplier. Ideally one will have more points and you will have your objective winner. You might ask one or two of the suppliers to provide additional demonstrations and reply to specific follow-up questions.

STEP 6: Check references and read customer testimonials

Contact the references your top supplier candidates gave you. Learn what they felt went well and what they wish might have gone differently. Ask if they know of any other business that used that supplier. Use the internet to find additional customers you might use as references that were not provided by the software supplier. When you feel you have found the right supplier, you can begin negotiations.

After the software demo, the software

Do you need help comparing software supplier data? Are you still watching software demo videos looking for differentiators? When creating a software demo, suppliers often skip the details, and our business experts can assist in determining potential pain points after your installation. Our IT experts can assist with everything from system software compatibility to software license protocol. Our ERP and managed IT specialists understand everything from source code to supply chains.

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Prophet 21 Event: Servers, Financials & Supply Chains

Prophet 21 Event: Servers, Financials & Supply Chains

With summer in full swing, distributors are on the move, crossing docks, splitting shipments, and delivering goods by the truckload to a diverse array of customers. It is a time for expansion—of old trade routes of supply chains and of new opportunities as our reopening country rediscovers its possibilities.

Female Attending a Virtual Epicor Prophet 21 Event

Attend a 2021 Prophet 21 event in person or online

With user conferences back in the schedule for 2021, P21 users are highly anticipating the Prophet 21 user conference P21WWUG CONNECT in mid-August. This event serves as a focal point for the P21 user community and as a bookend for a busy summer. At the onset of the summer season, we thought it would be helpful to host our P21 summer summit as a prelude to the larger Prophet 21 community event. This also gives you the opportunity to open the summer with some new ideas for using your P21 application to its fullest capabilities.

Events like this are a great opportunity to review your application’s capabilities and find ways to improve internal processes, discover ways to reduce costs, and reveal methods to improve information flow and presentation. You’ll also surface steps you can take to better integrate Prophet 21 with suppliers and customers.

Our summer 2021 Prophet 21® event takes place on June 24, from 10:00 AM to 1:30 PM (Central Time). Three panelists will discuss topics pertinent to the P21® user community. The event is free, and all are welcome! This summit will also provide an insider’s view of the Epicor Prophet 21® solution for any distributor who is looking for growth opportunities that only a new software can provide.

Prophet 21 Event Itinerary

Server Best Practices for the Epicor P21 Environment

10 AM – 11 AM (CST)

Daryl Sirota, Executive Director of Technical Services at EstesGroup, will discuss server best practices for P21. Understanding the optimal means for deploying the Prophet 21 application has never been more important, especially with Epicor’s move to a new client-server architecture. Daryl will discuss some of the key considerations when deploying and maintaining your server stack. Daryl leverages 35+ years of IT experience to help customers develop server and cloud architectures that are robust, flexible and reliable. A veteran systems engineer and Microsoft expert, Daryl provides the stable technical foundations that allow customers to focus on their business. Attend this Prophet 21 event if you’d like to know how to create a private cloud for your ERP software.

Creating Financial Statements Using Financial Line Express

11 AM – Noon (CST)

Terri Gage, Senior Consultant at EstesGroup, will discuss the creation of Financial Statements. P21 customers express frustration in successfully creating financial statements, but the often forgotten Financial Line Express can bring ample help to your financial reporting needs. A longtime project manager, implementation consultant, and Prophet 21 specialist, Terri works with organizations to help them successfully implement and fully benefit from the P21 application, actualizing their goals of sustained profitability and business excellence.

Bridging the Gap Between Epicor and Suppliers for Distribution Companies

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM (CST)

Jim Frye, Enterprise Sales Director at SourceDay, will discuss how distribution companies bridge the gap between their Prophet 21 system and their supply chains. Distributors need to do many things to help secure their supply chains as the ground shifts beneath them, automating the mundane and improving collaboration, visibility, and accountability between them and their varied suppliers. Jim leverages 30+ years of experience working with Global Manufacturing Companies, big and small. His passion is to help organizations facilitate growth, reduce operating costs, and increase profitability through supply chain efficiency.

Our event concludes with an open Q&A session, allowing users to raise questions regarding the sessions themselves and the Prophet 21 application in general. Operations management strategies. Cloud server integration steps. Cloud hosting service risks. Prophet 21 cloud platform options. Global supply chain trends. Operation system updates. Dedicated servers, multiple servers, SaaS… from Prophet 21 consulting to server hosting, we have answers to your P21 ERP and IT questions.

Do you have questions you’ve been meaning to ask a consultant, but haven’t wanted to shell out the cash? 

Now is your chance to do it–on our time and our dime!

Epicor’s Prophet 21 user community is founded on collaboration.

Come collaborate with us on June 24.

This event can also help distributors who are considering a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) software.

Cyber Security

Understanding the New Client Architecture of Prophet 21

Understanding the New Client Architecture of Prophet 21

Software development never stands still. I remember a time where I felt like I had finally come to understand DataSets, DataTables, DataRows and DataViews, only to have a much more experienced developer inform me that the System.Data namespace was old, antiquated, and no longer used in the development of cutting-edge applications. I had walked the prescribed trail, only to realize that it dead-ended in a software swamp.

Epicor Prophet 21 Warehouse Worker

The implications of such rapid movements in application development are significant, as software vendors often find themselves down similar dead ends and are forced to backtrack their way out of them. I liken software applications to my great-grandaddy’s venerable old axe: two new heads and seven new handles later, yet still seen by everyone in the family as the same axe.

Like the axe, Epicor’s Prophet 21 ERP application has been refitted over time. P21 helps distribution companies with a variety of features and capabilities. But like many such applications, the vendor found that over time, there was a need to reshape the application as to better position it for future use. Limitations to the existing architecture could not support the long-term needs of the industry. For that reason, Epicor has been reworking and fine-tuning its P21 architecture, moving towards a more scalable, interoperable and accessible application. Understanding where P21 has been and where it’s going can be of great use for customers, as to help them chart a course for the future. 

The Old Prophet 21

Epicor’s E10 application followed an infrastructure that separated the user client, the application server, and the database itself. For someone coming from Epicor 10, P21’s original architecture might look a little strange. Traditionally, P21 employed a fat client architecture, in which a large amount of business logic was housed in the 32-bit client itself, and this client communicated with the database. A liability of this approach was the difficulty in deploying a full API that could be accessed externally. Also, this model created natural limits to the number of clients that could share a single terminal server, due to the size and scope of the fat client.

The New Epicor Model

As Epicor sought to develop a more robust and accessible platform, changes were made both to the client and the overall architecture. Epicor’s updated architecture inserted a new layer, referred to as the “Middleware Server,” that serves as an intermediary between the client and the database, and provides the foundation for API-level interactions. 

Logic that had previously resided in the “fat client” desktop version was moved into the middleware layer. This architecture more closely resembles Epicor’s E10 application server-based architecture. Communication with the middleware server occurs using Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocol. This allows you to connect without the need for direct access to the network or a VPN connection. A web connection and an SSL certificate are all you need.

Beyond the API benefits, another benefit of this approach comes from performance, as the middleware server supports as much as twice as many clients as can be supported by a terminal server with the traditional fat client. For customers with high user counts, Prophet 21’s new architecture supports multiple load-balanced middleware servers.

Client Types: Understanding Your New P21 Options

From a client interaction perspective, two new options were developed to support the new architecture:

  • Web Client: The web client is a browser-based capability, allowing customers to access their system from a PC, a tablet or a mobile device.
  • Hybrid Client: The hybrid client meets the needs of customers who like the look and feel of a traditional desktop application, but wish to leverage the capabilities and features of the updated web client. The hybrid client installs like a normal Windows application, and connects directly to the middleware server, without the use of a browser.

Desktop Client – A Line in the Sand

Initially, Epicor’s web client lacked some of the functionality available with the traditional client, making things like DynaChange screen modifications difficult to accomplish without a traditional client. But as Epicor ramped up the capabilities of the web client, these differences have fallen off, such that as of spring of 2021, new P21 features will be available only in the web and hybrid clients. 

Epicor will slowly migrate away from traditional desktop application. By the fall 0f 2021, Epicor will no longer develop and release new versions of the desktop client. By the end of the year, Epicor will no longer release fixes for the desktop client. For P21 customers, this will require all users to migrate to the new architecture, both to retain support and to capitalize on the benefits of the newer releases.

The bottom line for P21 customers is clear: they can migrate to the new architecture or else work on the legacy platform, in an unimproved and unsupported state. In making this move, there are a few additional considerations to be made relative to the Prophet 21 deployment options available.

SaaS or Private Cloud Hosting for Epicor P21 Applications

Customers may opt to choose Epicor’s SaaS solution and place their application under Epicor’s control. This amounts to making two significant shifts, and many customers may not be sufficiently confident in Epicor’s SaaS solution to make the move. For customers suspect of SaaS, but looking for cloud options to host their new P21 architecture, private cloud hosting for ERP combines the new architecture with P21’s full functionality, without the hardware investments that come with an on-premise install.

Do you need help understanding your P21 deployment options? Do you need help migrating your existing architecture to take advantage of Epicor’s new features and capabilities? Give us a call — we are the #1 Prophet 21 consultancy in the nation, and we’d love to make you our “client”!

Warehouse & Inventory Management

Are you a wholesale distributor and planning for new P21 features and capabilities? Please take our survey as a step towards understanding the new client architecture of Prophet 21 and how it relates to your future!