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Prophet 21 Middleware Server Going Up

Prophet 21 Middleware Server Going Up

Moving Your Distribution Operations to the Cloud?

How to Understand Prophet 21 Client Deployments

As we near the point to which Epicor will no longer support the legacy P21 desktop application, it feels like a good time to once again review the architectural changes that have been made to the P21 ERP application — the P21 client and the P21 middleware server — and better understand the implications for members of the Epicor Prophet 21 user community still using the legacy P21 desktop application.

Prophet 21 Middleware Server Options

Talking Tiers

Historically speaking, Epicor’s Prophet 21 application has undergone a rather significant transition over the past few years. While the Epicor Kinetic application leveraged a client-server model, going back to its Epicor 905 incarnation and before, the Epicor P21 application possessed a two tier architecture — a bit of an aberration in the ERP community.

In a two tier configuration, the user’s client application communicates directly with the database:

Prophet 21 Database

Two Tier Architecture: End User > Fat Client > Database

A two tier architecture places a lot of the weight of transactional processing on the client or desktop application — hence, the term “fat client.” Traditionally, the most effective way of managing the legacy P21 desktop application in a two-tier context was to deploy the P21 application to a terminal server (for small companies) or a terminal server farm (for larger organizations) to prevent the P21 application from hogging too many resources on an individual user’s PC.

A robust server farm allows for a comparatively thin array of user PCs:

Robust Prophet 21 Server Farm

Two Tier Architecture: End User > Thin Client > Terminal Server Farm Fat Client > Database

Because of the familiarity the user community has with the legacy Prophet 21 desktop application, the “fat client” architecture has been somewhat slow in being replaced. Customers have grown accustomed to the P21 desktop application, with its large file footprint, deployed directly to workstations or installed on scaled-out RDP farms, and communicating directly to the SQL server with no application server layer is present. This allowed for the conventional use of all traditional P21 customizations, dynachange activities, and third-party development performed on this platform. 

Sounds simple enough. But technology never stands still, and the limitations of a two tier architecture, with an inordinately heavy P21 client application, creates understandable challenges. To address these concerns, Epicor has been evolving the P21 application. This change has come in two parts.

  • The first was the addition of a P21 middleware server layer, similar to the architecture of the Kinetic application server, moving the bulk of the P21 application logic from the client to the server. Such a model better supports API-level integrations, makes upgrades easier, and allows for a more scalable overall deployment.
  • The second was the development of a web-based client application, to replace the P21 desktop application. This allows for a more mobile, device-independent, and potentially better-performing means of communicating with the application.

As you can see, the three-tier P21 architecture greatly differs from its antecedent:

Prophet 21 Middleware Server

Three Tier Architecture: End User > Thin(Web) Client > Middleware > Database

Web / Hybrid Prophet 21 Client

As you can see, the modern P21 architecture leverages a “thin client” — most often in the form of a web client. Initially, Epicor also provided what was called a “Hybrid Client” — wrapping the web client’s functionality within a desktop application that gives a modicum of the look and feel of the legacy client, while still communicating at the middleware server level.

Implications on P21 Client Deployments

So, what does this mean for the distribution industry and for Epicor Prophet 21 customers? There are several implications:

  • Support: One of the most significant implications of the above architecture is the downturn of support. No new iterations of the P21 desktop application are pending in the current or future versions. Moreover, bug fix support will conclude by the end of 2022, leaving the application in sunset mode. While users may choose to still use it, without support, the interoperability with future versions remains in question.
  • Elimination of the Terminal Server: For companies moving to the P21 web client, it generally implies a move away from terminal server farm deployments. It is generally a best practice to avoid the use of browser-based technology on terminal server environments. For this reason, it is preferable to access the Prophet 21 application through a client on the user’s own device, and not through a remote desktop or Citrix app. The implications of this approach on user performance is still being evaluated.
  • SaaS / Web Client Confusion: It is easy to confuse the Prophet 21 web client with the P21 Software-as-a-Service deployment option. We’ve had customers approach us, believing that the elimination of the P21 desktop client necessitates a move to a P21 SaaS deployment. In fact, a company can move to the P21 web client without the need to move to a P21 SaaS deployment. The web client can be used in support of an P21 on-premise deployment, a SaaS configuration, or a P21 private cloud.
  • Blended Options: Transitioning from the Prophet 21 desktop application to purely using the P21 web client can be a complex process. Depending on the number of changes, enhancements, customizations, and modifications in place, retro-fitting these into the web version can be a challenge. Moreover, it can be a time-consuming challenge. To address these challenges, we’ve seen several customers implement blended deployments, where the P21 middleware and web client deployment operates in parallel with the P21 legacy desktop client. Based on the user base, and where the upgrade challenges exist, specified users leverage the web version, while others utilize the P21 desktop client. This occurs while the more complex area of the software are retro-fitted to accommodate the web client. As these challenges are overcome, users begin to migrate to the web version. In other cases where the web client migration is more a matter of change management, the legacy desktop provides a backstop for users still acclimating to the new system. Existing users continue to use the Prophet 21 desktop application, while early adopters and new employees take on the web version. The presence of parallel deployment paths, connecting to a single, centralized database, make this possible. In fact, this is our most common cloud deployment to date.
Server Deployment Cloud Architecture
  • Blended Architecture: Connecting though a combination of the P21 web client / middleware server deployment and the P21 desktop application (locally installed and/or via terminal services).

Software migrations are no laughing matter, even when they are within the same application. The enhancements made to the Epicor Prophet 21 application are significant and groundbreaking, and will ultimately work to successfully support the members of the P21 community. But getting there will often be a matter of incremental steps. Fortunately, there are deployment options available to make this transition both incremental and successful. 

Hybrid and Private Deployment Options for Epicor’s Prophet 21

Are you looking to move to P21’s three-tiered architecture? Do you need some guidance in understanding your options, and how you might make it work? Are you thinking about migrating your on-premise platform into the cloud while you’re at it? Estes specializes in private cloud P21 deployments, providing the flexibility for blended options, while also providing you with all the access and control of your environment that you need, allowing your migration to occur according to your schedule, in a manner that will support the needs of your business.

Learn more about private and hybrid cloud options with a free demo of EstesCloud services.

Understanding Your ERP System & Your Users

Understanding Your ERP System & Your Users

I once had a mentor tell it to me straight: Those who learn earn. Not bad advice… Read on to learn more about how to apply this to your ERP system users.

If you want to understand your application and your ERP system users, you had better be ready to learn. Why? ERP systems are multifaceted and complex. Your perspective of a car, for instance, may differ if you’re in the driver’s seat, the back seat, the trunk, or under the hood. Same thing goes with your perspective of how your drive your ERP system users toward success.

ERP System Users Conference

An ERP system user’s experience, such as is available with the wide variety of pathways intrinsic to a distribution application like Epicor’s Prophet 21, can differ significantly, depending on your perspective. If you’re a network engineer, you may have a different perspective of an ERP system, when compared to an ERP administrator, much less an end user. 

That said, it’s always good to expand your understanding of ERP systems and your users, and to do so from multiple perspectives. As a former end user, I tend to think that understanding the technical foundations of an application are as important as understanding the application itself. I normally divide the overall ERP ecosystem into three sections:


Parts, Customers, Supplier, Quotes, Orders, Work Orders, Purchase Orders, Inventory, Purchase Orders, Shipping, Invoicing, etc. These are the functional building blocks of an application, and the core of the many processes that you might perform in order to run your business. 


AppServer, Database & Database Server, Client Access, Terminal Server, Server Farms, Load Balancing, etc. These are the elements that are key to a robust P21 environment, whether deployed to an on premise environment or as part of a private cloud deployment. Understanding these elements can help you optimize the stability, reliability, security and performance of your Prophet 21 ecosystem.


Where application meets architecture… all the functionality extensions that elaborate an ERP application: Ecommerce, Document Management, Quality, BI & Reporting, Label Printing, Shipping, AR Automation, etc. To understand a given integration, you may need some understanding of both the place within the application where this functionality is an interaction, and the technical means though which this interaction is enabled.

Are you interested in growing your Prophet 21 knowledge in these areas? One option would be to attend the P21WWUG CONNECT 2022 conference. 

Sponsored by the Prophet 21 World Wide Users Group (P21WWUG), and colloquially pronounced “The Wug,” P21WWUG CONNECT is a great way to learn more about the capabilities from the system, as a network architect, a system administrator or a super user. The session schedule is extensive and covers all aspects of the P21 application. If you’re a growing wholesale distribution company, CONNECT is a great place to network to learn more about your options for supporting robust distribution operations. You’ll learn more about Epicor’s offerings while also surrounding yourself in a community of supporting services like EstesCloud private and hybrid cloud hosting options.

Are you attending CONNECT 2022? 

EstesGroup is this year’s Platinum Sponsor. You can find us in booths 6 & 7 of the Main Hall at JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort on August 29th – August 31st. We’ll have P21 technical experts on hand who can help you answer any questions that you may have about the Prophet 21 application, its deployment, the integration options available, and some best practices for configuring and managing your P21 ecosystem:

  • AutoCrib
  • Cribmaster
  • Pathguide’s Latitude integration
  • MITS
  • WebQuery
  • Portals
  • RePortal
  • B2C integrations
  • B2B implementations
  • Business Rules
  • Dyna Change
  • Database Maintenance
  • Crystal Reports
  • SSRS
  • WWMS
  • EDI
  • TCP  

Come stop by and have a chat! We’d love to tell you everything we know and more! Ready to talk to someone? Contact one of our Epicor Prophet 21 experts today.

Walk for Charity EstesGroup
The Distribution Industry Heads to Texas

The Distribution Industry Heads to Texas

On August 29th, EstesGroup heads to Texas for one of the most important events in the distribution industry. Visit us in booths 6 and 7 at P21WWUG CONNECT 2022 in San Antonio August 29th – August 31st! We are proud to be the Platinum Sponsor for this year’s show!


Organized by the Prophet 21 World Wide Users Group (P21WWUG), CONNECT is an annual gathering of Epicor Prophet 21 users from across the globe. Members of the distribution community head to exciting cities (i.e. Atlanta ’21 or San Antonio ’22) to meet, collaborate, and learn more about the Prophet 21 application. Attendees interact and learn from other members of the P21WWUG community, from Epicor consultants and product managers, and from third-party solution providers, like DCKAP, our partner for a pre-show charity walk that will benefit children in need. With multiple days of educational sessions, the event offers excellent opportunities for Prophet 21 users to expand their use of the Epicor P21 application, and better leverage P21 ERP to serve the needs of their organizations.

Distribution Industry Texas Cloud

With multiple days of educational sessions, the event offers excellent opportunities for Prophet 21 users to expand their use of the Epicor P21 application, and better leverage P21 ERP to serve the needs of their organizations. Visit us at CONNECT booths 6 and 7 to learn more about application hosting, cloud migrations, infrastructure as a service (IaaS), IT support and services for companies in the distribution industry, application optimization through partnership with an Epicor Prophet 21 expert, and more.

Who is P21WWUG CONNECT for?

The P21WWUG CONNECT conference is designed to address the needs of a broad base of the P21 community. Attendees of the event range from business owners and executives to managers and functional specialists, in areas such as purchasing, accounting, sales, inventory and warehouse management. This event helps both the members of the P21 community that use the data from the P21 application to make executive decisions, and the folks in the trenches, using the P21 application to make their companies function.

Who will I meet at P21WWUG CONNECT?

Your peers and colleagues, to begin with. End users, power users, local experts, IT admins — individuals who’ve worked with the Epicor P21 system for years and have learned its inner workings, and have solved countless problems in and through its use. They bring their collective knowledge to the P21WWUG CONNECT event, to share their hard-earned lessons with others. Beyond the user community, an extensive vendor area allows you to interact with providers of integrated solutions that enable companies to extend their P21 applications by bringing it into contact with customer and suppliers, and to automate processes internally, increasing efficiency and effectiveness.

What will I learn from the Prophet 21 World Wide Users Group?

It takes a lot to make your business succeed. To address your needs, P21WWUG CONNECT offers a range of networking opportunities, keynote speakers, educational sessions, roundtable discussions, and workshops, that address your current challenges and the challenges of the future. 

That said, what you learn depends on what you’re looking for. 

Maybe you are an inventory control manager, already well-versed in the P21 application, but in search of more information about inventory management, stocking levels, cycle counting, or units of measure. 

Or you could be a power user, responsible for data management and updates, and wish to better understand using excel in conjunction with P21, improving your skills in reports, queries, financial statements, data extraction, SSRS or Crystal Reports. 

You might be a developer, looking to learn more about Dynachange, business rules, data streams or business process automation. You might be here trying to extend your P21 ecosystem, interesting in talking with P21 third-party vendors, or attending sessions to learn more about shipping integrations, credit card processing, or ACH integrations. 

Or you might be an uber-techie, concerned with database administration cloud capabilities, cybersecurity or middleware APIs. Many users simply come trying to better understand P21’s Web UI, and whether they are ready to take the leap.  

Business leaders and owners come to P21WWUG CONNECT to talk with other business leaders and better understand the current landscape.

Are you thinking of attending P21WWUG CONNECT? Are you trying to sharpen your business acumen, to make better decisions in rapidly fluctuating times? Perhaps you are trying to better understand continuous improvement in the distribution industry, or you wish to learn how other distributors are dealing with supply chain issues. Your concern might be sales strategy, or mastering the challenges of recruiting, retainment, and employee development. If you’re a business leader, CONNECT might be the place to help you use Prophet 21 ERP to take your business into the future. 

Chances are that if you have questions about the distribution industry, EstesGroup ERP and IT experts at P21WWUG CONNECT 2022 will provide the answers. The event will offer sessions, users, vendors, and experts to help you find the answers that you are looking for. Visit us at booth 6 and 7 this August!

Where and when is P21WWUG CONNECT 2022?

The Prophet 21 World Wide User Group will be hosting CONNECT 2022 from August 29th to August 31st at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa.

EstesGroup is hosting a pre-event Charity Walk with our partner DCKAP. DCKAP simplifies commerce for distributors. Get better results faster with DCKAP’s simple, yet powerful, product suite. 

Any other considerations concerning this distribution industry event?

To attend P21WWUG CONNECT, you need to be a member of the P21 World Wide User Group.  Are you a member already?  If not, check out the P21WWUG website for more info.

Cloud Server

Walk for Charity with EstesGroup and DCKAP on August 29th in San Antonio! (P.S. You don’t have to be in the distribution industry to attend.)

Common Epicor Project Terms You Should Know

Common Epicor Project Terms You Should Know

It seems that every discipline has its share of jargon. 

You see it when accountants throw around terms like “EBITDA”, engineers speak of “TQM”, and I.T. staff reference “API” or “DMZ”.

These are the words and phrases used by specialists as they discuss their work. The beauty of this insider jargon is that it allows greater efficiency in communication, but it comes with the trade-off that it creates an ingroup and an outgroup who struggle to understand each other. And those in the ingroup are rarely aware of how it limits communication with those on the outside.

Epicor Project Terms Team Meeting

So, with that in mind, let’s consider six terms that are often used with Epicor projects. I’ve sequenced these common Epicor project terms, so they are linked together logically.

Test Scenario

When we implement new versions of Epicor, there is always a set of tests done to validate that the application is correctly supporting business functions.

A Test Scenario is the set of instructions, steps, and expected results used to do that. A “test scenario” might include who will do the testing, the objective of the testing, the sequence of steps to follow, the data entered the application, and the results that should be expected.  

This information should always be available in printed form so that it can be reviewed and used by those doing the actual testing.

So, when you hear the term “test scenario” it is important to ask several questions. What is being tested? Who is doing the testing? What is not being tested? How will we know the test is comprehensive? What sequence will the testing be done in?

With test scenarios, there are several ways they can be applied, and it starts with our next term.

Unit Testing

In an Epicor project, there are two general types of application testing. The first is “Unit Testing” which is focused on validating stand-alone functionality that accomplishes a single task.  

It answers business questions like “Can I enter a new vendor in Epicor and include all necessary information without issues?” or “Can I create a new Customer Payment Terms record?”.

So, we see that Unit Testing is always focused on a simple process that is relatively self-contained. It is simpler and usually easier to do but because it is so focused, there are usually dozens of unit tests required in a project.

But unit tests are not enough to accomplish the goal of thoroughly testing the Epicor application.

Cross-functional / Integration Testing

The second type of application testing, seen in Epicor project is “cross-functional” or “Integration testing”. While “unit testing” is focused on simpler processes, this type of testing is more complex. 

It will involve testing transactions that process through Epicor from start to end. This could include accounting transactions, customer order transactions, manufacturing transactions, purchasing transactions or payroll transactions. Each of these involves multiple steps involving multiple departments to work well.

A common example of “cross-Functional testing” is testing all business processes required to move from a Quote to Cash Received from the customer. Within these two endpoints there are many distinct business processes involving multiple business areas (finance, order entry, engineering, customer service, purchasing, production, receiving and shipping). 

This type of testing ensures that multiple business processes are supported completely by Epicor and that each business area in the organization can complete their work, validate the results, and manage exceptions that occur.

Together, “unit testing” and “Integration testing” provide the most thorough validation of the system. Which leads to our next term which describes how these tests are created and monitored.

Subject Matter Expert

A Subject Matter Expert (SME) is a person who is the most knowledgeable about a particular business process. They might be the Purchasing SME and understand each of the steps and requirements for successfully purchasing materials in the organization. That person would be able to describe the details and process for Vendors, Purchase Orders, Lead Times, Inspections, and Receiving of purchased goods. They literally are the expert on this area of the business and often have years of experience to back up their knowledge.

And SMEs are critical to the success of any testing done on a project because they know the business processes very well and can quickly spot gaps where the Epicor application may not be working well.

Typically, SMEs are responsible for specifying the requirements for how application software should function to best support the organization’s needs. And SME’s either build or review “test scenarios”.  

This ensures there are no unexpected gaps between organizational business processes and the way Epicor operates. Ideally the “test scenarios” are designed so that application testers simply work through the steps, gather feedback and in the process, validate the needed functionality in the application. The Testers shouldn’t need to be experts on Epicor or all the business processes. Their skill should be in following the steps and verifying results.

When it comes to “cross-functional” testing, multiple SMEs are often outside their area of expertise. So they will collaborate with other SMEs to design an integration testing process that includes the best scenarios to support company needs.

All this testing and effort is usually grouped into specific timeframes in the Epicor project. One of those is User Acceptance Testing.

User Acceptance Testing

User Acceptance Testing (UAT) is the phase in a project where the application users work as a team, to verify that Epicor changes support all their business processes. Typically, the UAT is several weeks in length. During this time, selected application users will use multiple test scenarios (usually created by SME’s) to verify that all business processes are supported by Epicor. This will include both changes made and other areas that might be impacted.  Both unit and cross-functional testing will be used. 

All the results will be logged, and any exceptions will be documented and reviewed. The logged exceptions will become a list of issues that must be resolved before the organization can continue using the Epicor application.  

The list of issues is then prioritized, and work is assigned to resolve them. They fall into these categories:

1. Modifications to Business Processes to better use Epicor capabilities

2. Modifications to Epicor to better adapt it to business needs

3. Some combination of #1 and #2

The purpose of the UAT is to fully test the changed functionality of Epicor to verify it meets the requirements for supporting the business in its new form.  

This leads to a common question about the differences between User Acceptance Testing and the term “Conference Room Pilot”. Both terms are often confused.

Conference Room Pilot

A “conference room pilot” (CRP) is focused on testing the functionality of Epicor with the intention to identify the differences between it and the needs of the organization.  

This means that it can be done at two points.  

One point is before the system is chosen and when the organization is still in the procurement steps of purchasing an ERP.

The second point is at the final point of implementation when the focus is to confirm that the needed business process functionality of the organization is fully supported by the data, configuration and customizations made to Epicor.  

If the answer is “yes” then the system is moved to Production status. In this situation, the CRP is the final “gate” before the Epicor application is used for company operations.

The CRP does share similarities with a UAT. Both look at Epicor from end-to-end, both include demonstrations of functionality, and both often include non-functional testing (such as performance).  

But they differ in that a Conference Room Pilot is measuring where Epicor meets the business needs and where the gaps are, while User Acceptance Testing is confirming any changes made are working as specified.   

When upgrading Epicor from one software release version to another there is usually several User Acceptance Tests that verify that the Epicor application has no errors. Then as a final step, there is a Conference Room Pilot to confirm that Epicor supports the full business functionality needed.

Time to talk Epicor project terms with the experts? EstesGroup’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) consultants can save you time, money — & maybe even a trip to the dictionary!

Please fill out the form below, or chat with us now, to begin a conversation about Epicor project terms, ERP implementations, business management, cloud migrations & cloud ERP services (and everything else in ERP)!


Walk for Charity at P21WWUG CONNECT in San Antonio

Walk for Charity at P21WWUG CONNECT in San Antonio

Technology is on the move. Chase it down at P21WWUG CONNECT in San Antonio this August. Cloud options, web client deployments, integrations, middleware installations: the road ahead is replete with opportunities and obstacles, with shortcuts and fast lanes — not to mention the occasional blind alley. 

P21WWUG CONNECT in San Antonio Charity Walk

EstesGroup is excited to be the Platinum Sponsor for the Epicor Prophet 21® event of the year! We will begin the show with a cause dear to our hearts. In the spirit of meaningful motion, DCKAP & EstesGroup teams have banded together to walk for charity at P21WWUG CONNECT in San Antonio.

Are you attending the annual P21WWUG CONNECT event?

CONNECT is a great opportunity to learn more about Epicor’s P21® application — what it can do, how it can be used and, most importantly, where it’s headed. Applications are always on the run. Events like P21WWUG CONNECT are a great opportunity to catch up and head them off at the proverbial pass.

Run Your Business With Prophet 21®, Walk for Charity with EstesGroup ERP Experts

WHO: EstesGroup, DCKAP, and YOU!

WHAT: A charity walk that will benefit the Save the Children Foundation (FREE to attend, as donations are optional, with FREE breakfast following the walk)

WHEN: August 29th from 7 AM to 10 AM (CST)

WHERE: At P21WWUG CONNECT in San Antonio at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort

WHY: Find community with ERP, technology, cloud, and commerce experts while supporting a good cause!

This is a great opportunity to clear your head, and meet some great people while helping the world, before the P21WWUG CONNECT event activities and festivities commence.

Walk With EstesGroup and DCKAP this August

Get some exercise and enjoy a good meal afterwards! We’ll meet at a designated area on the grounds prior to the P21WWUG Connect event, where we’ll start the day with coffee and refreshments before heading out on the walking path. Then, we’ll provide attendees with a hearty breakfast and grab-and-go goodies, too.

Low Code or No Code: Citizen Developers on the High Road

Low Code or No Code: Citizen Developers on the High Road

I’m a project manager. So I was looking at some Project Management information on the web. And something caught my attention. I noticed that there is a new certification for a “Citizen Developer”.

Hmmm. What’s that about, I wondered. I found that this is a new persona that is being recognized in many organizations. And it ties neatly into something I recently blogged about. In my last blog entry, I discussed the trend of offering “low-code / no-code” options. These support creating reports, forms, workflow, adding new data tables, and application connections. But they don’t require knowing a coding language.

Low Code Platform Citizen Developers

Instead, application users can use them to directly customize the application to simplify processes and improve their productivity. And they are supported by the IT department at the same time.

Consider this common application life cycle.

Your organization implements a new business application (Epicor, Prophet 21). There are lots of customizations to fit the business need. Everyone is excited when it happens. Fast forward several years. Customizations are slow to appear, yet the organization processes continue to change. The screens and reports work but there are many changes needed. And there is a backlog of work for the IT developers to complete. Frustrated users look for options.

They begin creating custom systems outside the application to get their work done. Excel spreadsheets are everywhere. Users rely on tools like Microsoft Access to get their work done. Everyone works with multiple tools to do their job.

Then someone decides it’s time for a change. Let’s do a new business application! So, the cycle repeats itself. Ugh. This isn’t very efficient, is it?

But what if the customizations were faster and easier to do because more users knew how?

And the application evolved along with the business changes, not behind them? 

And there was less frustration and more productivity?

In the past there was always this “Superuser” who showed up in most organizations. They were the person in the organization that learned how to tweak things that were frustrating and repetitive. They weren’t IT staff. But they were quick to see things that could be improved and were willing to invest extra time to figure out a better way. You may be this person or know one because they are in every organization. 

But there was a downside. Often their work would be discouraged by the IT department. Why? Because the changes were not documented, or the data wasn’t included in backups. Or worse case, that person would leave the company, and no one knew how to maintain their changes.

What was initially a great solution would slowly become unsupportable and out-of-date. It was a natural process. The organization was always changing. And there were only a limited number of people who could customize things. So, the problem continued.   

We should all agree that business applications need to change so we can stop this wasteful cycle. We need business applications to:

  • Be simpler to customize/adapt to meet changing business needs
  • Be customized in small ways all the time, not only during initial implementation
  • Not need more and more IT staff to do all the changes
  • Allow those persons closest to the problem to have more input on the solution
  • Ensure that customizations are documented and integrated into the application for future-proofing
  • Allow users the greatest freedom to adapt, without damaging the integrity of the application data (security, quality, access)

And that’s where the role of Citizen Developers might contribute to a better future. But what is a Citizen Developer?

A good definition would be the right start. Here’s one I found on Gartner: “A citizen developer is an employee who creates application capabilities for consumption by themselves or others, using tools that are not actively forbidden by IT or business units. A citizen developer is a persona, not a title or targeted role. They report to a business unit or function other than IT.”

So, let’s visualize this persona in your organization.

There is this employee who likes new challenges and knows the business process well. This employee is willing to learn how to customize the application. They get started by watching some videos and learning about a new development tool. 

The development tool doesn’t require a coding language or week-long classes. It supports drag and drop changes which focus on what is to be done, not how it is done. The tool supports validating that information before it goes into the system.  

And just as importantly, the customization works when new releases of the application are installed.

This user can always experiment with this new tool and try things in a testing environment.  They can show other users the results, using their feedback to fine-tune the change.

And when it is time, they can coordinate with everyone to release the new functionality to other users who immediately benefit. 

The result is that certain processes are now simpler and faster. Users do less manual work and communication (Trackers / Reports) is improved.

This is the future we are looking at. And it’s not that far away. In fact, some of these features are now available in Epicor Kinetic and Prophet 21. But we aren’t yet recognizing the persona of Citizen Developer and encouraging it because we are stuck in the past ways of working.

For example, in Epicor Kinetic, users can adjust column layouts on and save them according to their preferences. That’s a start.

And those who want to delve deeper can explore Business Activity Queries, Dashboards and BPM’s. These take some time to learn but are powerful and flexible. Plus, they are part of Epicor and upgrade with it. And the learning process is becoming simpler because of videos and support sites.

There are a growing number of examples on YouTube of how users can do customizations. And a growing community of users that are willing to share their questions, knowledge and examples.

So, what do you think is needed for your situation, to increase the Citizen Developer persona? How could the concept help in your organization? Let me know your thoughts!

Rob Mcmillen ERP Consultant

Rob McMillen is a Senior Project Manager and Principal Consultant with EstesGroup, the premiere cloud provider for manufacturers and distributors. He has worked in the manufacturing industry for over 30 years supporting multiple implementations of new ERP systems and leading projects. Because his mom was an English teacher, he grew up with a love of writing. Combined with his working experience, he has written articles for LinkedIn and User Groups, and has published numerous blog posts. He is also a co-author of a book on technology and working collaboratively. He currently lives in the DFW area.

Are you still wondering “what is a citizen developer?” or have other questions about new low-code or no-code platforms? Talk to us now about citizen developers (or any other topic on your mind)!