A New Star Is Born
A few words about the new company: Aptean is not just an ERP company, since Consona has been on a few shopping trips and acquired some important application companies in supply chain,2 government, CRM,3 knowledge management, healthcare, funds management and cloud.
The merger took Consona, primarily a North American market player with a focus on discrete manufacturing, and blended it with CDC’s global (China, US and EU) process manufacturing for the food, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals portfolios.
Now they will face the challenges other big providers are grappling with: how to blend the best features and make them available across the portfolio. What should be upgraded? What simply maintained? How to upgrade into a new UI? And very importantly, how can they migrate the more than nine thousand customers into the new world?
There are some pretty obvious organizational changes we expect to see, not just in IT, but in industry practices, sales, and services as Monte Ford, the new president, and his team blend and batch this asset-rich company.
In the meantime, it is business as usual selling, supporting, and taking care of customers — so let’s try to dissect the ERP elements of Aptean. Today, Aptean owns eleven ERP solutions (See Figure 1 below) across an economic spectrum from the smallest to the largest manufacturers around the world. Today’s mega-ERP companies serve enterprises that range in size from mega-aerospace companies to small startups who use cloud ERP. However, Aptean’s primary focus is SMB. They are able to empathize with the challenges these companies face, because Aptean’s CTO, Patrick Baca, hails from prior positions at Sage and Intuit; and Steve Bailey, Vice President of Engineering, and a Consona veteran, clearly understands the domains of portable, supportable, and easy for small businesses to use.
To reiterate, small does not mean uncomplicated. Thus, they present a rich portfolio that encompasses engineering, configure-to-order, and multi-mode, trans-processes businesses that use process and discrete manufacturing (plastics). Global and or regulated industries such as pharma, food and aerospace are deeply supported. These industries present a big challenge for ERP, since the requirements change constantly. (See Figure 2 below for industries.)
An interesting new offering which may be of value to US companies is the ‘trading company’ capability. This solution, Envision X, was designed to support multi-language transactions — Chinese to English — and the complex accounting rules associated with import/export between these two nations. This is a major headache for companies to grapple with and it will be interesting to see how this capability may find its way into other solutions in the portfolio such as TradeBeam GTM, the GTM solution.
What about Cloud?
Aptean does have a cloud offering, their open source: Compiere. Though not multi-tenant, the solution is designed for companies looking for web-based ERP. Compiere has very strong foundational architecture and Aptean is in the process of an aggressive build-out of application functionality to sit on top of that. With a rich portfolio from Aptean, it will be interesting to watch in which direction they go and on which industries they chose to focus.
So What about Made2Manage?
Made2Manage (M2M), with about 1500 customers, is probably the best known ERP from the Consona family. A major revitalization of Made2Manage has been in process to new SOA architecture in .NET. A migration strategy that focuses on minimizing business disruption and risk for their customers has been developed. Customers can migrate to the new platform gradually on a user-by-user basis. M2M has a 2 year release plan with software build-out and customer migration. But make no mistake about this: Aptean does plan to retire the old software. Their president Monte Ford stated, “We are committed to protecting our customers’ software application investments through continued enhancement of all our existing software platforms, while developing new products, features and delivery capabilities. Aptean will maintain world-class customer support with efficient and effective implementation services.”
Aptean expects to hire consultants to handle the change, a trend we have seen with the other large ERP portfolio companies such as Infor and Epicor. (Great for the US job market!)
Conclusion — For Now
Aptean has a tough road ahead, no doubt. This merger was met with mostly silence by big media and distain by some.4 But this road is deeply important to thousands of companies.
Over the years I have seen the polarization of the great divide: large enterprise players and the ecosystems that support them — large media, large analysts, large consults; and SMB, a world of small and midsize business owners, who are supported by the SMB ERP players. I have spoken with hundreds of CEOs of these companies and had many as customers. It is actually invigorating as an advisor, consultant, strategist, and analyst to work with these companies, since I’m working with some of the brightest people who (unlike the middle ranks in large companies) are empowered to make decisions and are really focused on accomplishments. There are many myths associated with the SMB market: they are too conservative; they don’t invest in technology; they are uninformed about the latest in process and best practices. Not any more or less than big companies. (I recently heard about one company in the Fortune 100 that just upgraded from Oracle 7 to SAP.)
Aptean will spend the next few weeks and months dreaming up the roadmap. If you are a customer — get involved. It will matter.
1 Several private equity companies bought and sold ERP companies; Vista Partners acquired and consolidated CDC and Consona. — Return to article text above
2 IMI, I-Supply, SupplyWorks, Catalyst WMS, Factory MES, TradeBeam, to name a few — Return to article text above
3 Onyx and Saratoga — Return to article text above
4 Restating the CDC Chapter 11: Mismanagement by the company is not the fault of the customer. — Return to article text above
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