We were recently visited, in Boston, by some of the SYSPRO U.S. leadership and got a preview of what’s coming out in July and October of this year with SYSPRO Version 8.
Since 1978, SYSPRO has been selling more and more advanced ERP software to manufacturers worldwide. Unlike many ERPs whose investments in their products withered, and thus who no longer exist (or are owned by various software holding companies), SYSPRO has forged an innovative path forward, not just surviving, but thriving in the highly competitive ERP market.
Phil Duff, founder of SYSPRO, proved that you don’t have to be short-term in your thinking about financial results. If you keep investing in product, take good care of your customers, and judiciously expand, you can continue to grow and exist independently.1 Today, SYSPRO has over 15,000 licensed enterprises worldwide.
And, interestingly, while many far larger companies meander into innovation, SYSPRO continues to attack the leading edge — but with a twist. Rather than release “concepts,” they prefer to release what the industry commonly calls out-of-the-box applications. This plays well to their customers, those busy users (and who isn’t) who just don’t have time to play around with tool sets, yet who want to continue to grow their companies and make them more efficient by leveraging the most modern technology.
“Our goal is to enable our customers’ digital transformation,” says Brian Stein, CEO of SYSPRO U.S.A. A simple but profound statement. Rich connectivity and collaboration — not just within the enterprise — but with customers, partners, and employees, wherever they are, is a foundation for the successful enterprise today.
SYSPRO got an early start in the digitalization movement due to their shop-floor integration, and then they continued to innovate beyond the four walls onto the mobile platform, which they showcased and released in 2014. Though today that seems a given in the market, it was a big stake in the ground to really make this work. (Figure 1). Not only was it an innovation for the time, but considering today’s workforce — millennials who stare all day at their smart phones — a prescient move at the time. That move has given them, now, four years of innovation on the mobile platform, creating a sophisticated and fully functional experience. In addition, they released their social network interface, promoting improved internal user collaboration within the applications, such as sourcing and procurement.
As the digitalization of manufacturing, often called
Manufacturing 4.0, continues, SYSPRO’s latest additions are IoT and AI applications.
Rather than providing tool sets that require users to traverse through complex processes to build their own applications, SYSPRO, in collaboration with key early adopter customer organizations in IoT, settled on the first set of releases for the support of IoT applications (Figure 2).
Manufacturing today is not just on the shop floor, but should be a continuum from suppliers through logistics, to build and ship, and then to service at the customer site. IoT has become a key enabler in maintaining visibility and quality throughout all these processes to support the myriad of regulatory and customer needs for sustaining value.
Today, all that data — and all kinds of data — drive every action across those end-to-end processes. And users need to still have control over their business, which they can only do with applications that not only simplify the views — great UI — but provide predictiveness. Thus, AI/Machine Learning analytics is also a key enabler.
New User Engagement Model
Going, going, and soon gone, is the user model where users sit in front of fixed screens just focusing on canned feeds served up to them by rigid ERPs. As a result, highly personalized, flexible applications that suit each user are required today. Moreover, rather than requiring users to be chained to a desk, pounding key strokes, today’s paradigm uses touch, visual, and voice. Thus, SYSPRO 8 will now provide a conversational bot — a way to intelligently converse with and create services so that users can engage, search data, find the nuggets, and codify workflows, apps, and reports.
Many of us are already used to communicating with Dragon, Siri, our car’s GPS, or home digital assistants, as well as sharing visual data to analyze and share significant insights. Automating these types of capabilities so they are pragmatic for the average business user will, over time, bring about a revolution in the office and on the shop floor.2 We will stroll around and talk to our digital partner — the apps, software, and robots — unfettered by fixed workstations, desktops, and offices.
Put all together, this is what SYSPRO is calling their Digital Transformation Release (Figure 3), blending together data from the shop floor and bringing it to the mobile worker and across the value chain to the customer’s installation information and intelligence.
Conclusions — Millennial Workforce and the ERP
Manufacturing is a rewarding sector to work in. Yet many industries are challenged today, in spite of the growth in many promising sectors. To gain insights into the customers’ strategic needs, such as the challenge to recruit and retain a talented work pool (not just their technology needs), SYSPRO, through dialogue and customer surveys, is partnering with their customers to prepare for the millennial workforce transformation as baby boomer and Generation X workers retire en masse. The millennials have very high expectations of their work content and the enabling technologies that they will use (see Figure 4). Companies who cannot provide these are at a big disadvantage with the new work force.
As we know, consumer system paradigms have been driving enterprise system providers to modernize, simplify, and still provide more powerful solutions. The technology companies who don’t keep in step, or stay slightly ahead, may also find themselves at a bigger disadvantage. SYSPRO does not intend to be one of those.
Digitalization — the Millennial Complexity
Today, we are in the throes of a continuous transformation due to technology innovation and adoption. Whether or not you believe in the singularity — that we will incorporate more AI right into our biological structure or that robots will take over all our jobs — since the last decade we have been moving rapidly into a millennium of complexity and connectivity that will transform the future.
These trends that ChainLink Research had identified in ~2011 are now becoming the norm:
- Intelligence, Everywhere and Everything Intelligent — IoT/Auto-ID, sensors, and embedded intelligence in use from supply chain to healthcare to high availability automated environments.
- Collaboration Convergence — a convergence of previously disparate technologies, such as functional applications, video, voice, and social networks enabling education, remote diagnostics, and global business collaboration on anytime and anywhere platforms — mostly in the cloud.
- Anywhere Enterprise — the breaking down of enterprise walls and changing the mode of work through mobile and cloud. Instead of being tied to an office, the “anywhere enterprise” creates a flexible environment for work and federated value chains.
1 Read SYSPRO’s Remarkable Journey. — Return to article text above
2 This is much greater than just a superficial UI. It will become part of our world in which everything and every person is connected into agile networks. Peter Lucas, author of Trillions, stated, “We are entering an era of unbounded millennial complexity.” He was not referring to fickle “latest trend” followers, but to the trillions of devices that will have built-in sensors and microprocessors on every person and thing, creating a trillion-node web. To support this infinite digitally-connected web requires us to rethink how we are organized: people, facilities, partnerships and information, and how we run our supply chains. For more on this see appendix, above. — Return to article text above
SYSPRO’s Content Library
More on AI/robotics: Thinking Machines
More articles about SYSPRO from ChainLink: Making Dollars and Sense
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