Epicor has announced the launch of Prophet 21, its ERP for wholesale distributors to the UK market. The announcement followed its launch in Australia last year and was signposted by Himanshu Palsule at Epicor Insights. Enterprise Times spoke to Mark Hughes, regional vice president UK & Ireland, Epicor about the launch.
What is Prophet 21
Epicor Prophet 21 is a modern cloud-based ERP solution that is purpose-built for wholesale distributors. It consists of several elements aimed at improving the efficiency of key areas of a wholesale distributors business. These include:
- Customer Relationship Management
- Order Management
- Inventory Management
- Wireless Warehouse Management System
- Service and Maintenance
Users can extend the solution by leveraging other integrated Epicor products such as Epicor Commerce Connect for eCommerce and Epicor Data Analytics(EDA) and business intelligence. Companies can also leverage Epicor Reporting, Analytics and Epicor EVA.
Epicor Virtual Agent (EVA) enables the automation of simple tasks within the solution freeing up time for Wholesale Distributors to focus on tasks that can make a difference to their business. Prophet 21 also uses the Kinetiq user experience framework, which is delivering a common user interface across its portfolio.
Last year Epicor also announced Mobile Proof of Delivery. Enterprise Times asked Hughes: is this included?
“Everything that’s on the roadmap will be available in the UK. Like all of our go-forward products, single code base and regionalised through country-specific functionality. For the UK, that includes things like VAT Making Tax Digital. They layer on top of the core code which will be consistent whether that’s US, UK, Australia or anywhere else.”
As Hughes mentioned, MTD, Enterprise Times asked why HMRC did not yet list Prophet 21. Hughes answered:
“It is compliant but hasn’t been signed off yet by HMRC. That’s a testing process you need to go through. So what else is in the CSF? UK VAT currency, UK English. We’ve done some enhancements around GDPR as well because the GDPR requirements are different between regions.“
What about partner solutions?
Epicor also announced an integration to TrackAbout last year in the US. How will Prophet 21 leverage the application partner ecosystem in the UK? TrackAbout doesn’t have a presence in the UK.
“There’ll be certain pieces where there are integrations to third parties that are local. There are some global integration with couriers, FedEx as a global organisation is one, but others are more local. Where there are integrations to third party products that are more localised, we would look to replicate those relationships with local providers, if they don’t translate. Where we have payment gateway providers, they would be local ones.”
Is Prophet 21 replacing any Epicor solutions? Hughes answered:
“It replaces a number of our older distribution products, many of them acquisitions, products like QDS. There’s about seven or eight, with quite significant customer bases, some of whom have been customers for more than 20 years. It’s not a replacement; it’s a migration for all of those customers.”
One questions if this is the best time or the worst time to launch a new product on the market. Enterprise Times asked Hughes about the challenges he sees.
“The market is in a very interesting in place at the moment. For people to make any investment in technology or systems at the moment, the value proposition has to be very strong. One of the challenges is in creating a pipeline at the moment because people are in business survival mode.”
He then continued adding:
“If you’re going to pick a time to launch a new product, this wouldn’t be one of the best. That said, what I’m finding when talking to a lot of potential customers, is that they see the need to be much more efficient. They’ve survived through the last three or four months. They’re coming out of that into a recovery and regrow phase. That is going to require being more efficient. Technology can help a lot with that, especially when it comes to managing supply chains, stock levels, getting accurate reporting and getting an understanding of what their customers are buying.
“In some ways, it’s the worst possible time to go to market with a new product. In other ways, we are seeing an awful lot of interest because people have been looking inwards for three months and are realising that what they’ve got hasn’t helped them and they might need to make changes.”
Go to market
Epicor has a partner presence in the UK, and Enterprise Times asked Hughes whether he would create a partner channel for the solution. He explained:
“It’s a good opportunity going forward. At the moment, we will be doing it direct. We’ve got a number of customers already in the UK. Our launch plan into the UK is to offer a migration platform for some of those legacy products, as well as for new business. As we start to ramp that up, we will bring channel partners on board. Probably none of our existing ones because we’ll be looking for organisations with distribution-specific capabilities.
“There are some interesting opportunities at the moment. With what’s going on in the world, a number of channel partners for the vendors are potentially thinking about their future. I don’t think it is inconceivable that we would recruit a new set of distribution channel partners to take it to market in the UK, but that will be a second phase once we’ve bedded down.”
BisTrack focuses on merchants in the distribution supply chain, mainly servicing companies with trade counters. Hughes explained that Prophet 21 is focused higher up the supply chain. There is little cross over between the two solutions in terms of vertical target markets, except perhaps Electrical. Enterprise Times asked Hughes which verticals his team would attack first.
“We will make it pretty vertically specific because where we’ve got our domain expertise. Fasteners, electrical, plumbing and tiles are the big ones for us to start with. We understand electrical wholesale distribution and plumbers and fasteners is a really good fit on the product. Any of the 11 target ones are there, but those ones specifically will be our initial pushes.”
The full list of verticals that Prophet 21 targets is:
- Consumer packaged goods
- Fluid power
- Medical supply/pharmaceuticals
- Paper and packaging
- Safety supply
- Tile and flooring
- Welding supply/packaged gases
What about those existing customers?
Hughes explained that Epicor has five customers currently in the UK. One of these is Radwell International Inc, a large multinational company that uses Prophet 21 on-premise in the UK. The others are either subsidiaries of US customers or customers from when Epicor first launched Prophet 21 in the UK several years ago.
John Janthor, Radwell International Inc, VP information technology, global, Radwell commented, “Prophet 21 has allowed us to better manage our global business. One of the key benefits is that we have been able to vastly improve customer communication, as the system allows multilingual documentation to be sent, meaning that we can reach a larger group of customers.
“Our staff can now work collaboratively and inter-departmentally, which has led to a huge time-saving, whilst the functionality allowing notes to be added to orders acts as a great audit trail. This has reduced delays, improved transparency, and the flow of work for all involved. Sales order processing, inventory and accounting are now tied together in one turn-key ERP system that has become more accurate and straightforward.”
Enterprise Times also asked Hughes about progress for the product in Australia. There has been little in the way of wins coming out of the country for the product. Hughes explained:
“Probably not as successful as we’d have all would have liked it to have been. We’d all like to have gone and sold hundreds of sites. They have gained new customers, and there are a lot of customers in the pipeline.
“The Australian market has proved a little bit different; it’s very highly geographically distributed. What’s happened in Australia is that there has been a ramp-up period for Epicor in terms of building the marketing engine, the pipeline, and so on. It’s been slower than we’d anticipated, slower than we’d hoped, but it’s gaining quite a lot of traction now. In fact, I saw a new customer come through today on Prophet 21 in Australia.”
Hughes then explained what makes the UK market different.
“The big difference for me between Australia and the UK is Australia hasn’t got a legacy of selling distribution products. In the UK, we know the market really well. We’ve got lots of customers in the distribution space on older products. We’ve got lots of consultants that support them and know distribution really well. “
Enterprise Times: What does this mean
As Hughes noted, it is an interesting time to bring a product to market. However, in Prophet 21 Epicor has a mature and widely used multi-tenant Cloud-based solution. It offers a clear migration option for companies looking to replace legacy solutions that in the current crisis, may have proven not fit for purpose. Prophet 21 works for wholesale distributors with a few users up to a large multinational such as Radwell. That it has chosen to adopt a cloud-first approach is sensible in the long run. It will make it easier to service the clients.
Epicor is likely in time to replace the Prophet 21 financial module with the standard Epicor Financials module. That is already in use by BisTrack, Tropos and Epicor ERP. Prophet 21 is one of the key go-forward applications that Epicor has, and it would make sense to do so.
Hughes also commented that they are already in discussion with the four QDS customers in the UK. One of them is migrating to Epicor ERP 10, and the others are looking to migrate to Prophet 21. They and others should provide a customer reference base that should help it attack the wider market. This could see a resurgence for Epicor in the UK in a market that has lain dormant for several years. There is competition though, and Epicor, especially in the larger targets, is likely to compete against NetSuite, Infor and others.