Enterprise Times spoke to Kevin Stilwell, Channel Sales Manager of SYSPRO, EMEA. His role is to develop the UK market alongside partners. Within the UK, the global ERP has never sold direct. Historically, it used a distribution model, and it is now in the early stages of developing the SYSPRO brand in the UK using a partner model.
I asked Stilwell to deliver the thirty-second pitch for SYSPRO.
“SYSPRO is a global ERP provider, targeting mid-range SME customers and upwards, with a broad range of solutions. We have been in the market for over 45 years and have significant ongoing product development. We are a private company with twelve regional offices across six continents. There are more than 15,000 companies using SYSPRO worldwide, 80% of whom are in manufacturing, and we continue to grow year on year.”
“As well as SYSPRO UK employees we also have several UK based staff, working for our central function in South Africa. We have a central facility in South Africa that covers product development and support.
“The SYSPRO business had been based on a single UK partner, prior to my joining that had changed, and I joined in 2021 to recruit new partners and develop our UK business.”
A tale of 2 years
What did you achieve in 2023?
“The new partners started to make a significant contribution to our UK business, our existing partner grew, and overall, 2023 was a strong year for us. What was also important is that the SYSPRO ecosystem grew in the UK. Customers and prospects had choices, and whilst we remain channel-centric, they had the opportunity to engage directly with SYSPRO, growing the SYSPRO brand in the UK.”
What do you hope to achieve in 2024?
“It’s funny. I had to do a presentation to my boss about where we were going to go in 2024 and beyond. Using the analogy of a bicycle, I showed him a picture of a fixed-wheel bicycle with no gears and one of a bicycle with ten gears. I said we have moved from the first one to the second one, and we want to continue moving through the gears.
“The focus for us is on new business. We obviously have existing customers, and that is important to the company. I want to increase our market share, which, like most organisations, is a low single digit. For me, next year looks like this year but accelerated.”
The largest, SAP, has only a 6.5% share of the global ERP market, to put that into perspective. Stilwell continued:
“I would like to add more partners, but in the current economy and what has happened over the last few years, that is very challenging. We have moved to a partner strategy, and there is very little competition in new business between the partners.
“I certainly think there is room for two or three more partners. We have talked to a number of Sage and Microsoft partners who are a bit disillusioned with their market. When they look at what they need to do in terms of commitment in difficult economic times, it’s a challenge.”
SYSPRO suits almost any kind of manufacturer
Who are your customers?
“If I look across the world, we touch every single manufacturing discipline that you might find. I was talking to a company a few weeks ago in a market sector that is not one that we cover, and they basically assemble. They don’t see themselves as a manufacturer. What they needed was a bill of materials. So when we got to that, we said you are no different to any other manufacturer. You could be manufacturing electronic parts. Then they said, ‘Actually, that’s so true’.
“Every manufacturer you talk to says they are different. We have different processes. When you get down to it, yes, they have nuances about what they do, but a lot of what they do is the same. They have obviously got to have their differentiators to give them their competitive advantage. Actually, that’s one of the things with SYSPRO: you can configure it, and you can easily extend it within SYSPRO itself. That allows you to continue to follow the product (upgrades).”
Stilwell compared this to legacy solutions, where extending a solution meant that future version releases could no longer be applied.
“Through implementation and the flexibility of SYSPRO, we can meet most customer requirements. We can also give them that edge that they need by extending SYSPRO. That’s good for the customer.”
What do you see as your partners’ challenges?
“Partners’ challenges are the economy, but having said that, a lot of people use the economy as an excuse, and I have always thought this through my whole career. I have been selling IT Solutions for about 40 years, and I do think that it gives a lot of IT companies an opportunity.
“When I talk to manufacturers, the challenges that they face are planning, security, supply chain, and all these things point to if you have a proper ERP, it would help you to overcome some of those challenges.
“If you look at some of the planning solutions that we have around optimising the machinery that they have got, around giving them more information in the process, profitability and waste, all of those things that when economic times are tough, that is when you should start to think of doing of it.
“My theory is that when times are good, they throw people at it. Now is the time that companies need to be investing if they havn’t got technology. One of the things I have seen is organisations that know they need to do it but (ask) should we be investing now.
“We went to the manufacturer awards last year in Liverpool. The chairman of MAKE UK is a scientist, and he told the story of how Stephenson’s rocket was developed and how it ran over people. He was making the point that UK manufacturers have always had setbacks, but don’t give up. It was quite an interesting story.
“He then talked about manufacturing and the challenges that manufacturers face with the current economy. He said manufacturing is resilient, and we are going to get through this. The biggest thing that you guys need to do is don’t stop spending, don’t stop implementing, just get on and do it. It was quite interesting as a vendor to hear their own industry body telling them that they had to do it.”
What are your challenges?
“Challenges are the economy, the perception of the economy and SYSPRO’s brand in the UK, getting more opportunities, it is the best kept secret. For me, it is about brand awareness, about growing our new business.”
What about your priorities?
“Priorities, I guess one leads to the other. It’s about brand awareness, new opportunities and developing partners so that they continue to grow.”
The book question
What was the latest book you read, and what was the takeout for business?
“It was a Jack Reacher book. Number 15 in the series, it’s the last one and appeared on my Audible on 24th November. I’m not sure there was a takeout for business from it.”