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Technology / Software

Epicor CEO bets on the customer in mid-market fight against Microsoft & NetSuite

CBR travelled to the home of country music, Nashville Tennessee, where Epicor CEO and President Joe Cowan shared his vision for the company on the eve of it’s annual Insights conference.

Like so many companies embracing what is being termed the ‘age of the customer’, the CEO’s strategy starts with that vital demographic:

“When I look at the vision I look at it in the context of my customers, because our vision better be how we can serve them better,” Mr Cowan told CBR’s Ellie Burns.

“I look at technology, and I look at it moving so fast, but the key to it – and I go back and look at ERP systems – anytime a company transitions from one ERP to the next, its a pretty traumatic experience because its typically not easy to do. Customers want to go down this journey. They want to get new things, they want new systems, they want to change – but change is painful and hard.

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“Our goal is to be the partner. We understand technology and we partner with them to take them down that journey to move that particular problem for them.”

Epicor CEO and President Joe Cowan
Epicor CEO and President Joe Cowan

The CEO is due on the keynote stage this week in Nashville, just minutes away from the world famous Grand Ole Opry, to sing the praises of a concept which he hopes will make Epicor the partner of choice for mid-market companies. The concept, driven by customers who are “tired of all the risk associated with change”, will be one of the core messages of the Insights conference.

“My concept that you will hear tomorrow is simple, easy, low-risk,” the CEO told CBR.

“I’m telling my people, what we’ve got to do is look at everything the customer does and understand how to make it simpler to do. If it’s our systems, how can they be simpler to interact with. If its upgrading from an older system to a newer system, how can we do it with less effort. Everything the customer needs to do when they touch the technical world of software, our goal is to figure out how to make it simpler and easier for them. Even when they interact with us, how can we be a company that is much easier to do business with.”

The CEO has been making big strides in making the company a better business to do business with, admitting to CBR that although the company had great products and great knowledge, “we’ve tended to fall down on the operational standpoint.” Mr Cowan has worked to improve execution, working on building infrastructure from an operational standpoint in order to better support customers. This will be another key message delivered by the CEO in his much-anticipated keynote.

“They [the customers] are going to see that we have built the infrastructure that we told them we were going to build, that we can now do things we need to do as a company in order to support them better,” said Mr Cowan.

The attendees to the conference can also expect the usual product launches and partnerships, alongside some more interesting moves into areas like business intelligence. Anticipating what the key takeaways will be for those attending the Insights conference, the CEO said:

“They are going to see a lot of new things in technology, we’ve got a lot of our products which we are announcing some new things. They are going to see us starting to do things in the Internet of Things; you are going to see partnerships and other things we are selling that move us more into business intelligence. They are going to see us start to wrap everything together – the way I view the world is the customer, they don’t want to buy a whole bunch of different systems, they want someone to come in to help them put all these different components together.

“It’s really about giving the customer information at the right point in time that they need to run their business, giving it to them on the devices that they use today. That’s where we are headed.”

Epicor provides industry-specific business software designed around the needs of manufacturing, distribution, retail, and services organisations. Best known for its ERP, the company also offers Human Capital Management, Financial Management, Manufacturing Execution Systems and Supply Chain Management – in both SaaS and on-premise.

The customer-driven strategy is one that the CEO hopes will continue the company’s leadership in mid-market business software. Mr Cowan told CBR that he has no aspirations to look beyond the mid-market, instead playing to its strengths in the mid-market in order to compete against rivals like Microsoft. Although the CEO recognised Microsoft and NetSuite as Epicor’s main rivals in the market, he was confident that the focus on the customer and in-depth market knowledge gave Epicor much more than a competitive edge.

“Microsoft tends to go to market through partners. Microsoft wants to be a software company and they want to use partners to get into the marketplace. If you think about Epicor, who we are, our real understanding is the markets and our customers – we have that knowledge, we have the relationships with the customers and that’s where we tend to differentiate from Microsoft. If you look at a NetSuite, again they tend to be a horizontal financial product. We are very industry specific, we know the domains we’re in and our products tend to be feature rich. So its that knowledge and understanding of the market that tends to differentiate us from the competition.

“Once upon a time Infor had a lot of that but they lost a lot of it, and where chuck [Infor CEO Charles Phillips] is trying to drive to, he’s trying to move upmarket. He wants to compete with the SAPs of the world. We want to stay down in this mid-market which is our strength.”

As the conference kicks off later this week, the ERP software leader will reveal in full detail new products, strategy roadmap and moves into areas like business intelligence and IoT. The CEO has given a somewhat candid preview of what to expect – his focus is to bring together a company built on acquisitions and mergers, build an infrastructure in which to better support customers and focus on making the customer journey as simple, easy and low-risk as possible. His challenge ahead lies in getting, as he put it, “everybody on the same page.” However, as the CEO himself admitted, that change can painful and hard.


This article is from the CBROnline archive: some formatting and images may not be present.