QAD customers gathered in San Antoniofor theirannual QAD Explore Customer Conference. This spring is a re-affirmation of the power of Manufacturing. NetSuite, Epicor, SAP, Synergy Resources, Plex Systems, PTC, Grape Escape (for SYSPRO and UNIT4 updates), manufacturing leaders and others had record attendees at their conferences, with Manufacturing and Distribution companies in an innovative mood.
Pamela Lopker1 kicked off the conference with a discussion of QAD’s Effective Enterprise—a key vision for QAD. Ms. Lopker stated, “We define an Effective Enterprise as one where every business process is working at peak efficiency and perfectly aligned to the company’s strategic goals.” Lofty goal!
So what does peak mean now? Change. It means better person-to-person communication and integration though better data, mobile, and analytics. QAD’s goal is to ensure that their customers achieve that state.
Pam took a brief walk through history—from mainframes to cloud—a path that QAD has walked with their customers for several decades now. Notably, all platforms still exist in the customer base with almost one third of the attendees still without cloud applications. For QAD, this presents the challenge of taking care of customers across the platform continuum. (See ERP’s Dilemma in this issue).
Key parts of QAD’s enhancements are role-based views and work on the UI. I especially liked the addition of voice. Many users are getting used to voice interface (Dragon, iPhone, Android users have voice) and this technology is particularly useful in the yard and shop floor. “Google Glass” interactive eyewear is also on the drawing board, as are gesture interfaces. These types of technologies release us from being tethered to laptops and typing. Slightly disturbing, but interesting, was the ‘thinking’ demonstration in which the user had sensors on his head and directed the system. (This is great for paraplegics, but having to focus one’s thinking to direct the system makes me hope this technology does not show up at work anytime soon.)
Karl Lopker (CEO) continued the discussion, focusing on the company’s performance as they continue to invest in technology and people. Though QAD’s growth is probably hampered to some degree by the slow manufacturing sector (they say), the competition is really stiff in this sector. QAD revenues grew about $5M last year for a year-end of $252 million. This slow growth could be a challenge for them, as their competitors lead with tens and hundreds of millions of growth. However, QAD remains a highly profitable company and put much of that cash into product innovation. This is good for the ongoing value return for QAD customers. QAD’s manufacturing functionality stands up quite well, next to bigger rivals.
On demand continues to be a growing area for QAD. (Read Manufacturing in the Cloud Heats Up, in this issue.) Their on demand subscription revenue is growing steeply. Interestingly, about half of QAD’s on demand customers are defectors from on premise ERP. On demand can also be used as a way to extend the enterprise, especially in new divisions or internationally where the company may not have IT and infrastructure capabilities. We often hear manufacturers say that a major reason for using cloud in manufacturing is that it allows a ‘source anywhere/build anywhere’ holistic company strategy.
One area of focus for QAD is Business Process Management (BPM). BPM now wraps around the QAD software modules, which can come in quite handy to support their QAD Enterprise Applications. Enterprise Applications modularizes or makes suites out of major functional areas such as financials, customer management, or asset management, to name a few. This also helps support the workflow across and beyond QAD modules to partner solutions.
Beyond on demand, BPM, and other innovations, the QAD store provides easy access to understanding and purchasing products from QAD as well as their partners.
Last year, QAD purchased DynaSys, a supply chain suite that includes demand planning, distribution, advance planning and scheduling (APS), procurement planning, and S&OP. This in-memory high-performance software finally provides QAD with a product designed to compete against other APS systems owned by ERP providers such as Oracle, SAP, and American Software, to name a few. Customers are embracing this capability which has many customers implementing multiple modules, including demand, S&OP, and production planning.
Gaining access to data and making implementation easy is a key theme for QAD. A noble goal, since, in general, implementing manufacturing and ERP is not one of the easiest tasks you will ever do in your career.
Refinements continue in their consulting organization to help with both business performance (are you getting the most out of your ERP investment) and upgrading to new versions of the software. QAD is not alone in end-user adoption challenges,2 but they seem focused on attempting to make it easy to use, install, and upgrade the system. Obviously this helps with customer loyalty, which is critical for QAD’s long-term competitiveness.