Epicor Software Co. recently released its Prophet 21 2020.2 cloud ERP software. Perhaps the most unique feature of the launch is an integrated reporting tool that allows anyone in the organization to go from data source to reports in less than 60 seconds and run reports without the need for special coding, database skills or requesting IT help.

Emma Vas, director of product marketing at Epicor chatted with Supply House Times’ chief editor Natalie Forster to discuss the pain-points Epicor is hearing from distributors, and how the new technology works to address them.

NF: What are the main things Epicor is aiming to help distributors accomplish with its ERP solutions?

EV: Overall distributors want to be in the business of distribution, not managing technology. A phrase we hear often is “I want my people to be able to focus on the business.”

Specifically, the main challenges we want to help our customers with are around:

  • Business agility — onboarding, financial decisions and new leads;
  • Keeping customers happy — offering e-commerce for self-service and reliable, trackable curbside delivery/pickup; and
  • Hiring and retention — robust training, time-and-money-saving automation in the warehouse and the options for employees to work remotely.

NF: Why is a cloud ERP solution so important for distributors?

EV: First, it brings a predictable cost model to operating ERP software. With the cloud, IT expenses move from capital expenses to operational expenses. The cost of maintaining servers, other hardware, disaster recovery, back-ups, even keeping the air-conditioning running in the server room go away. Once that predictable cost model is in place, distributors benefit from greater efficiency as their IT resources can spend more time prioritizing the business, and driving real strategic value, rather than getting stuck in administrative tasks.

Given the need today for remote work or wherever a distributor’s team is, they need reliable and secure communication tools to drive business continuity and rapidly respond, especially to customers or suppliers that are critical or essential to the business. Having a cloud-based ERP that runs in a browser from any device, from anywhere, without the hassle of a VPN is important to a business’s future-proof strategy.

Additionally, some of our on-premises customers have shared that they have been hit by ransomware or they know that their competitors and suppliers have been. They come to us telling us they need help to better protect their systems.

Recently, we’ve seen that in times of economic and business uncertainty, cybercriminals are taking full advantage of the situation. If you don’t have proper security measures in place, you are vulnerable. In fact, one of the most popular ways that cybercriminals will infiltrate an organization is through email. Phishing is widely cited as the most popular cyber attack, and if your company runs its email on the same servers or network as your business applications, that is the perfect highly for a hacker to get in and bring down your business. VPNs are even proven to be vulnerable. You need a smart isolation strategy that separates your business applications like ERP software, from your email. With Epicor Prohet 21 on Microsoft Azure, each customer is provisioned their own dedicated database.

NF: What new technologies do you see coming in the ERP realm?

EV: We continue to focus on enhancing our AI offerings with the Epicor Virtual Assistant (EVA). EVA Messages is a new feature that provide customers with prompt, personalized service around pricing and availability, and enables a user to provide quotes and invoices via email.

Epicor is also very focused on the connected ecosystem in a distributor’s environment. We continue to enhance our solutions that integrate into the ERP, including Electronic Data Interchange, eCommerce, electronic document management and electronic payments, just to name a few. It's always about our customers and solving their pain points.

NF: How can distributors make the most of ERP solutions to help their business?

EV: The success of a solution is all about the ease of learning how to use it and its wide adoption. Per a 2019 LinkedIn Workforce Learning Report, 94% of employees stated they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them learn. Change management is a big part of employees making the most of our ERP solution. 

Epicor Prophet 21 has a robust learning platform called Epicor University. For example, with this latest release, we have training on demand videos, knowledge on demand videos and guided learning content and articles to make sure that customers make the most of their investment in our ERP solution and gain widespread user adoption.

NF: How has the distributor response been to Prophet 21?

EV: Epicor prides itself on being the No. 1 Cloud ERP Built for Distribution. Every Epicor Prophet 21 customer is a distributor. Therefore, our solution is built with deep understanding of the distribution business. In response to Report Studio, one of our customers commented: “Wow! That really does look easy to use. Finally we can get more users building their own reports!”

Other features distributors are loving are the ability to quickly create RMAs from one or many prior invoices, safety stock updates allowing for reduced inventory investment levels and easy view of items with physical count discrepancies.