Epicor is attempting to position itself to take advantage of the anticipated explosion in front office and business intelligence applications by rolling out a raft of products over the next year.
The $250 million supplier, which was formerly known as Platinum Software and sells enterprise resource applications (ERA) into the midrange market, also plans to rewrite its existing offerings to take advantage of the Web.
And Microsoft's technology, especially Biztalk, which will be used as the repository for XML schemas, is key to the rewrite.
Mike Pennell, epicor's senior vice president of product marketing, said: "We recognise customers will be working with others that have different applications. We'll enable them to communicate through XML by providing translators for the many possible XML standards."
But he acknowledged that the project was consuming significant development resources and was unlikely to comply fully with Biztalk until August 2000. "We are dependent on Microsoft for this," he added.
The new applications will fall into three main areas: ecommerce, ebusiness and business intelligence.
Pennell said the company believes that ebusiness and ecommerce are closely related, but separate markets. As a result, from January to March 2000, it plans to roll out business to customer and business to business storefronts, followed by a customer and supplier portal in the late summer.
The firm is also developing what it calls "interactive CRM" products to enable users to interact with customers in the presales, sales and support process.
For example, it will be possible to set up automatic alerts for epicor sales personnel advising them of specific customer activity on the storefront. Epicor's Netmeeting will also enable customers to see the sales person over the Web."We want end customers to feel like they are interacting with a real store sales person," Pennell explained.By late 2000 or early 2001, the company also expects to release product configuration and supplier relationship management applications. These will focus on dealing with supply chain issues such as integrated ordering, configuration, buying, requisition and resupply in the business to business market.
Other development work includes channel, field service and support management extensions to epicor's current customer relationship management applications.
On the business intelligence side, the firm will also provide sales and support personnel with access to data warehouse based information to enable them to understand key performance criteria and what makes up the underlying transactions.
Although the initiatives were broadly welcomed, some commentators wondered whether the company was trying to take on too much, however.
Jyoti Banerjee, chief executive of London based TBC Research, said: "Epicor has done a great job of explaining its development and product strategy. But execution may not be all it hopes." Rod Johnson, research director at Boston based AMR Research also said in a recent research note: "Epicor has come much closer to solidifying its position. Whether it will be left running with the pack or left licking its wounds will be determined in the second half of next year, however."
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