Working in partnership throughout the customer lifecycle

Long term partnerships between businesses and cloud ERP software providers can help companies to gain a competitive advantage, but a recent report found that 45% of companies look to change providers every one to three years. What is the secret to building successful long term partnerships?

The Covid-19 pandemic created and exposed existing supply chain problems, making business leaders realise the need to have access to accurate, real-time data. Digital transformation has helped them make rapid decisions and track products across their entire lifecycle to minimise and avoid disruption.

Transitioning to cloud ERP software is a key part of the digital transformation process. It empowers businesses by maximising supply chain visibility, giving them access to critical information remotely and using machine learning to find out what their supply chain will look like in the future, so they can stress-test its resilience. Finding a long-term cloud ERP partner can give a business a competitive edge, but for many companies this is proving a difficult task.

Epicor’s 2022 ‘Industry Insights Report,’ which surveyed 1,350 technology decision makers across the manufacturing, building supply, retail, automotive and care sectors in the US, UK, Australia and New Zealand, found that 94% of businesses saw cloud as a strategic priority for the year. But, it also revealed that 45% of decision makers actively consider moving to a new ERP provider every one to three years. A further 25% look every year and 6% as frequently as every month. Why are these technology leaders dissatisfied with their partners and how can cloud providers raise their game?

Several reasons were cited for considering switching providers in the report, including better functionality from another provider (30%), integration challenges with new technologies (29%), more competitive pricing from another provider (28%), and cybersecurity concerns (27%). Customers also stated clearly what they want from a provider, notably an industry and business specific solution, the ability to integrate with other business applications, data support during migration, transparency and ongoing support and training materials after the software is live.

Understanding these needs has been key to Epicor’s success. The average length of a partnership between Epicor and its partners is 13 years, while the company’s most loyal customers have been working with them for as long as 25 years. Andy Coussins, SVP and head of international at Epicor, says a tried and tested delivery framework across the entire relationship is essential. “The work begins before the purchase of any software,” he says. “We learn about our customers and their industries and it continues throughout the relationship.”

Time spent on gaining a thorough understanding of the nuances of businesses and their industries, means Epicor can provide a customised solution. “Your provider may already know your industry, but they don’t know your business uniquely, why you win, why you’re different and your aspirations,” says Coussins. “A generic ERP solution may not be the right fit, we focus on deep industry expertise in both our people and solutions. We like to say ‘made with you, for you’ because we work so closely alongside our customers.”

Data migration is another concern for businesses when moving to the cloud. In fact, 59% of participants in Epicor’s report said they want help with data backups during migration. Equally important is how they get that support; 58% of the businesses said that having a dedicated migration team would increase their comfort in the journey to the cloud. Sean Simmons, president of Epicor partner Tuffaloy Products, says the former provided perfect support. “Epicor assigned two consultants to work side by side with us, training our personnel, writing custom code, transferring the data, validating and testing. The result was a transition that went as smoothly as I could have possibly imagined.”

Speed is a necessity for modern businesses, which can’t afford costly time delays as they update systems and processes. Interoperability – the ability for a cloud ERP system to integrate seamlessly with existing sales, finance or human resource applications – is a necessity.

In May, Epicor rolled out an intelligent software integration tool, Epicor Automation Studio, that features the power of machine learning and aims to save time, eliminate manual tasks and increase productivity. It helps companies to easily connect the dots between business and operational systems, for example Salesforce, ADP, ServiceNow and over 1,000 popular application connectors, and modify and implement the workflow integrations they need.

Training materials and the availability of experts to help train up staff on cloud systems is also high up on the wish-list of businesses when assessing potential cloud providers. Even after ERP go-live, customers need ongoing support. Epicor asked business decision makers where they look for support, with leaders citing a range of sources, from technical documentation to training and blogs. Some customers even explore peer knowledge from other ERP users and user groups. Epicor has embedded learning resources into every cloud ERP solution. There are also training tools and support for role-specific tasks curated to individual learning paths to help staff to extend their knowledge of the system.

Ongoing training and support is just one example of the continuation of an effective cloud vendor partnership even after the cloud software is live and businesses are familiar with the software. In the months and years that follow, the relationship takes on a different form. “Businesses sometimes believe that after ‘go live’ the job is done, but the reality is that this is just another milestone,” says Coussins. “Once live, it’s about continuous improvement, reimagining, learning and adapting.” This is particularly important if a business expands. “Sometimes our customers buy other businesses or expand into new markets, so having a partner you can lean on in these instances is critical,” he adds.

Having the right partnerships in business is critical to long term success. Companies need an ERP partner that understands their industry, that they can trust and rely on, and has the right tools and people in place to help them to solve their problems. It’s also clear that even in a world of complex digital systems, it’s still the human connection that businesses seek from long term partnerships and what ultimately sustains them.

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