Infor SyteLine users and IT industry analysts alike have a lot to digest after the company's recent announcement of a major update of its ERP platform.
The new release, Infor SyteLine 9.00, includes changes to much of the ERP's core functionality, according to Infor. Users will now have the option to deploy SyteLine in a single-instance database or across multi-site databases. Cloud deployment and development will also run smoother with 9.00, the company claimed, with more support available for customers who prefer a hosted platform. Environmental and safety compliance could become easier, with users gaining the ability to track and report for Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) and Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) standards. On the financials side, SyteLine users will have more flexibility when it comes to managing financial calendars, books, promotional pricing, rebates and surcharges, according to the New York-based vendor.
"Infor really packed a lot of new features into this release. This is a solid stable release that has generated a lot of buzz in the user community," said Ken Kemp, IT manager at Reading, Penn.-based plastic manufacturer Brentwood Industries, and president of the SyteLine User Network. "We want to see continued growth of the product with new technical features and customer enhancements."
Kemp is most excited about the update's new multi-site visibility and financial improvements, he said, because they address Brentwood's longstanding need for multiple fiscal year calendars to better meet the needs of customers in foreign countries.
Despite these improvements, however, Brentwood will not be upgrading to 9.00 in the near future. "We upgraded to SL 8.03 in December of 2012, so we will not look to upgrade [to 9.00] until December 2015 or 2016," he explained. "This is primarily due to the impact of upgrading six domestic facilities and three international facilities. We typically manage upgrades ourselves, with some assistance from Infor as needed."
Infor SyteLine update puts pressure on Oracle, SAP
The Infor SyteLine update is a significant addition to the ERP software playing field, some experts said. "At a time when many companies are acquiring, merging or selling off [their] operations, one of the greatest challenges is to integrate IT so that it can support business decisions and the necessary legislative financial reporting documentation in a fast and accurate manner, irrespective of the restructuring that may be happening within," said Keith Nichols, principal at Cambridge, U.K.-based analyst firm Cambashi.
Infor users may have some advantages over Oracle and SAP customers, he added, with the ability to roll up month-end results across different ERP systems across the business. "It takes the pressure off having to have the same ERP system to achieve fast roll-ups, and it can be done in hours rather than the usual days and weeks each month or at intermediate points in the month to provide snapshots of the overall business performance," Nichols said.
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Steven Phillips, an ERP and supply chain implementation expert, blogger and book author, views the Infor SyteLine announcement as good news for manufacturers that are struggling to manage complex networks of business operations in multiple locations.
"In the past, if an organization wanted to keep the business units separate using a given ERP package, this would require complete standalone systems for each business, which substantially increases the cost of ownership. The ability to deploy separate databases under the same system infrastructure is a breakthrough," he said. "However, the extent that system redundancies will be eliminated with the Infor approach is unclear without additional information."
Customization options expand with update
The ability to develop customizations in a cloud environment may be the most significant aspect of the update, according to Phillips. Most ERP systems require customization to take place in internally hosted systems, and the inability to write custom code has deterred many users from moving to the cloud.
"The Infor announcement addresses this with development tools provided for extended functionality of cloud solutions. Likewise in the announcement, the ability to write or customize your own mobile apps will accelerate the adoption of this technology within manufacturing companies," he said.
Phillips cautioned that while the SyteLine update promises a lot, customers should retain some healthy skepticism.
"Infor's product strategy has focused on acquiring many different software packages from other vendors. Whether Infor can deliver on the application integration of SyteLine and the other products is a big question mark, as history has shown this is easier said than done," he said. "For example, years ago Oracle had the same product strategy and announced Fusion Middleware as the technology to provide seamless integrations. Though the product finally exists, it has never lived up to the hype and scope of the original announcement."
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