Syspro: A Matter of Focus

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By Richard McCausland

With an enterprise suite that exceeds 40 modules, Syspro USA places a premium on training. "Knowledge can only make a value-added reseller stronger," explains vice president Joey Benadretti. "This is not just about, 'Here's my product; go sell it.'"

Accordingly, even though the Costa Mesa, Calif.-based operation is actively recruiting channel partners, "We're aiming to bring in the right players. We're trying to avoid the type of VAR who wants to be everything to everybody," serving both mom-and-pop shops and multi-billion-dollar enterprises, explains Benadretti. "Those companies don't have focus, and that's a key element for us."

Partner Insights

Focus is essential, since the Syspro suite--known as Impact Encore until assuming the corporate moniker as part of a rebranding initiative two years ago--encompasses wide-ranging accounting, distribution, and manufacturing functionality. It runs on Windows 98/NT/2000/XP, Novell, Unix, or Linux networks with a SQL or C-ISAM database. Modules cover financial controls, sales, purchasing, inventory control, material requirements planning, forecasting, distribution, advanced planning and scheduling, warehouse management, and customer relationship management.

Version 6.0 incorporates e.net technology, which is based on the Microsoft .Net architecture and eXtensible Markup Language standard. E.net is meant to make it easier for Syspro customers to integrate third-party applications, trade online with business partners, and facilitate remote communications among a company's various constituencies.

Syspro recently began focusing on vertical niches within its manufacturing and distribution strongholds. The company markets a Trade Promotion and Deduction Management module for businesses that sell through retail, a Material Yield System targeted to cut-shape suppliers in plastics and metals that need to reclaim remnants and return them to stock, and a Collection module for automated debt collection.

Headquartered in South Africa, 25-year-old Syspro has offices in the U.K., Canada, and Australia, as well as in Costa Mesa. There are now 230 resellers worldwide, of which 150 are in North America. "Almost all" of the latter are in the U.S., notes Benadretti. The company is looking to expand its number of American partners.

The one-time certification fee is $10,000, and margins span from 40 to 50 percent. Under a formal Annual License Fee Program for building a revenue stream, end users are charged 12 percent of their software cost for ongoing use of Syspro following the first year; the VAR partner receives 30 percent of that amount.

Because of the functional diversity, Syspro requires VARs to undergo 13 days of sequential training on all core modules. This can be supplemented with the Syspro Learning Channel, a Web-based tool for interactive seminars and self-paced training. "People want to learn when they have the time to learn," notes Benadretti.

Training encompasses product features and capabilities, business processes, technology platforms, implementation guidelines, sales tips and competitive positioning, and advice on how to make the most of a demo. "Learning is about using," comments Benadretti.

There are also hands-on courses designed to educate resellers in the proprietary STARS (Structured Technique to Achieve a Rapid Solution) methodology. It's designed to get new client sites up and running quickly by helping to structure the implementation process, as well as encouraging accountability and action to keep budgets and deadlines on track.

"With a new VAR, our goal is to get them their first deal in 90 days," notes Benadretti. With that in mind, the vendor created a Kick Start program that includes assisting the reseller with drawing up a feasible business plan, assigning a business development rep, and aiding with end-user demos. A consulting and implementation team may even help out with a site review and install.

Authorized business partners receive a not-for-resale version of the software for internal use and demo purposes. Additional services include toll-free phone, email, and fax support; technical bulletins and newsletters; and password-protected access to a collaborative portal community on the Syspro Web site.

Marketing services include telemarketing and lead management, product collateral including direct mail pieces and demo CDs, access to reference accounts, and pre- and post-sales support. The vendor's brand-building program also encompasses trades shows, print and Web ads, and participation in product reviews.

The company has no formal co-op marketing program. "We'd rather work this out with each organization," says Benadretti. Nor is there a requirement for a dedicated Syspro sales or technical person on staff. It's "our suggestion" that they have these dedicated resources, says channel development manager Jeff Arbuckle. This reflects the corporate view that "We have to earn the right to get their mind share." In fact, most of the existing resellers do have dedicated Syspro staffers.

Syspro's "sweet spot" centers on manufacturers and distributors with annual revenue of $10 million to $75 million. Arbuckle estimates that a 10-user system comprising about a dozen modules--core financials and manufacturing, plus WIP and MRP--runs $30,000. That can escalate to $100,000 for a 25-user system with Advanced Planning and MRP.

A "fairly high" number of current resellers either have CPA-credentialed staff or an affiliation with a local accounting firm, notes Arbuckle. "We'll be doing a push to strengthen our relationships with those types of organizations," he says.

Syspro is even looking at courting CPAs as recommenders. "That would be a [potential] area of improvement for us, but we need to come up with a solid program first," observes Benadretti. He points out that "it's really hard" to get a bead on CPAs, since even among those who clearly don't want to resell software, there's a sizable portion that want to be actively involved in providing implementation services. One way or another, CPAs "will become an even bigger part of our game plan."

Flexible User Counts
Since teaming with Syspro eight years ago, Northbrook, Ill.-based Business Technology Partners has brought about a hundred clients into the fold, encompassing job shops, distribution houses, and a "large presence" in the consumer packaged-goods industry. Ten of the reseller's 13 employees get involved in Syspro installs.

Implementations have ranged from eight concurrent users all the way up to 64 users, although they average from 16 to 24 users, according to Todd Perlman, a principal who oversees BTP, the consulting division of the Miller Cooper & Co. accounting practice. A 16-user system that incorporates a range of financial, manufacturing (Bill of Materials, Work in Progress), and some additional functionality ("maybe Report Writer") can carry a price tag of $50,000 to $70,000. "Our services are typically 75 percent of the software cost since a lot of the process flow exists already in the software," notes Perlman. "That makes it a very easy system to implement."

No less beneficial, in his view, is the software's modularity, which lends itself to a budget-sensitive, phased deployment. "You can get into the system and then grow with it," as Perlman puts it.

Syspro Snapshot
HQ: Sunninghill, South Africa
Revenue: $44 million (2003)
Founded: 1978
Employees: 356
Products: Syspro v6.0 enterprise software
Operations Resource Group, a certified Syspro VAR based in Sunnyvale, Calif., has largely focused on original equipment manufacturers, contractors, and distributors. With its broad modularity, Syspro allows customers to grow with it at their own speed, according to ORG president Heide Wilson. "People can continue to add value to the software by bringing in new functionality," she notes. For instance, Wilson cites a six-year customer who is just now adding CRM.

Syspro is allowing ORG to grow, as well. The reseller has been able to establish a niche with medical and biotechnology companies in large part because of Syspro's Lot Tracing module. Likewise, ORG is making a dent among companies "who sell into the broad retailers" such as Wal-Mart and Sears because of the availability of "super" EDI and Landed Cost Tracking modules.

Richard McCausland is Senior Editor of Accounting Technology and can be reached at richard.mccausland@thomsonmedia.com.

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