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Last week, I attended the annual JRocket Marketing Grape Escape event in Chicago. As always, I was able to learn about the newest announcements from vendors such as SYSPRO and Apparancy and had the opportunity to catch up with some of my analyst colleagues from other firms. Since the event had been moved from Boston to Chicago this year, we were also treated to some Chicago-specific entertainment. The theme of this year’s event was based on Chicago Gangland. First, we went on a tour of the city’s gangster landmarks. Then we had a brief press conference in the Abbot Oceanarium at the Shedd Aquarium with beluga whales swimming in the background (and a few noisy seals in a neighboring tank) . Lastly, we enjoyed dinner in the presence of a large tank featuring a variety of sea life before some evening entertainment. All in all, it was a fun event, but the purpose of this blog is to let you know what I learned about SYSPRO and Apparancy.

Let’s start with SYSPRO. You’re probably aware that SYSPRO is a comprehensive, flexible ERP vendor that supports a variety of industries including aerospace, automotive, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, and wholesale / distribution. Much of the briefing focused on SYSPRO Espresso, the company’s mobile solution. The solution offers easy to use ERP applications that can be access on mobile devices in formats that are tailored to those specific devices. But what I most wanted to focus on was a SYSPRO user who spoke at the press conference and sat at my table at dinner. This is because I think the speaker, Kim Pedersen, CEO and company founder of 1000Bulbs, has a story that truly speaks to how SYSPRO can be a true business partner for organizations as they grow.

1000Bulbs is an internet-based distributor of more than 30,000 lighting products. It was started by Pedersen in 1994, with $5,000 and a ton of hard work. Pedersen had a passion, and special skill, for selling light bulbs and has since become the only competitor in its space, achieving $90 million in online sales for its lighting products. As an online retailer, SYSPRO is an integral part of 1000Bulbs’ success. Chiefly, the ecommerce environment enables 1000Bulbs to take orders quickly and provide full visibility into customer data. This enables great customer service. For example, the organization has a special process for when an order comes in for an out of stock item and that item is either back-ordered or no longer has a source. The order is automatically transferred to a suspense file where a rep can personally contact the customer to provide better service.

But really what struck me the most was Pedersen’s passion for his company as well as how thankful he was to SYSPRO for their help in its success. This guy is a hard worker, who really cares about his company. He still works just as hard as he did when he was working 15 hour days to start it. This hard work has paid off and SYSPRO has been able to support him. Pedersen states that the company is growing by 30% every year, and for this reason he is thankful for SYSPRO’s scalability. The amount of internet transactions has grown exponentially and the system has been able to handle it. Further, Pedersen is most thankful for the level of support that SYSPRO provides. He cited a specific example where SYSPRO was able to resolve issues with a third-party ordering system (that were not SYSPRO’s fault) that would have basically shut down operations. Pedersen stated “I like to say about SYSPRO that when we cry, they cry; when we laugh, they laugh.” Our conversation at dinner really drove home how a well-suited ERP system can mean so much to a business as they attempt to establish themselves, due to how emotional Pedersen was about the solution.

Next, let’s take a look at Apparancy. Earlier this year, you may have seen a video with me where I interviewed Karen Watts, Founder and CEO, where we discussed how the Business Process Management platform designed by Apparancy would be used by employers and healthcare providers to handle the increased amount of data and compliance needs in healthcare that come with the Affordable Care Act. At this event, Watts spoke more about a subject that is closer to her heart, benefits for our nation’s veterans.

During the time that Apparancy has been trying to determine where the most opportunity for its solution lays, Watts has also been subject to a lot of stress attempting to help her stepfather, a veteran, secure the surgery that he desperately needed. It was a process filled with waiting lists, confusion, mistakes, and frustration. It dawned on Watts that this presented a great opportunity to pair Apparancy’s ability to automate tasks, provide alerts, ensure compliance, promote collaboration, collect and synchronize data, and combine data sources with technology that can help veterans to receive the benefits they need.

This lead Apparancy to gain the rights to a solution called TurboVet which catalogued thousands of Veterans Administration forms. The next step was to update and integrate these forms into the Apparancy platform. This resulted in VetApprove which will help to guide veterans through the process of accessing the forms they need immediately and without confusion. The next step is to convince the Veterans Administration to automate VetApprove into its own process, which is already gaining traction.

Apparancy is emerging as a platform designed to support workflows and compliance for hot-button issues. Throughout 2014, the company will launch solutions that support healthcare-related operational processes, financial processes, and the previously mentioned VetApprove solution. For 2015, Apparancy has announced a partnership with SaaSOptics, a solution designed to manage revenue recognition for subscription businesses. The company has identified Apparancy as a useful implementation process tool to facilitate deployment of their own solutions. Apparancy is biting off quite a bit as a part of its launch strategy, but if it succeeds it will be able to provide a powerful platform for its business partners, and an essential tool for its customers that are looking to manage compliance and efficiency.

All in all, it was successful Grape Escape 2014. It’s always great to hear success stories about midsize businesses utilizing ERP and new ideas on how BPM can benefit organizations and individuals. I look forward to more in the fall during the annual JRocket Marketing roadshow.

Nick Castellina 
Research Director
Business Planning and Execution
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