MAPICS to Integrate Windows-Based CRM with ERP for iSeries
August 3, 2004 Alex Woodie
MAPICS accelerated its product extension strategy for iSeries ERP customers last week, when it announced an expansion of its alliance with IBM. The new deal will see IBM’s middleware and Web services technology being used to make additional applications available to manufacturers that use MAPICS ERP for iSeries software. The first extension product for iSeries customers, due later this year, is the MAPICS CRM software.
IBM and MAPICS have remained close partners ever since IBM spun MAPICS off from its Atlanta software development group, nearly 25 years ago. With the majority of MAPICS customers still running their ERP software on OS/400 servers, it is in the best interests of both companies to keep the installed base happy.
As part of the alliance announced last week, the two companies pledged to cross-sell each other’s products. For IBM, that means its sales force will be pushing the ERP for iSeries software suite in the manufacturing vertical. For MAPICS, it means selling IBM’s middleware, including WebSphere and DB2. While MAPICS is a supporter of Java, and offers a version of its ERP for iSeries suite on the J2EE platform, it also supports rival Microsoft‘s Windows, .NET, and SQL Server software stack, because that is the technology on which FrontStep, the enterprise software company that MAPICS bought two years ago, developed its CRM and ERP software.
So it is quite interesting that IBM and MAPICS will be bringing the FrontStep CRM application–built on Microsoft technology, and due to be rewritten in C#–to MAPICS’s true-blue OS/400 installed base. All of the integration work will be done using IBM’s WebSphere and DB2 middleware stacks, the companies say, and Web services will be used to grease the integration.
FrontStep is a Web-based CRM application that runs on Windows NT or Windows 2000 and uses the IIS Web server and either the SQL Server or Progress database. The application helps companies manage many aspects of their business, spanning from lead generation to order placement and customer service. Specifically, the software allows users to locate products and pricing, and to place and manage orders. Customer service representatives will be able to access customer order histories and view order status online. Salespeople use the software to prepare quotes and to gain access to leads and performance data, while marketers can use FrontStep to plan, execute, and analyze multi-tiered marketing campaigns.
ERP for iSeries customers have been encouraged to use the CRM product for some time, even without the tight integration between the products. Among other functions, it provided ERP users with the ability to track marketing campaigns. But the main reason why MAPICS has chosen to tightly integrate the CRM and ERP products is the capability to enter orders into the ERP system and check order status through the CRM product, says Stan Thompson, a product manager with MAPICS.
Manufacturers running ERP systems at multiple locations will benefit the most by centralizing their order entry capabilities, Thompson says. While there is some sharing of data for multi-site ERP customers today, the original MAPICS XP product was not designed with multi-site installations in mind, and instead confined its influence inside the four-walls of a particular manufacturing site. Pushing that order-entry business process out to the CRM product will provide a needed functionality boost to ERP for iSeries customers, he says.
Development of the integration is underway, with possible delivery in September, Thompson says. ERP customers will need WebSphere software to make the integration work. Other products that are part of the MAPICS extension strategy for iSeries customers could be announced by the end of the year.