That’s a wrap. Acumatica Summit 2017 is over. What a long and tiring, but exciting, week. Now it’s time to snuggle down into the posh comforts of my airplane seat (sarcasm) and reflect on what happened this past week. I’m writing this post using the Microsoft Word app on my phone as I fly back to Columbus, Ohio from San Diego, California.
Overall, I will try to describe how I “felt” about this year’s summit. This is completely subjective with absolutely no hard data, facts, or even alternative facts to back it up. But sometimes your “feelings” can be a pretty good indicator of how things are going.
The main impression that I got from Summit this year was “steady as she goes.” Nothing too radical, no big change in direction, no crazy marketing stunts like you would find at Sage Summit, just a continued, steady pursuit of the goal, the same goal that was established back when Acumatica began in 2008. It was pretty ambitious for a software company to develop ERP software from scratch on modern technology without the financial backing of a major software player. Of course, this caused some early prospects to have “going concern” concerns in the beginning. But it no longer feels like Acumatica is jumping up and down like a teenager trying to get attention. The word is spreading and spreading fast. The revenue and customer base is growing at a steady clip and each year brings a larger and larger crowd to Summit. So, steady as she goes.
On a personal note, I should mention that this was only my second Summit. Last year in Orlando I was completely exhausted by the end of the week. I went into the week sleep-deprived because of all the last minute preparations and everything was new so it seemed very overwhelming. This year was much better. I went into the week rested and made sure to get to bed on time or take naps if needed. Also, the overall flow of the week was familiar to me. It made for a much more pleasant experience.
Alright, that’s enough of overall stuff, now let’s get down into some specifics. This list is completely random, there is no “most important” to “least important” or anything like that, but I like numbers so I’m going to put numbers in front of each one of the points.
1. Blytheco and Acumatica?
Bob Scott was there at the Acumatica Summit in San Diego and he put out this blog post: http://www.bobscottsinsights.com/News-and-Analysis/blythe-to-pick-up-acumatica
He must know something that the rest of us don’t.
I have to admit that I was shocked to see this because Blytheco is already a huge NetSuite partner. It makes you wonder if Blytheco is thinking the same thing as many analysts who predict that NetSuite will move out of the MidMarket and into the much larger Oracle market now that they have been acquired by Oracle.
The only thing that didn’t shock me is that Blytheco historically has been a very large Sage partner and Acumatica seems to be doing very well with Sage partners. More on that later.
2. Multi-Cloud and REST APIs
This one seems technical at first, but it’s really not. Consider the story of Walmart for a minute and how they came to be such a retail giant. At first it seemed like they completely annihilated all of the competition, but eventually the other competitors found a way to stay in the game. In the US we don’t live in a Walmart dictatorship. There is also Target, Costco, Best Buy, etc. Of course, Walmart is the largest, but there are still options. You might go to Walmart to buy groceries and toiletries, Target for clothes, and Best Buy for electronics. You can mix and match retailers however you want. It’s the same in other areas as well: Coke and Pepsi, McDonalds and Burger King, Home Depot and Lowes, Apple and Android, Toyota and Honda, United Airlines and American Airlines, and the list goes on. The point is that, unless you live in a Communist society and not a market society, there will always be multiple players competing for business.
So, we are really seeing the same thing play out with “the cloud”. At first it seemed like there was this one mysterious thing called “the cloud” and everyone was moving to this one thing.
Side note: Brendan Hennelly from Acumatica partner JAAS Systems has a cool geeky t-shirt that says: “There is no cloud, it’s just someone else’s computer”. So true Brendan, so true.
As “the cloud” begins to materialize, as we get passed all the theoretical analyst prognostications, and as “the cloud” affects the real world, we are seeing that “the cloud” really isn’t anything fancy at all. It’s just someone else’s computer.
But multi-cloud seems to mean more than that. Sure, there are a few cloud infrastructure players out there: Amazon, Microsoft, Force.com, Google, etc. But it’s a huge investment to spin up these gigantic data centers that require more electricity on a daily basis than the Super Bowl halftime show (I have no facts on that, just guessing). So there aren’t going to be too many cloud infrastructure players.
Multi-cloud to me seems to speak more to the “application” side of things than the “infrastructure” side of things as far as I can tell. And I completely agree with it.
I don’t really care what infrastructure your application is running on (Amazon, Azure, Google, your brother’s “hosting” shop in his garage, etc.). What I care about is, “can I talk to your application without needing access to the backend?” And the best way to “talk” to applications in the modern world is to use Web Services (APIs).
But not all APIs are created equal. There used to be a debate between SOAP and REST, but the debate seems to have been largely won by REST.
Think of SOAP as a chemist ordering a glass of water. They might go on for 10 minutes about the specific molecular structure of water and place an order for an exact number of atoms, supported by a dizzying array of calculations.
Think of REST as how you personally would order a glass of water, “I’d like a glass of water.” Much simpler!
I think that Acumatica’s REST APIs are important for two reasons:
- They are REST so they are relatively easy to work with.
- You aren’t limited to what is there out-of-the-box. You can build your own, just like you do with Import Scenarios or Generic Inquiries. And you can do it all in the web browser, without needing access to the server. That’s huge.
I got to attend Gabriel Michaud’s session at Summit entitled Web Services for the Multi-Cloud World and I documented my notes on Twitter (click here).
The Acumatica REST APIs are a big advantage in the Multi-Cloud world.
3. Sage 100 2.0
I’m starting to think that you could just call Acumatica “Sage 100 2.0” when talking to Sage 100 customers. Sage continues to dance around the cloud with Marketing smoke and mirrors and lipstick on a pig “cloud products” which has really frustrated their partners. Acumatica is already feasting on the Sage partner base in the United States and it’s only a matter of time before they start gaining major momentum among the Sage customer base as well.
Even if Sage were to price Sage X3 into the Sage 100 market, they can’t do anything about the fact that implementing Sage X3 costs easily at least 2-3 times as much as Sage 100. And Sage 100 still has a huge customer base in the United States. Time for Acumatica to start feasting!
Speaking of Sage 100, I met a long-time Sage 100 partner last week who recently picked up Acumatica. This was their first Summit and they were blown away by Acumatica. I don’t remember what they said word for word, but they were basically having a battle with their conscience. They weren’t sure how they could look their existing customer base in the eyes and continue to recommend Sage. I haven’t heard such open honesty from other Sage 100 partners, but you can pick up more subtle clues that they are facing internal ethical battles as well.
I used to think that it was a shame to Sage that they got their butt kicked by Acumatica, a small startup, even though Sage has such a large war chest of cash to invest into R&D. But I recently learned something about public software companies that I never knew before. Apparently there are certain established ratios that the market expects to see. And those ratios are heavily skewed towards marketing spend and not engineering spend.
Unlike Sage, Acumatica is a private company so they aren’t subject to the same expected ratios. I guess this is what allows Acumatica to invest so heavily in engineering.
At first the engineering approach was slow because no one had heard about Acumatica and prospects were hesitant, not knowing if things would work out. But now this engineering approach is Acumatica’s biggest competitive advantage (in my opinion). The momentum gained is real, it’s organic, it’s grass roots, and it will be very difficult to slow down.
Of course, this is bad news for Sage. After so many years of “crying wolf” about modern technology, I wonder if the partners believe them anymore. Sage isn’t going anywhere, especially in the international markets, but the Sage 100 customer base in the United States seems destined to become dominated by Acumatica in the next 5-10 years.
Hence, “Sage 100 2.0”.
4. A Product Agnostic Ecosystem?
In the past, consulting firms had to pick an ecosystem. You were in the Dynamics channel, the Sage channel, etc.
Now things are changing. And I think it’s directly related to point #2 above. It’s much easier to integrate modern technology. This is why we see a trend towards “best of breed” solutions. This is empowering to the consultants because it’s much easier to learn new applications than to build them. The applications will come and go, but the consulting firms will be able to focus more on delivering the best solutions rather than getting forced into inferior solutions that fit the ecosystem.
This is another reason why the Sage brand is deteriorating in my opinion. More and more people know now that modern technology products like Acumatica integrate much better with modern solutions than even two products with “Sage” in the name can integrate with each other. Integration is a technology challenge, not a marketing challenge. Is this my last shot at Sage in this post? Hmmm, I’m not sure. Let’s keep typing and find out if anything else comes up.
So it’s interesting to see newer partners picking up Acumatica from other ecosystems. As much as you can make the case that Acumatica is Sage 100 2.0 from the perspective of a Sage 100 customer, it’s the same thing to customers from other ecosystems, albeit with a different name in front of the 2.0.
I’ve met a number of SysPro and Intacct partners in the past and now it seems like NetSuite and even Plex partners are picking up Acumatica.
It’s a similar story on the ISV side of the house. It’s easier for ISVs to integrate with Acumatica than with legacy solutions so you’re seeing more and more best of breed solutions signup with Acumatica.
It makes me wonder if the Acumatica product will even be the focal point of these Summits in 5 years. It would still be the ERP backbone of course, but maybe in a more hidden way. Maybe the focal point of this new ecosystem won’t be any specific technology at all but something else, like a strong commitment to the partner channel, unlimited user pricing, or an open source approach to coding, learning, and demoing.
The keynotes this year were bold, they were cutting edge, and they were downright “risky” at times. I mean, what ERP vendor would have the guts to demo an integration with Amazon Alexa during a keynote? And the blockchain digital notary demo was really cool (think bitcoin for documents), getting the attention of blockchain enthusiasts like Jon Reed.
There was also a “hippie” open source flavor to some of the demos. Why? Well, first of all, some of the coolest new features are actually free. The cool integration with DocuSign that allows you to capture signed documents from within Acumatica is actually available on GitHub as a free customization package. The Outlook plug-in which allows you to work with Acumatica without leaving Outlook is just a free add-in that apparently will even soon by supported by the Outlook mobile app for iOS and Android (I’m definitely looking forward to that). If this was Sage, they would find a way to charge for this stuff (there I go taking another shot as Sage).
The geeks have a front row at these events which is refreshing. It makes you feel like things are real, not smoke and mirrors. Someone even tried hacking into the demo on Day 2 which prompted some wondering from the stage about whether or not there were NetSuite employees in attendance. But it didn’t seem to be a big deal because it just made it even more obvious that we were seeing a real product, not just some sophisticated “demo magic” software designed to fool us.
Even the hack-a-thon which ran from 8pm until Midnight on Day 1 got a shout-out from the stage on Day 2. Real developers building real solutions while eating real pizza, not actors dressed to look like developers like you might find at other ERP conferences (I won’t say “Sage”, I mean, oops, too late).
The keynotes also made good use of some humor which kept things fun and light rather than grand, bold statements that clap like thunder, yet ring hollow in the real world. They keynotes were very much grounded in reality, not fantasy.
They were even downright blue collar at times like when Gabriel took the stage in overalls and a hard hat. And good thing he did, because he tripped onstage and almost fell. It’s always refreshing when a demo reaches you without “talking down” at you.
6. Budding Community
“Trust” is a key component of any community. And it seems like Acumatica has achieved a great deal of trust in the ecosystem. I believe that this has to do with many of the points already made in this post: organic, partner-driven, “real” demos, etc. These things aren’t glamorous and they take time to develop, but the harvest is trust.
My impression is that we are seeing a budding Acumatica community begin to emerge. It’s not mechanical or orchestrated, but organic and spontaneous. And it’s built on a foundation of trust.
More blogs are popping up, more people are daring to post on the LinkedIn User Group, and more customers are attending the Summit, eager to participate in the Acumatica community.
There are still challenges for sure. So many disparate community platforms, the continual battle against marketing clickbait, etc. But the trust seems to be there and that is such a critical foundation.
I heard a comment from a partner about the how much younger on average the attendees appeared to be, compared to a Microsoft Dynamics conference. That was interesting to me because I’ve blogged before about Acumatica being ERP for Millennials.
Of course, young faces don’t mean a thing unless there is also some substance there, but it is a good sign that Acumatica is appealing to the next generation that will soon be the majority in the workforce.
And I still think that Acumatica is ERP for millennials (click here).
8. Plodding Along
All of this is cool and all, but the reality is that ERP is one of the slowest moving areas of technology. Success here is not glamorous. It’s slow and steady, monotonous, and downright grueling at times. One implementation at a time.
We’ll see what this next year brings for Acumatica. But things do seem to continue to be heading in the right direction. And it’s nice to have these annual summits where you can reflect on things.
If you’d like to see more, I compiled over 100 tweets documenting the demos, including pictures:
But that’s all for now. I’m almost to Columbus and looking forward to seeing my family after being apart for a week.
Tomorrow it’s time a get back to work.