Oct 3, 2013
With nearly 800 business owners, software users and IT professionals attending the ECi Connect Conference 2013, this was the largest Connect event yet. The theme of Educate, Collaborate and Inspire was certainly well received by the attendees. The training forums were designed to uncover users business challenges and allow for them to exchange tips and ideas on how to improve their businesses and processes. The ECi Software Solutions family of companies provides enterprise resource planning (ERP) business management and business applications including e-commerce systems software for over 7,500 growing small and midsize companies. Their growth rate is staggering, and their customer base has literally doubled over a five year period. With a client base made up of various industries and vertical markets, such as, Hardware-Home Centers, Lumber-Building Materials, Manufacturing, Office Products, Office Equipment, Office Furniture and Janitorial-Industrial Paper, the industry specific software and services focus by ECi is impressive.
For only the second time, ECi made a great move to combine the various industry client bases and had representation from eight countries and 47 US states. Not only did this create brand “stickiness” with their customers, but ECi executives were very accessible, easily approachable and demonstrated an understanding of their constituency’s biggest business challenges. Partners were not only able to see the people behind the software company, in each of their respective disciplines, but they were able to engage with them as well; forming peer-to-peer relationships. I leveraged this accessibility to have a sit down with Trevor Gruenewald, Chief Operating Officer of ECi, and Laryssa Alexander, President of ECi’s Office Equipment Division to discuss a few topics.
1. You are headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas with additional offices around the United States; you have coverage in Australia, the United Kingdom, and The Netherlands. Unless the readers have been living under a rock, your acquisition pace has been well documented and is hard to ignore…will acquisitions continue to be part of your growth plans and what plans can you share regarding expanding further globally?
- Trevor - The short answer is yes. Acquisitions will absolutely continue to be one element of our strategy, both in the short and long term. We will employ this strategy to gain market share and to acquire new technologies and product offerings that provide incremental value for our customer base. And, we will explore new markets/verticals to go beyond industries in our current coverage.
- Trevor - Globally, we will continue to explore both direct and channel options. For example, we have channel partners in many of our international regions, including Latin America, where they own the market for a set of products and for their respective geography and we collaborate and support their efforts.
2. In February 2013, ECi announced that Q4’12 sales were up 78% compared to same period in 2011; and 2012 sales were up 44% over 2011. How are 2013 sales revenues developing?
- Trevor - We are excited about 2013 and beyond. We’re finishing the 3rd quarter with strong sales numbers, and we absolutely expect to hit our double digit growth target for the year.
3. Ron Books, CEO of ECi, recently mentioned he spends a lot of time interacting with customers and in these interactions he has discovered a common theme – that many of your clients are not taking advantage of the new enhancements/ releases and perhaps more concerning, they are not leveraging the platform they have invested so heavily in to its full capacity. Beyond this event, what are you doing to assist them in leveraging the platforms they have in place to maximize efficiencies and drive profitability?
- Laryssa - We understand how difficult it is for today’s growing small and medium-sized companies to manage and drive their business. We are focused on assisting them with road maps, account management teams to support them day-to-day and continually driving awareness of new releases, updates/enhancements through our marketing group. Additionally we are offering training in multiple formats, from onsite/in person workshops, to interactive eLearning/video and finally our regional/national user groups and advisory councils.
4. According to the recently published InfoTrends forecast on Managed Print Services, the worldwide market will continue to grow at a 6.7% compound annual growth rate from 2012-2017 from approximately $20 billion to $28 billion US dollars. Our channel, as well as other channels like Office Products and IT VARs, continues to look to MPS to drive sales revenue and market share, in August you announced that data from more than 4.1 million devices is now actively collected by your FMAudit Enterprise solution offering. How does your platform support the MPS process?
- Trevor - Integration, integration, integration. FMAudit has the unique ability to offer supply and service synchronization and tighter integration with ECi’s top level ERP systems in the channel. We feel this is an advantage FMAudit offers its customers that other data collection tools in the industry cannot.
- Trevor - Other aspects we feel our clients can leverage are our professional service offerings and tools like our MPS proposal generation tool that allow for increased sales effectiveness for our customers sales organizations.
- Laryssa - We are aware of the challenges our customers face with managing the MPS contracts, measuring profitability, and getting inventory updates. Our features suite takes a few steps out of the MPS process for the customer service, technical service and accounting teams.
- Trevor - Staying with the theme of integration, we integrate with other industry players, leasing companies like GE Capital or Great America, to integration with the OEMs themselves. The collective offering and the efficiency and profitability impact is why our customers choose to leverage us.
5. According to a recent InfoTrends survey, one of the top five initiatives by independent channel “Office Equipment” dealers is Managed Network Services and/or IT Services. What development and enhancements are you working on to support them as they implement this into their business model?
- Laryssa - It’s a multi-prong approach of acquisitions, development, and partnerships.
- Trevor - We are sensitive to the fact that the channel wants this yesterday. Agile software development encourages rapid and flexible response to change but it still takes time and we have to get it right. We have several development projects working now to support our clients moving into this space.
- Laryssa - An example of the partnership aspect of our multi-prong approach is we announced the integration of our e-automate dealer management software with Autotask Corporation’s IT Business Management Solution built for IT service providers, managed service providers and enterprise IT managers. For dealers using e-automate, the integration will automate business processes between Autotask and the e-automate software by removing the double-entry, time delays, and errors in managing and transferring data between the two systems.
The technology pavilion held a number of reputable sponsors, like S.P. Richards, United Stationers, BEI Services, LMI, Great America Leasing, Supplies Network, Objectif Lune, Fujitsu and many more. The event had positive feedback from partners and ECi’s ability to play well within the channel and among their end-users has led to increased growth and a promising outlook for their future.
With ECi’s aggressive acquisition strategies, international expansion, portfolio enhancements and revenue growth, they are clearly trying to follow their conference theme of educate, collaborate and inspire!
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