Choo choo! My son is all about trains these days. They chug ‘round and ‘round the track, going about whatever mission he has them on. But sometimes, he gets frustrated with his trains. He’ll stop by the station to switch out the lead car; and, not every one is a locomotive that’s well-suited for pulling the rest. Other times, he keeps picking cars until there’s so many connected together that they can’t make it up the hill.
With the recent announcement that Activant Solutions is being sold to a private equity firm named Apax Partners, maybe you can relate? You might feel uncertain each time a new leader takes over, waiting to see whether or not they can pull the load and how they’ll go about doing it. Maybe with more companies and software programs added to the mix, you’re getting frustrated about Eclipse’s importance in the line-up. Or, you might just feel like Eclipse is losing its steam with each subsequent change of ownership.
We understand. And, we feel your pain. But we’re here to tell you that it’s gonna be alright.
The Activant Eclipse product has been through its fair share of change. It’s been tugged from focused ownership, to software giants, to private investors. And, now it’s headed for more of the same, but as an even smaller car on a longer train.
So, let’s think through the rationale: Why is Apax buying Activant and Epicor? We can’t expect to know the real answer; but, the ERP Graveyard blog has some candid opinions to consider. They make good points, and others are clearly based on their belief in open-source solutions.
If you look at some of SAP’s acquisitions, like Sybase or BusinessObjects, we can infer that they’re interested in enhancing their products with complementary offerings. Yet, when we look at Apax, we see an investment firm (vs. a software company) that is buying two huge players in the ERP market with competing offerings. That tells us it’s probably about money and marketshare; and, that the choices for buyers are getting slimmer and slimmer, as Thomas Wailgum points out.
While you might be thinking of jumping out of this moving rail car and becoming one of those buyers, you’re not one right now. You’re a user of a product that is, once again, getting traded to a new locomotive with an ever-increasing load. So let’s explore some ways these changes could impact Eclipse users:
- Prioritization – With so many products coming under the same umbrella, there could be a lack of focus; and, products will compete with one another (like what happened at Sage). Apax will be faced with deciding which cars will become their front-runners, meaning which ERP systems they’re going to invest in and go to market with. We know that R&D dollars and sales efforts can’t be spread across all of the systems they’ll own. So, some will be left in limbo land, and/or sunsetted with little or new development, only maintenance of the product. In this regard, Eclipse was already becoming somewhat of a caboose on Activant’s train. That feeling may continue. We’re not suggesting that Apax will let Eclipse off the radar any time soon, but we also don’t believe it will be a front runner.
- Service level change – Bigger isn’t always better. We’ve heard grumblings from Eclipse users about service for some time. Being part of a larger entity may exasperate those challenges, as there will be more bureaucracy, more layers and more moving parts. It’s possible that support procedures could change, further complicating the matter; or, they could stay the same. And, who knows, they may even improve!
- Knowledge shift – Eclipse is a complex product whose management requires a great deal of specialized knowledge. We know that acquisitions always result in duplication and consolidation, which often leads to layoffs. The associates that know Eclipse best will be needed by Apax, and likely won’t be told to leave. However, they may become disgruntled with change, and take it upon themselves to seek other opportunities.
All three of these tracks lead us to the same station: no one really knows what’s going to happen with Eclipse. It is a time of uncertainty; and, it’s unclear exactly what this acquisition will mean for users. Now, you’re probably thinking … “I thought you said it was going to be okay?” It is! In short, Eclipse will still work great! It’s still the best software choice for many distributors. And, this isn’t the end of the world. Here’s why:
The Eclipse software has impressive capabilities perfectly suited for the wholesale distribution market. It is a program that can aptly serve the needs of distributors for a long-time to come. And, it’s remained a leader in this market in spite of the changes it’s endured. As such, it will continue to have a great presence amongst supply houses; and, Apax will have to pay attention to it. Some companies may use this change as a segue to a new system; but, the majority don’t have the resources or the desire to switch.
If Apax decides they aren’t going to actively sell the product or develop major releases of the software, there will still be new releases to fix problems; and, they will still support it. That being said, if the service or staff declines, or wasn’t up to your standards to begin with, you have options. Zerion isn’t affiliated with Activant (or anyone for that matter) and we’re not going anywhere.
If you’re so inclined, we encourage you to stay on board with Eclipse. We’re here to fill any gaps you see, or to provide stability in an otherwise unstable time. If you’re planning to move your ERP investment elsewhere, we have no ties to any vendors and we can help you choose the best product for your business.
Either way, we want you to know that Zerion is staying the same; and, we’re committed to maximizing your investment in Eclipse … full steam ahead! If you’d like to discuss this change or how we can support you through it, please contact us.