HR + ERP = The Key to Institutional Knowledge: Interview with Epicor’s Malcolm Fox, VP of Product Marketing
We talked to Malcom Fox, VP of Product Marketing at Epicor, about the benefits of deep integration between HR and ERP technologies. Fox explained that with this approach, Epicor can help the mid-market improve knowledge retention and transfer across the company. Epicor uses a social collaboration network, embedded in their legacy ERP product, to build a knowledge library. Constructing such a repository for skills and processes enables a company to more efficiently train new employees. According to Fox, as younger generations (who are less likely to remain with the same company longterm) become the majority in the workforce, it is important to institutionalize company knowledge on an ongoing basis. This can also help HR get recognized as a core department, with technology and capabilities that impact the entire company and remain relevant even after the onboarding stage.
Introduction to Epicor
Give us some background on Epicor, including your entrance into the HR space.
Our legacy is ERP. We focus on the global midmarket manufacturing, distribution and retail space. We have found that our customers have employees, of course, and more and more of them need a solution to manage that.
In 2010, we acquired Spectrum, an HR solution marketed as “an HR solution for HR people.” Spectrum iVantage was an award-winning solution because of its breadth of capability, and that was a great starting point for us to build a rich solution that meets the needs of an HR department.
We streamlined our enterprise HR solution to offer a quick start version for smaller companies, with modules such as recruitment, talent management, and performance that can be added on later as needed.
What we have found as we have gone deeper into the space is that life isn’t great in the HR department, but it is even worse for the people managers as far as retaining the talent and experience in their workforce. We have been evolving our message away from the pure requirements of HR departments towards a solution built around a company’s talent management mindset. In manufacturing, executives are thinking about an aging workforce that’s approaching retirement, and a whole new generation of more transient workers, so knowledge retention and transfer is key.
We look at HR in a very broad, company-wide sense.
Positioning & Market Differentiators
What are some key differentiators of Epicor HCM?
Social collaboration is definitely one of our primary features. As an embedded part of Epicor ERP, we have a whole solution built around collaboration, and we have surfaced that within the context of our ERP application across verticals. We use our social collaboration network to build a sort of knowledge library for future reference.
We think it’s about looking at some of the things that are happening in the marketplace, like social, mobile, and cloud, and distilling them into a real solution that people can really use and businesses can really benefit from. Other vendors try to add products on, but we feel that embedding is a far more effective solution.
When new people come in to a company, we want to make sure that the technology is there to help them do their job. We implement a seamless knowledge transfer, and we do this within an ERP instead of bolting on a separate learning management system. Users don’t have to log in to a separate system, and they can control the depth of information provided for any business transaction.
We originally positioned our HR solutions as standalone, but now we’re working to bring them together with the ERP. In the mid-market, organizations generally don’t want to have to mix multiple systems together. We’re making sure that our products can accommodate every possible angle.
What is Epicor’s target market?
Our target customer is mid-market, and we define mid-market in three ways: from an ERP standpoint, we think about it in terms of the number of sites they have. We also look at number of employees: a core HCM solution doesn’t make sense for a company below 100, maybe 150 employees. The third thing we consider is a sort of multitude of factors, such as what a company’s needs are from, for example, collaboration, social, and knowledge management standpoints. 100 employees is probably the lower end of our applicability, and we can also address the needs and requirements of organizations with employees up to the low thousands.
We don’t just think about the United States with our offerings; we have country-specific functionality. Our legacy is on-premises, but the ERP is exactly the same across deployments, from on-premises to our multitenant cloud solution. We give our customers a choice between on-premises and cloud.
Smaller, more dynamic companies typically don’t want to get into on-premises solutions; they are used to buying and implementing software, and we think it’s important to stay up-to-date with those companies.
Who are the typical buyers?
Our point HR solution has been traditionally targeted at HR buyers (who traditionally have fewer financial resources to invest in technology), but we’re moving towards targeting the core business, together with the ERP.
HR departments typically want to be seen as a core part of a business, at the top table as opposed to off to one side. This is why we emphasize that our HR solution is not just aimed at making HR better; it’s actually aimed at making the whole organization better.
We’ll have some greenfield customers led by our HCM solution, and of course, are marketing the HCM solution to existing ERP customers.
Addressing HR Trends
What are some key trends and pain points that you’re addressing?
I think the biggest problems that we are going to face deal with older experienced generations retiring. Companies who have not institutionalized the knowledge are going to be hit hard. Smaller companies as well, who are overly reliant on the skills of individuals, and may not have training programs or multiple people to fill the roles.
The financial challenges we’ve had in the recent past have been good for the industry in a way because experienced talent has stayed around for a bit longer. But we’ll see a massive impact in the next 5-10 years.
Businesses are going to have to get used to shorter periods of tenure. So onboarding needs to happen really quickly and seamlessly. We’re doing this within the ERP rather than bolting on a separate LMS. You don’t have to log into a separate system; you’ll see the context to the business transaction you’re involved with, right there.
It’s also about the employee experience. If you get an engineer fresh out of college, and you’re asking them to fill out a piece of paper, they’re going to feel less warm and fuzzy about their employer, than if they’ve got the technology system to support them. When the new people come in, we want to make sure that the technology is there to help them do their job.
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Megan champions research at TrustRadius. Her mission is to ensure we gather the highest quality data from authenticated reviewers, and provide useful curated reports for prospective software buyers. Prior to joining TrustRadius, Megan was Director of Sales and Marketing at a media company. She holds MA degrees in Journalism and Latin American Studies from the University of Texas.