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Epicor ERP gets integration automation capabilities

Epicor released Epicor Automation Studio, an integration PaaS embedded into its ERP systems, Epicor Kinetic for manufacturing and Prophet 21 for distribution.

Epicor ERP is adding more capabilities for integration with the release of Epicor Automation Studio, a low-code/no-code integration platform as a service aimed at average business users.

Epicor Automation Studio enables companies to connect data and set up automated workflows between Epicor ERP applications, including those for Epicor Kinetic and Prophet 21, as well as more than 1,000 other third-party cloud enterprise applications, according to the company.

The Epicor Automation Studio is built on Workato, an integration platform as a service (IPaaS) for automation and integration services. It is embedded natively in the Epicor Kinetic manufacturing-focused ERP and the Prophet 21 distribution-focused ERP.

The idea for Epicor Automation Studio is to provide what Vaibhav Vohra, chief product officer at Epicor, called "citizen integrators" with a way to connect Epicor ERP applications to other enterprise systems via a low-code tool.

Vaibhav Vohra, chief product officer, EpicorVaibhav Vohra

"Whether it's CRM, mail applications, field services applications, HubSpot, we're seeing a lot of need to connect our ERPs with many new things," he said. "This gives a quick-start guide to make that journey a bit more frictionless."

The Automation Studio includes around 400,000 pre-built "recipes," or instructions for automating workflows that provide users a head start in building their own workflows, according to Vorha. Users also can create their own recipes and share them with others.

"We're essentially starting a community," he said. "For example, let's say you're an aerospace manufacturing customer and you need to connect to an ITAR [International Traffic in Arms Regulations] system. You can potentially leverage things that others have built and build on top of it."

The Automation Studio is complimentary with the Epicor Application Studio, a low-code/no-code development environment that enables customers to more easily create customizations for Epicor ERP applications, including Kinetic, Prophet 21 and BisTrack.

"Application Studio focuses on providing fast time-to-value experiences around extending [the application design], and Automation Studio in a similar vein provides a low-code ability to extend into other applications outside the ecosystem," Vohra said.

Cost-effective integration

The Epicor Automation Studio is another example of an ERP vendor moving toward a platform approach to offer more than core ERP functionality, said Isaac Gould, research manager at Nucleus Research.

The Automation Studio also enables companies to cost effectively build integrations and automate processes, he said.

"It's a big win for CIOs if they can say that they can reduce the amount [they spend] on consultants or systems integrators by managing the integrations in-house, and especially if they can avoid those consultants to automate some processes by using Automation Studio's RPA tools," Gould said.

Bringing integration and automation in-house also makes sense because the systems integrators or consultants who usually perform that work are currently stretched thin. They're also becoming costly due to rising demand for digital transformation services, he said.

Isaac Gould, research manager, Nucleus Research Isaac Gould

"This makes the Epicor ERP platform more accessible, more extensible and easier to integrate with a broader range of third-party applications," Gould said. "It makes [Epicor] a good choice for organizations considering a new ERP system, as a big selection criteria now for ERP systems is how they work with CRM systems or various manufacturing solutions."

However, customers need to be wary of the skill level required to use the Automation Studio, he said. Regardless of vendor claims about the ease of use of low-code/no-code tools, they are still more appropriate for employees with a business analyst or data analyst background.

"Customers need to be more cognizant of what's involved there and ask questions when they are getting demos," Gould said. "When they're thinking about their own processes that they want to automate and the connectors they want to build, they need to have a better sense of the technical expertise that are going to be required for that."

Not unique, but useful

The Automation Studio follows Epicor's evolution, along with the earlier Application Studio, and low code/no-code tools continue to gain traction in the enterprise market, said Predrag Jakovljevic, principal industry analyst at Technology Evaluation Centers.

Predrag Jakovljevic, principal industry analyst, Technology Evaluation CentersPredrag Jakovljevic

The integration service appears to be useful, but it's not unique, as the Workato iPaaS also has integrations with NetSuite, Sage Intacct and Acumatica, he said. However, Workato's direct embedding within Epicor Kinetic and Profit 21 is a differentiator.

The Automation Studio also improves Epicor customers' ability to integrate with third-party applications like ADP for payroll or Salesforce for CRM, which is particularly useful because Epicor's own CRM functionality is not strong, Jakovljevic said.

Self-service access to a marketplace of 400,000 pre-built workflow automations is a positive development for customers and compares well with Salesforce MuleSoft, which has good functionality but also ease-of-use issues, he said.

"It should be easier for regular midmarket users to adapt and develop their own automations and integrations across other applications," Jakovljevic said.

Jim O'Donnell is a TechTarget news writer who covers ERP and other enterprise applications for SearchSAP and SearchERP.

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