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Go Big… Through Innovation

While the NCAA Basketball tournament, upcoming World Cup Soccer and the return of Tiger Woods may now have your attention, I still think that one of the most memorable performances by an athlete was at the recent Winter Olympic Games, by Shaun White, the Olympic gold medalist in the men’s halfpipe. 

Of course many people would logically raise the performances by South Korea’s Kim Yu-Na (figure skating), Lindsey Vonn (downhill), Bode Miller (super combined), or maybe even the Canadian Curling team, but in my view, Shaun White’s performance was the most exceptional. Why? Because not only did he work harder than his competition, he also worked smarter and in the end, he worked in a whole new way. Sure, he was already a gold medalist and the favorite going in, but for anyone that watched all of the buildup, the hype, and the endless promoting, did you really think that anyone could be that good?

White was great in 2006 (when he won Gold), but basically everything had changed. Most of all, the competition had all caught up. All you had to do was watch the prelims (or the pre-Olympic event he was been beaten in) and you could tell. Men, women, whatever, were flying out of the pipe at crazy speeds doing these insane aerials – with even more insane names. You almost figured the only way he (White) wins is because a) it’s a beauty pageant where if its close, they will give it to the most hyped athlete using those ignominious style points (can you say ice dancing?), or b) the judging will come down to watching replays in super slo-mo, over and over, to determine who “executed” the air better and thus got the higher technical (and style) points (ask Plushenko how well this works). Expert boarders, much less average TV viewers and fans would never being able to detect the differences. 

snowboarder 

But, that’s not what happened. From the very first air (huge), SW was clearly in a league of his own. In fact, as was the case in the Olympic final in ’06, he was so much better he didn’t even need a second run to win (gold). His run was “night and day” riskier, faster, bigger, and clearly better and everyone – and even if you didn’t know a double cork from a double axel, you could tell he was better. And then, he lands that insane Double McTwist 1260 which involves two flips and three and a half spins? Talk about a game changer! Hard work, dedication, and commitment? Sure. Innovator? Undoubtedly.

So what does any of this have to do with business or software? I think a lot. No, I am not going to pretend Epicor is to ERP, what SW is to halfpipe… (not quite yet anyway). What I am going to submit is that continued success in business requires not just working on execution, but also on innovation. Most of us aren’t the biggest or the favorite when we compete. For Epicor, we’re not the biggest name, and don’t have the huge budget, hype, or brand recognition. No, we’re very different from SW in this regard. But where we are the same is in our vision – and the total commitment and dedication to turn that vision into innovation.

Last year, our innovative Epicor 9 application was recognized for its vision (the most visionary?) by the Gartner Group in their ERP magic quadrant. And while our focus since then has certainly been to execute and to deliver on that vision and the promise it entailed — which we did shipping it to over 1,200 customers in one of the most difficult years for business, we also didn’t just sit still and refine the features of this visionary SOA application. Nope, we took a lot of input and feedback from our customers, markets and industry, and we looked at some of the latest emerging technologies around collaboration, mobility and social media and have today launched Epicor 9.05, which in “boarding lingo” could be called an “Epic end-to-end mobile double web 360.”

Last year, while a lot of the competition continued to rewind and replay the same old talk and tricks they have been pushing for the last five-six years, we continued to invest in innovation of what was already a game changing ERP platform, and have taken it to another new level. This meant taking on more risk – by investing more, even when the market, business and overall economy was down. Why? The payoff is huge and clear to see.

So let me break the name down for you and to briefly describe some of the innovation:

End-to-end not just front office or back office, but for a truly integrated view of the business and value chain.

Mobile users are fully empowered by securely and cost-effectively distributing and automating any aspect of the enterprise business system outside of the company network – whether connected or remote.

Double Web for embracing Web 2.0 across the entire platform allowing even easier collaboration, search, and usability.

360 because it allows you to see every aspect of your business, customers, partners and employees – anytime, anywhere.

Epic? Ok, some marketing fluff. But also our stock ticker and this is an “epic” leap in capability and usability (and “next generation” was sooo last year). 

I also thought about throwing in Saas-y, but that’s for another post.

Ok, maybe boarding lingo doesn’t really work in business or at least for software naming conventions, but the name is very descriptive of what we have accomplished. Sure I am biased, but the real point is that hard work can keep you in the game, but innovation is what helps you destroy the competition. Last year, George Klaus, our Chairman and CEO told the company “Efforts don’t count.  Results do." A statement as true in sports, as it is in business. And it motivated everyone beyond just doing our best – and the results have proven it.

It goes unsaid that for any owners out there that business is a lot harder than the Olympics or NCAA’s – you play for stakes that affect a lot of people: whether your employees, customers or partners. Moreover, there is no halftime in business; not even timeouts. You’re on the field every minute of every day and everybody is watching your score – particularly the competition. The best way to win? Don’t just keep doing the same thing and let your competition make it a beauty contest or based on style points. Learn from Shaun White – work hard, work smart, sure. But innovate and take risk. Like the Olympic halfpipe, you may only get one shot against the competition. You need to be able to “go big”, and in your one run, make sure that anyone can see the difference – instantly and immediately. Because better is better.

Posted by John Hiraoka, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Epicor

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