An ERP sales professional, whom I've know for many years, recently called to let me know he'd taken a new job with Glovia International
. I indicated that I hadn't heard anything about Glovia recently. Maybe now I could get an update.
So he arranged a briefing with James Gorham, who heads up Glovia's North American business, for me and two of my senior associates at Strativa
, Bob Gilson and Nick Hann.
A Long History
Glovia's roots go back to the 1970s, when Xerox Computer Services launched a time-sharing application for manufacturing companies. The product went through several iterations and was eventually relaunched in client-server form in 1990 as Xerox Chess. The company was acquired in 2000 by Fujitsu, who renamed it Glovia.
For many years, Glovia has been a well-respected mid-market ERP solution for automotive manufacturers, aerospace and defense contractors, capital equipment makers, and other industries. In the past, when I was looking for solid functionality for project-based manufacturers, Glovia would be one of the first to come to mind.
But, as just mentioned, that changed about two or three years ago, when Glovia suddenly fell off my radar. I knew they were still in business--I just never saw them in deals or even in press releases. They wouldn't even respond to my inquiries.
In our briefing with Gorham, we soon found out why. Glovia had undertaken a deliberate strategy three years ago to pull back, abandon all new sales efforts, and invest in rewriting the entire product.
Glovia system had been developed in McDonnell Douglas's PROIV 4GL language, which though a good language, was not a platform with a wide developer base. They spent two years to rewrite the product with a service-oriented architecture, migrating the business logic to .NET, developing a new user-interface in Microsoft Silverlight, and providing a full deployment of web services with over 140 integration points. The latest version of Glovia runs on Oracle's database and is being released for Microsoft SQL as well.
Now here's the interesting part: during this retrenchment period, Glovia was profitable and actually grew, through organic growth of its existing customers adding new plants, new acquisitions, and new users. So, retrenchment turned out to be a good strategy during recessionary times: kill off marketing and net-new sales, redouble your service and support for your installed base, and invest in rewriting the product for a relaunch.
This retrenchment strategy (my term) could only work because Glovia had an enviable position as the incumbent for some very large and loyal customers, beginning with its corporate parent, Fujitsu, which deploys Glovia in 43 factories. Fujitsu had the resources to support any fall-off in Glovia's business, but as it turned out, Fujitsu's deep pockets weren't needed. Xerox (Glovia's former parent) is still a customer, as are several other large and well-known global brands, such as Panasonic, Dell, Carrier, Bridgestone, Avery Dennison, Honda, Honeywell, Phillips, and General Electric.
So, now the rewrite is complete. The functionality offered by Glovia for its target manufacturing industries--which was already well established--has grown even more impressive.
- It offers heavy visualization, with real-time graphical information flow.
- There is support for assemble-to-order and engineer-to-order, with "available to X" planning calculations, such as available-to-order, to-make, to-buy, and to-service.
- Production scheduling and optimization is granular down to the minute.
- There is load-balancing at all levels of production: the plant, cell, machine, skill, and person.
- The supply chain planning capabilities allow synchronization of supply to demand or demand to supply.
- Lean thinking permeates the execution functions, with the Toyota Production System natively embedded in the product.
- For defense contractors, there is the necessary "borrow-and-payback" functionality as well as pegging to contract.
The rewrite also gave Glovia the opportunity to build mobility apps, which appear much further developed than many larger and better known competitors. Apps include work orders, financial apps such as expense reporting, purchase requisition approvals, and executive dashboards. Glovia even provides device management capabilities. Apple's iPhone and iPad are supported, as well as Android devices, Blackberry, and Windows Phone. Everything is developed in HTML5 and available through the appropriate apps store (e.g. iStore).
There are even some nods to social business: Glovia gives engineers at different links in the supply chain the ability to collaborate. Planners also have visibility into customer and supplier engineering changes and inventory positions. Integration with Microsoft's Sharepoint is also provided.
What about the Cloud?
These days, no briefing is complete without asking about cloud options. Glovia offers an on-premise deployment (of course) as well as an on-demand option. Although the on-demand version is currently a simple hosting arrangement, when Microsoft Azure is ready for enterprise applications, Glovia will be able to host its system on Microsoft's cloud, assuming customers demand it.
Separately, Glovia has built a set of manufacturing modules on Force.com to inter-operate with Salesforce.com's CRM system. These are full multi-tenant SaaS applications that provide functionality for product configuration, order management, inventory, manufacturing, invoicing, purchasing, and returns. These are separate and independent from Glovia's flagship G2 system.
My own view is that Glovia's current support and stated direction for cloud computing is probably sufficient for now in light of the industries and size of organizations that it targets.
Where is Glovia Headed?
Behind us in Glovia's conference room was the obligatory "customer wall," with logos of Glovia's largest and most well-recognized customer names. My associate Nick Hann asked, "Three years from now, what will that wall look like?"
This led to an interesting discussion. Customer attrition during the retrenchment period was surprisingly low: a loss of any of these large customers would have been huge, and in fact none were lost. The sales team is now expanding to focus on new deals in addition to incremental sales into the installed base. There are also some resellers being added strategically for certain vertical industries.
Will Glovia be successful as it transitions from retrenchment to new sales? So far, some signs are promising. There are some big names in the sales funnel, including one Fortune 100 company. Interestingly, many of these new sales opportunities have come out of introductions by existing customers.
But will that be enough? The market is crowded, as Gorham noted, with SAP and Oracle gunning for the top tier of customers and Infor, Epicor, and IFS hungry for the mid-market and individual facilities of large multi-nationals. Syspro, Consona, and QAD also play in some markets and industries.
The markets that Glovia competes in are not under-served. In addition to the traditional players that Gorham identified, I would be concerned about newer cloud ERP providers: specifically Plex, which has a big bulls-eye on the automotive sector, NetSuite, and SAP's Business ByDesign.
Nevertheless, circling back to the retrenchment strategy: I like Glovia's story. How to leverage a recession to retrench and recover. In warfare, retreat is sometimes a good strategy, and in Glovia's case, the retrenchment appears to have paid off.
I hope Glovia's success continues, because buyers can only benefit by having a greater number of well-qualified choices.
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Labels: Epicor, ERP, IFS, Infor, Oracle, Plex, QAD, SAP, Syspro