By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2004-10-04 Print this article Print

Service organizations looking for a comprehensive enterprise application suite will find Epicor for Service Enterprises 8.1 an adaptable solution because of its business process management tools.

Shipping this month, Epicor for Service Enterprises 8.1 combines Epicor Software Corp.s Enterprise Suite applications, ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM (customer relationship management), human resources, business analytics and project management into a single application.

Epicor is priced by application suites, which have list prices starting at $20,000. Users are assigned access as named users and limited users. Named-user access is priced at $500 per user, and named users typically access core suite functionality, such as ERP or project planning. Limited-user access is priced at $150 per user. (A typical limited user would be a consultant who needs access to only the portal and the time-and-expense application.)

In eWEEK Labs tests of the Project Management, CRM, sales management and project accounting suites, we found that Epicor for Service Enterprises 8.1 provides a comprehensive array of applications for service companies to organize and automate business processes.

As part of our testing, we looked at Epicors ICE (Internet Component Environment) 1.2, the underlying BPM (business process management) and Web services tool used to build and customize Epicor for Service Enterprises 8.1. Epicor is a .Net application, so companies will need Visual Studio .Net expertise to make major modifications to the application.

At its core, Epicor for Service Enterprises includes tools for managing sales, customers, projects and project resources. In tests, we found the different suite elements to be well-integrated, with good tools for customizing workflow. Resource managers can even use the system to manage the bidding process for outsourcing partners.

We also liked the Epicor for Service Enterprises reporting and analytics tools. Reports are driven by Crystal Decisions Inc.s Crystal Reports, while two suite components deliver analytics.

The Business Intelligence Suite delivers real-time performance data to users and includes a copy of ProClarity Corp.s ProClarity Analytics Platform to render charts and graphs of key performance indicators.

The Portal Suite, based on Microsoft Corp.s SharePoint Server, delivers these analytics, along with other views of application data, in a consolidated view to users .

Managing underlying data warehouse and online analytical processing requires running Epicors Windows-based BI Manager, rather than building reports within the application.

We could make some administrative changes to Epicor for Service Enterprises 8.1 from within the Web-based user interface, but those options are limited to changes that affect the data store, such as adding new tax codes or managing the sales process. Making significant changes to Epicor, including building workflow, requires using the ICE components.

Some elements of the user interface can be trying. On some forms, we had to navigate back three screens to save changes. Epicor does have a nifty menu for fast navigation.

Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at michael_caton@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms Enterprise Applications Center at http://enterpriseapps.eweek.com for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions.

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