• September 25, 2007
  • By Coreen Bailor, (former) Associate Editor, CRM Magazine

Consona Sizes Up the Manufacturing Market

Consona ERP -- a business unit of software provider Consona Corp., formerly M2M Holdings -- has released the latest version of its integrated ERP application built with Microsoft .NET-managed technology, and has also announced a technology partnership with product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Omnify Software. The two announcements are targeted at strengthening Consona ERP's positioning within its core market: small and midsize (SMB) discrete manufacturers. Intuitive ERP Version 8.1 features enhancements to its Capable-To-Promise module, including the ability to quickly and accurately identify when and how manufacturers can deliver to their customers based on critical materials and finite or infinite work center scheduling, according to Consona's announcement. The product also includes an infinite and finite capability planning tool, aimed at providing users with more visibility into the status of individual work centers, including automatic scheduling of upstream or downstream operations and drag-and-drop scheduling. "In the past, the more advanced planning options that are finite-capacity-based have been out of reach, in terms of price, for small companies," says Cindy Jutras, vice president and group director at Aberdeen Group, a Harte-Hanks company. By building in the finite capacity component, Jutras adds, Consona has helped fill a "need that hasn't been served." Meanwhile, the partnership between Consona ERP and Omnify will lead to the integration of Intuitive ERP and the Omnify PLM, which the companies say will automate for SMB manufacturers the sharing and synchronizing of engineering and manufacturing data. According to the plan, data will flow between the two application in the following manner: Omnify's solution manages product information such as component data, documentation, engineering changes, and compliance data; key data is then passed to Intuitive ERP, where it is integrated into the system's financial, distribution, and manufacturing modules. Under the alliance, Omnify's PLM functionality will also be integrated with Made2Manage ERP, Consona ERP's other cross-industry ERP application. "Both enterprise resource planning and product lifecycle management bring unique value to an operation, but when combined, provide a streamlined, collaborative environment that bridges the gap between manufacturing and engineering," said David Whitney, Omnify's vice president of strategic sales, in a statement. "We have seen the value Intuitive ERP delivers to its small and midsize manufacturing customers and are happy to be selected to add to that value. This partnership is a natural fit due to our common technology platforms, target market, and success of mutual customers." "Product lifecycle management is a very hot topic with our customers right now," said Scott Malia, general manager of Consona ERP, in a statement. "Managing the product lifecycle data closely and minimizing the time it takes to get products to market is of paramount importance to today's manufacturers. We are thrilled to be offering our customers extended functionality in the PLM area by partnering with one of the leaders in the PLM space." As in the CRM industry, the ERP market has seen a considerable amount of consolidation, according to George Goodall, senior research analyst at Info-Tech Research Group, citing vendors such as Oracle and Infor that have made several moves, several of which have come in the midmarket arena. In addition, Goodall points to the influence of Microsoft Dynamics, which is "also really aggressive" in the midmarket space, he says. "Where the growth is coming from in the ERP market is really down at the midmarket level," Goodall says. "It's typically companies that have less than $100 million in revenue...that have outgrown their systems and are looking to move into something new. Oracle and SAP have traditionally really struggled getting down to that level, really because of the cost of sales. Infor has been a little bit more successful, largely because the various platforms that it has are very industry-oriented, and Microsoft has a strong reseller network and consulting channel that has done quite well." Indianapolis-based Consona, Goodall says, plays at the smaller end of the market. It has "not necessarily been growing market share, but growing revenue," he says. The vendor, he adds, "is largely .NET-based, Microsoft-based -- and in the small end of the midmarket, overwhelmingly .NET dominates there. Also, it's a relatively basic system, so when you look at what you can get with an SAP ERP or an Oracle [ERP], they have a lot of functionality, but [are] much more complicated than a small player is really looking for." The latest news comes after a period of flux for the company now known as Consona. In 2003 Made2Manage Systems was scooped up by holding company Battery Ventures and taken private, resulting in the formation of M2M Holdings. (The company would eventually be jointly owned by Battery Ventures and Thoma Cressey Equity Partners.) The company had an aggressive acquisition strategy, gobbling several ERP companies, including Intuitive Manufacturing Systems in July 2006. Within the CRM world, however, M2M was best known for nabbing midmarket CRM vendor Onyx Software and e-service player Knova Software. In 2007 M2M changed its name to Consona. Consona's acquisition approach to date has been to leave its acquired imprints as individual products rather than consolidate or rationalize the product sets. On the ERP side of the equation, while Intuitive ERP and Made2Manage ERP are Consona's most horizontal applications, the parent company also has niche offerings catering to areas like plastics, wiring and cable, and metals. Jutras contends that Consona should try to use "some element of [services-oriented architecture], some componentization so it can leverage more of the feature functionality between the two horizontal products." She adds, though, that "if you really look at the companies that are really making on impact on the market today there are less than 15, and Consona is one of them."

Related articles: A Million Handshakes for Onyx and Knova Consona releases new versions of its acquired CRM and knowledge management properties, and adds some marketing automation from Norway. M2M Gets a Brand New Knova Bag M2M Holdings snatches up Knova to add Web self-service technology to its growing CRM offerings; more acquisitions may follow, pushing a message of choice with consolidation. M2M Holdings Mines Onyx A holding company wins the bid, and will take the company private; CDC loses out on the chance to acquire its CRM competitor. The 2007 Rising Stars and Service Excellence Our third annual Service Excellence award recipient, M2M Holdings, made two smart deals that plunged it directly into the full-suite CRM and knowledge management arenas.
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