May 2016 Newsletter

Letter from the President:
Christopher Bohn - Eclipse User's Group President
Well, another year, another Epicor Insights has come and gone. As I think about summarizing this event and the activities conducted by your Users Group, I can say I couldn't be prouder to be part of an organization of passionate volunteers and members committed to improving Eclipse and supporting each other.  
Coming into Insights this year, I personally have not seen a bigger issue facing the Eclipse community since Kevin Roach, ex-President of Activant, launched his Merge, Converge, Purge initiative where everyone expected the plug to be pulled on Eclipse and we were going to be forced to another platform.  Side note: Merge, Converge, Purge is my term for the initiative, but I think it reflects how everyone felt!  Of course, the issue I'm talking about is Eclipse Support along with the India Technology Center (ITC).
In my opening letter in the January Newsletter, I mentioned mostly rainbows and unicorns as how I saw the current state of Eclipse. Within a few days of that newsletter, we started hearing about the dramatic changes to Eclipse Support and the rainbow faded and turned into thunder clouds with rain and the unicorns ran for the hills.
In the following few months the User's Group heard lots of concern and frustration about the future of Support and coupled with that was the near universal decline in Support responsiveness. Your User Group Board of Directors spent the vast majority of our time this year with the Eclipse Product Management Team understanding this issue and expressing our concern. Ultimately, this led to an "official" letter from the Users Group to Ian Ashby, Epicor's EVP in charge of support company-wide.   The letter was sent in March and detailed our concerns and requested an action plan by the time of Insights.
What I can say is that the collective voice of the Users Group has been heard and taken very seriously by top executives within Epicor. The board met face to face with Ian Ashby, Hari Shetty - Head of ITC Support, Suresh Prabhu - Director of the ITC, Chris Orr - Support Strategy Director and the person in charge of deploying EpicCare, Charles Clayton - Global Customer Advocate, Amy Keusch - Eclipse Technical Support, along with Camille Alberico, our Eclipse Support Manager. That is a lot of names but I wanted to emphasize that Epicor took this seriously enough to bring in the top brass to listen to us and present an action plan to address our concerns. In order to keep this from expanding into many pages of actions, I will highlight, in my opinion, the top 4 initiatives Epicor has already begun.
  1. Improved language skills for India Support: Support Candidates must pass a rigorous English test that measures English comprehension, writing, accent, etc. They must pass this test with at least an 80% before they are even considered for employment.
  2. Training geared to Subject Matter Experts (SMEs): It is a daunting task to understand the complexities of Eclipse and to speed up support, new employees will be trained to become experts on very specific areas of Eclipse.
  3. Understanding Distribution: It is not enough to understand Eclipse, but to also understand distribution so they know why we do what we do. Additional training will be done to assist in this.
  4. Knowledgebase: One of the fatal flaws of Eclipse Support today is most of the support information is in the heads of the current support staff. This did not bode well for our future as employees retire or move on. Increasing the volume of content in an Eclipse Knowledgebase will be key to increasing the competence of a new support representative. I have a separate article in this newsletter regarding EpicCare and you can read more about the Knowledgebase in that article.
Overall, your Board was satisfied with the Epicor Support vision and we left that meeting with the satisfaction that our collective voice was heard, they have takien the Support issues seriously, they created a satisfactory action plan, and finally have put in accountability measures to ensure progress is being made.
So what does all that mean and what can you expect over the next few months...and how can you help?
  1. India Technology Center is here to stay.  A significant portion of Eclipse Support will reside in India.  Please keep an open mind and expect some language barriers as they get accustomed to the lingo of Eclipse and distribution.
  2. Transition = bumpy road.  Expect that your experience will not be smooth sailing but will improve over time.
  3. Feedback meetings - the Board will meet with Ian Ashby within 30 days after Insights, i.e. mid May, to get an update on initiatives progress and also to provide constructive feedback. Therefore we will need your feedback as well. You can use the user group bulletin boards or send updates to the users group through Mary Barlow.
  4. Surveys - Epicor uses the surveys to measure the effectiveness of support. Not completing them does not provide the appropriate feedback. I urge you to complete them. Please be fair and if you are giving a negative response, elaborate why with a constructive response so Epicor can take appropriate actions.  In this case, venting on a survey will not help.  If you need to do that, that's what the User's Group is for!
I would like you to consider today as day one in the new Support world. Over the next month, quarter, year, do you see Support improving? We need to provide specifics in either case, but more specifically if you see support staying the same or getting worse we need to know so we can collectively voice that concern in a louder voice than any one of our companies can individually. 
I also see EpicCare, the new online support system, as a significant part of the future success. Again, please see my separate article on my thoughts related to that as this system is a game changer!
After Insights, I see that the rain has stopped and I see a break in the clouds and I actually saw some unicorns playing near the horizon. I understand the Epicor support vision and believe that vision is sound. Now it is up to us to hold Support accountable to that vision and provide the feedback necessary for them to react and adjust when the inevitable bumps occur.
Thanks for reading and hope to see you in Pittsburgh in September at Encounter!
Take Advantage of all the UFO Training - Encounter 2016 Information

The Training Committee has been busy working on great training opportunities for 2016.  Our mission is to provide low cost and effective training to our users.  We are always looking for ideas, suggestions, and help in achieving that goal. 

The usage for our Web Classes and Videos continues at a high level; it is great to see member companies taking advantage of these training opportunities.   Both the Web Classes and Videos are at no charge to members, and as a result the usage has steadily increased.  If you are your company's representative to the Users Group, here are a couple of actions you can take to help increase your company's overall Eclipse knowledge:
  1. Circulate the 2016 Training Calendar   to all departments.
  2. Make the New Hire classes part of your new employee training program.
  3. Be the internal advocate for continuing training.
The Training Committee is always looking for individuals to share their Eclipse related experiences with other users.  Many distributors have resolved business issues with unique ideas by using the Eclipse system in creative ways.  Many of these solutions involved using a third party product, such as Excel, with Eclipse to get the problem solved. These are great things to exchange with other users on a Web Roundtable or a session at Encounter.  Give it some thought and let a Training Committee member or Suzanne Saltmarsh know.

Last year Encounter in San Antonio was a huge success.  The hotel was on the famous River Walk and provided some great places to eat and catch up with old friends.  The sessions were well attended and provided some interesting  exchanges of ideas.  With the growing number of uses and vendors attending this Eclipse only event, everywhere in the hotel discussions were going on between users sharing ideas.  The value of finding other users who are using the same software, in a similar industry, with the same types of challenges is huge.  Hearing what other companies are trying, learning what worked and what did not can save you and your company a tremendous amount of time and money.
The class sessions were very well received by the participants. Some of the best parts were users asking questions and sharing experiences between each other.  The Training Committee received many good suggestions for the next conference. 

The Eclipse Users Group is planning to make Encounter 2016 even better so let's touch on some of the highlights:

Date: September 11-13, 2016
Location: Pittsburgh, PA 
Hotel Sheraton Station Square, located in historic Station Square on the river near Three Rivers.
Capacity: 350 users with a total of 400 attendees.
Classes: 9 tracks with valuable presentations.  
       Purchasing; Pricing; Accounting; Management; Warehouse and Operations; Sales;Information Technology; Accessing your Data; Vendor Presentations

Here is the time line of events for Encounter 2016:
  • The Encounter 2016 class schedule is published in this article.
  • May will be the month for users to make their decision about who from their companies should attend.
  • Early Bird registration will open on June 1st and close on June 30th, if history is a guide the conference is typically sold out by then.  ($550.00 per Person)
  • Standard Registration will open on July 1 and close on July 31. A waiting list will be created for those who register after the conference fills up. ($600.00 per Person)
  • Late Registration will be August 1 and close August 13.  During this period the waiting list is being worked down, if possible. ($650.00 per Person)
  • The Hotel Room block for the conference ends on August 20th .   (Conference Hotel Rate $149.00 per night, plus taxes)
This year there is the ability to pay by Credit Card.
The goal of the conference is to provide Eclipse users with an opportunity for training and sharing with other users for a reasonable cost.  It's a great place to learn more about the software you use every day.

So in Summary:
Learn of the experiences of other users.
Hear what Epicor is planning for future releases.
Interact with Eclipse product management.
Meet with your current and possible future vendors about how their products can help your company.
Great training and networking experience.
So mark June 1 on the calendar and plan to attend.

Rich Chadwick, UFO Training Committee Chair

In This Issue
Click on the link above - It will take you to the May Calendar on our website. You can click on each class to see the detail, make sure to click the back button in your browser to get back to this newsletter.
New and Returning Members April 2016

Johnstone Supply Odessa - Custom WholesaleOdessaTX
Service MetalSaint LouisMO
Wittichen Supply Company

Hibbert International
Calgary AB, CA
Electrozad Supply Co Ltd
WindsorON, CA
Charles McMurray Co
Sonepar USA

Three Methods for Improving 
Mobile Access to Your Online Store

Customers want to engage with your storefront at their convenience, whether on a job site, at the office or sitting at lunch. Chances are pretty good your customers, and even your own field sales force, will be logging in to your storefront from their mobile devices far more often than from their desktops. The question is, how easy will it be for them to research products, check availability and place orders from their tablets and smartphones?
Traditional desktop ecommerce environments don't fit well on the small screens of hand-held devices. The copy gets too small to read and the links too tiny to press. When that happens, users drop off quickly. Maybe they'll log on from their desktop later. Maybe they won't. Here are three methods you should consider to keep your customers happy no matter what device they're using:
Ecommerce platforms with responsive design - Responsive design systems automatically reformats all of the information on your ecommerce website so that it fits on smaller screen sizes. For example, customers might see three or four columns of product content from their desktop, but they'll see it organized in one or two columns on their tablets and smartphones. While responsive design is the easiest method to implement (assuming your ecommerce platform supports it), it can also be slow to load and cumbersome in the field. 

Browser-based mobile websites ( - Unlike responsive design, in which the entire website is pushed out to mobile devices, browser-based mobile sites allow you to scale down the content and functionality. This creates a more streamlined experience for mobile customers and your sales people in the field, with simpler navigation and faster load times than responsive design. A single browser-based mobile site is compatible across a variety of device operating systems, making it easy to share, update and integrate with other mobile technologies.
Native mobile apps - It's a safe bet that most of your customers already use mobile apps to make their lives easier, using them to check current traffic conditions, find the cheapest fuel, track expenses and so on. Your own native mobile app would provide that same level of quick-click convenience to procurement. Because native mobile apps are platform-specific, they can deliver highly efficient user experiences and represent a great way to lock in repeat business.
So, how do you decide which method to use? In an age in which business consumers are more likely to research products via mobile devices than desktops, having a responsive ecommerce design is often a good place to start. With little work on your part, you will improve customers' mobile shopping experiences and likely attract new shoppers too. (Search engines, Google in particular, reward sites that display content in a mobile-friendly manner.) Be sure to seek out platforms that support mobile methods beyond responsive design, so you can add mobile capabilities based upon your sales growth objectives and market demands.
For help, check out Computer Pundit's eCommerce21 storefront design and management platform. It features a responsive design system to automatically scale storefronts to fit mobile devices, plus creates synchronized browser-based mobile sites and native apps with all of the product content, functionality and backend systems integration of the desktop site. You can learn more at or call 1-888-786-3487.
Epicor EpicCare - the Eclipse support tool for the future.
Christopher Bohn - Eclipse User's Group President
By the time you read this, you should now be using Epicor's new service management system, EpicCare.  I am writing this immediately after Insights where EpicCare has been unveiled and I finally got a chance to use it hands on.  As such, I think I need to include a Safe Harbor statement to warn you that my comments here may not reflect what you are experiencing!  Nevertheless, I hope you will agree with my comments.  In our User's Group session at Insights 2016, I called EpicCare a GAME CHANGER.  For those of you that log support requests, even though this system has just launched I hope you have had a chance to use the system and see the capabilities, potential and the night and day comparison to the old support system. 
I'd like to make a few points about what I have seen and also give you some insight on why this change is so important.
This system is new and we, meaning Eclipse customers, are the first ERP platform to go live.  Your User's Group has been VERY vocal over the years to get rid of old Oracle based support system.  Epicor has listened and gave it to us first.  While I'm not naive enough to believe that Epicor launched EpicCare because of us, I might be so bold as to suggest we got it first because we were so vocal.  Be careful of what you wish for!  We have the beginnings of a fantastic system and a framework for a support system that should be around for many years to come!  Of course, as the first users, we are also the guinea pigs and will also experience the initial wave of issues as the system gets used in the real world. 
At Insights, I spent over 1/2 hour with Chris Orr - Epicor Support Strategy Director, reviewing EpicCare.  He is the person responsible for the development and deployment of EpicCare.  Not only did I get a super-cool multi-connector USB charging cable from their booth, I also learned a lot about the system.  I spent time quizzing him about the system, not just from a user's perspective but from a Support person's perspective.  What I can say is that as impressive as the potential is for us, the system is even more impressive from a support persons perspective.  I was impressed mostly by two main features; collaboration and knowledgebase.
Collaboration: The collaboration features I believe are crucial to speeding up the transition of the India Technology Center (ITC) support staff.  The real-time ability to get assistance from other support staff world-wide will be a key factor in getting issues resolved faster than any system Epicor had prior to EpicCare. 
Knowledgebase - Part I: I was impressed with the automation that is centered on creating and retrieving knowledgebase articles.  To borrow a phrase from the e-Commerce world, content is king and EpicCare has the structure to have very rich, multimedia capable content.  One of the historical flaws of Eclipse support has been the lack of documented support knowledge.  The vast majority of knowledge has been in the heads of support personnel, and that has contributed to the significant user community angst over the shift of support to India.  How does that knowledge get transferred?  The answer is the knowledgebase.  It will take some time to get the content into the system but we should see the dramatic improvement of this feature over time.  More on that in a bit.
Knowledgebase - Part II: We have the ability to get access to this information and will help speed up our ability to resolve our issues quickly through self-service.  I'm sure you have seen this in action by now when you type in a problem and you may have seen some knowledge articles pop up automatically that may be related to your issue.  One of the impressive features of EpicCare is that if you open any of these articles and you still open a service request afterward, the support staff can see what you viewed and won't have to ask you to do those steps since you already did. 
Knowledgebase - Part III: You can help speed this transition!  In talking with Chris Orr and Ian Ashby - Epicor EVP of Support, they were promising the ability for us to assist in the creation of content.  The mechanics of how this can happen probably won't be available by the time you read this since the system has just launched, but if you have created processes/steps to resolve an issue, you will be able to submit that to Epicor for review and ultimate inclusion into the official knowledge-base.  Ian also suggested that they may be able to include the author of the article so you get the recognition for helping the user community!  That's really cool and embodies how partners in business should behave.
As part of this launch, I do want to stress that this is also a significant shift regarding the Support Eclipse users have had historically.  The new support model puts a much higher emphasis on self-support.  Ultimately, I don't think this is bad since this new system has capabilities far beyond what we have experienced in the past.  In the short term, I expect this to be a bit rocky as the system matures, flaws are ironed out, and content is created.  This does not mean that Phone Support is going away, just that self-support will take a far more prominent role. 
From all I have seen and heard, I can say that I understand Epicor's emphasis in launching EpicCare as a major and most important step to improve support coming from the ITC.  I am impressed with EpicCare's potential and you can be sure your User's Group will be there to hold them accountable to deliver on that potential.
All the best,