It is hard to believe that the QAD R&D team, with many others including customers and partners, has worked on the Channel Islands initiative for five years now. But we have come full circle: QAD just made the innovations from the final phase of the last of the four Channel Islands, San Miguel, available in QAD Cloud ERP 2018. As a farewell to this ambitious initiative, I wanted to explain why we did Channel Islands in the first place, what came out of it and to provide a glimpse into what’s next.
Why Did We Do Channel Islands?
In 2014, when QAD conceived of Channel Islands, there were many factors behind our decision to invest in the initiative, but the main motivator was that we saw all the underlying technologies for applications like ERP changing at a rapid pace, such as:
- Cloud/SaaS: Driven by trends like Internet connectivity, the open source movement and the fact that virtualization worked for enterprise-class applications, we saw Cloud/SaaS architectures shifting toward “loosely coupled” designs to take advantage of these trends.
- Due to the rampant popularity of smartphones, tablets, HTML5 and consumer web user experiences, user interfaces were being revolutionized.
- Big Data altered how much data could be analyzed, and more sophisticated analytics front-ends and algorithms changed the notion of visualization and insight.
- The explosion of data, driven by smart devices, robots, near field communications – now part of IoT – was undeniable.
Everywhere we looked, tech was changing and fast. We bought into the cloud early by offering the SaaS QAD Supplier Portal in 2003 and QAD Cloud ERP in 2007, but in those early cloud days, we didn’t yet have a cloud application architecture. As a result, we wanted to re-architect ERP for the cloud and to future-proof our customers and offerings to readily support future tech trends; we knew tech would not stop evolving.
Outcomes of the Channel Islands Initiative
Five years of R&D later, what do we have as a result of Channel Islands? I see three major outcomes:
- Channel Islands User Experience (UX): This is not just a new user interface; it is a way of building apps that optimizes the experience and flows for users. For example, Action Centers, a key part of the Channel Islands UX, are role-based, collaborative, can be personalized and include flexible state-of-the-art embedded analytics. The new UIs, the Web UI and the Mobile UI (for native mobile OSs), while part of the Channel Islands UX, are just for rendering. Our new UX, being data-driven, can easily accommodate new UIs as they emerge. While we have completed the Channel Islands initiative, the Channel Islands UX lives on for the foreseeable future and will receive further enhancements.
- QAD Enterprise Platform: This is our modernized application platform, which is based on a loosely-coupled design and takes advantage of open source and best-of-breed partner technologies. It is architected to deploy, run and scale quickly on modern cloud services facilities, like the QAD Cloud. The platform includes “rapid response” technologies and access, through RESTful APIs, to core data and applications services.
We believe it will change the way customers upgrade ERP and meet new business requirements and will expand the QAD development ecosystem. While not a general-purpose Platform as a Service (PaaS), the QAD Enterprise Platform offers many similar capabilities as a PaaS plus the data/processes of our ERP and supply chain solutions. One could think of it as an “ERPaaS.”
- QAD Cloud ERP 2018: Customers can continue to use the .NET UI if they choose. Customers can also run QAD Cloud ERP in a mixed mode; some processes in the Web UI/Mobile UI, some in .NET UI. It all works. The Web UI/Mobile UI “Channel Islands” apps, however, are strikingly different: more adaptable, more intuitive and support related processes without going “out of context.” For example, Embedded Analytics gives Web UI users instant access to in-depth insight right in the business process context. There is no need to jump out of ERP and switch to a separate business intelligence app to gain insight. Furthermore, that insight can easily be shared with other users. The newer features of QAD Cloud ERP 2018 offer more than functional improvements – they offer flexible experience and process improvements.
What is Next?
Though we are no longer enhancing QAD solutions under the “Channel Islands initiative” moniker, we are still innovating at the same furious speed. For example, during the five years of Channel Islands development, we did not only apply our R&D team to Channel Islands. The QAD R&D team, often in conjunction with customers and/or partners, rolled out many new products and major enhancements to established products that were not part of Channel Islands.
For example, QAD Automation Solutions for data collection and label printing, and our reengineered manufacturing offering, which we call Production Orders, were conceived and delivered over the last several years. Similarly, we have been in the process of reengineering the QAD Supplier Portal, which already has been enhanced considerably.
We also updated, basically every year, all the closely related solutions to QAD Cloud ERP, like QAD Cloud DSCP (demand and supply chain planning), QAD Cloud TMS (transportation management system) and QAD Cloud QMS (quality management system). In addition, during the last several years we started offering several new interoperability and integration products, including QAD Cloud EDI, QAD Boomi AtomSphere for cloud integration and QAD eInvoicing.
During the same timeframe as Channel Islands, we added innumerable industry-specific enhancements and new features for all six of our vertical industries, often driven directly by customer and industry consortium requirements.
What comes next is what we have already been doing in terms of making enhancements and coming out with relevant new products. In addition, we are working on a list of advanced technologies that we will make available through QAD Cloud ERP and the QAD Enterprise Platform. QAD Labs has been co-innovating with customers and partners in support of Industry 4.0 and beyond. Our approach, however, is not just about technology. We want to embed advanced technologies where it makes sense in a business solution context, which ensures customers gain value.
Here is an example: If you use QAD Cloud ERP 2018 and inside the Web UI you run a browse that requires a very large quantity of data, you may be surprised how quickly the results come back. That is due to a data lake, in the background, processing the query. Our goal is to provide you advanced technologies that are useful in a business context rather than exposing you to high-risk science experiments.
We are extremely proud of the work and results of the Channel Islands initiative. QAD, as a result, offers you a modern user experience, a modern platform, many optimized processes and a means to, quite easily, take advantage of advanced technologies as they mature. We think the potential value of QAD Cloud ERP is far higher today, and it is a far more flexible offering than it was when it was first rolled out in the QAD Cloud over a decade ago. We strongly encourage every customer to take a close look at what QAD Cloud ERP 2018, the capstone of the Channel Islands initiative, has to offer.
Please contact your account representative, call QAD direct at +1-805-566-6100 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.