mint jutras, analyst, channel islands, erp

From Client/Server to Native Cloud ERP

Next year QAD will have been in the market of offering manufacturing ERP for 40 years. While other solutions of similar vintage are getting quite long in the tooth, still stuck on old technology, QAD has continued to invest in and evolve its underlying architecture. It has actually gone through a couple of transformations. The planning phase of its most recent journey began about five years ago when QAD set out to transform its (then) client/server based solution into a true, native cloud ERP. That transformation is now complete.

Recognizing the pull of easy-to-use, consumer-based technology, this transformation started as an exercise in improving the user experience. However, along the way, QAD also recognized the need for agility. What emerged in the end was the QAD Enterprise Platform. Based on microservices architectures and modern RESTful APIs (application programming interfaces) that negate the need for invasive customization, QAD and its customers are well-positioned to flexibly configure and extend the QAD Cloud ERP solution to adapt to changing business conditions in today’s era of disruption.

The Channel Islands Initiative

QAD calls this multi-year journey its Channel Islands initiative. QAD appears to have chosen the name well. The Channel Islands of California are a chain of eight islands located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California along the Santa Barbara Channel, within sight of QAD’s corporate headquarters. The main attraction of the real Channel Islands is their natural beauty, providing relief from the cluttered, hard-to-navigate urban setting, making it the perfect metaphor for the original goal of improving the user experience – think visually appealing user interface, easy and intuitive navigation.

But the requirement for agility makes the metaphor even more relevant. To better understand why, you need to know the genesis of the islands themselves. The islands are divided into two groups—the Northern Channel Islands and the Southern Channel Islands. The four Northern Islands used to be a single landmass. But as water levels rose (thousands of years ago), Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel (also the nicknames of the last four major releases), emerged and evolved as separate islands. But below the surface, they are still connected.

Much like the Northern islands, QAD ERP was originally developed as a monolithic solution – a single landmass, so to speak. In its early days this was certainly a plus. All the different functions shared a common set of data, eliminating data redundancy and minimizing integration efforts. Everything moved forward in lock step.

However, monolithic solutions are not agile. One of QAD’s goals was to support more modular upgrades, allowing different modules and disciplines (think finance versus supply chain or service management) to move forward independently at their own pace. We refer to this approach as “loosely coupled” versus tightly integrated and monolithic, but it should not be confused with a collection of point solutions with arm’s length interfaces. Just like the Northern Islands, under the surface, all these different functional areas are still connected.

Much of the re-architecting was done in the first phase – the Anacapa release. Of the four Northern Channel Islands, Anacapa appears to be the smallest, but in fact has an enormous landmass hidden under the surface of the water. This is representative of the early work done to re-architect the underlying infrastructure, reworking the application programming interface (API) structure and protocols, and future-proofing the user interface (UI), including the framework for connecting devices, both mobile devices and equipment now connected through the Internet of Things (IoT).

The last phase, San Miguel, has recently been released, embedding analytics and completing the transformation of QAD’s ERP to a native cloud solution – QAD Cloud ERP. So is QAD done? Hardly. In fact, it may just be the beginning. In spite of all the hype around digital technologies, we see limited progress being made in terms of real digital transformation in the world of manufacturing.

Table 1: Digital Technologies Plans and Investments in Manufacturing

Source: 2018 Mint Jutras Enterprise Solution Study

Table 1 from our most recent 2018 Enterprise Solution Study shows manufacturers are only just now beginning to grasp the impact of these technologies. Of course many of those surveyed are still running legacy solutions, which makes it hard, if not impossible to take advantage of them. QAD has removed that obstacle from the path of its customers. Can QAD lead them down the path of digital transformation? Only time will tell, but they certainly have provisioned them for the journey.