Epicor recently announced a new version of Prophet 21®, its ERP for distributors. Prophet 21 2017 offers some exciting changes that make upgrading worthwhile — although for now, you should probably only test some promising web-based functionality. Here’s a brief overview of what has caught our attention and how you should approach updating your system.
P21’s New .NET Framework
Software has changed a lot in the last five years or so. Programs that used to reside exclusively on your desktop, now are more likely to be little more than a user interface skin that relies on cloud data, or you access the entire thing inside a web browser.
Until now, P21™ has remained a 32-bit “fat client” developed in PowerBuilder — a Windows desktop User Interface (UI) that accesses the P21 SQL database. While the new Prophet 21 2017 will continue to offer a similar desktop version, it also sets out a new roadmap based on a .NET framework. This new .NET framework essentially web-enables P21, bringing it more in line with a modern app, and promises to offer multiple benefits:
This will allow P21 to take full advantage of 64-bit Windows OS, which provides security features and access much more memory.
Agile software development cycle
The new .NET framework enables the P21 development team to push out more features more frequently, which is in line with how most software is developed today.
With .NET, organizations can provide secure, remote user access via any browser, including tablets and smartphones. This could be especially useful for users who are on the road that need to only view data, or enter very minimal information.
Hybrid desktop client
This more contemporary, intuitive interface will likely be easier for employees to use with less training and troubleshooting.
API support for third-party integrations
The .NET version comes with more robust API, which should allow more freedom for third-party applications to integrate at the SQL Server level for many more options.
Middleware server with increased performance
The .NET version of Prophet 21 2017 requires migrating to a new middleware server that Epicor says delivers increased performance compared to using a terminal server for remote access, with 1.5- to 2-times the number of users on a single server.
Plan to Upgrade, But Test .NET
While we are excited by the prospects for where P21 is going, it’s still in its early days. Besides, we’re talking about your ERP here — your business cannot afford to struggle with new software that might not have all the wrinkles ironed out. At the moment, the .NET version only has about 80% functionality of the PowerBuilder “fat client” desktop UI.
So while you probably do not want to put all the new .NET goodies into production just yet, we certainly recommend that you upgrade to Prophet 21 2017 and deploy the traditional desktop client for now. In the meantime, set up a test environment for the .NET client and Middleware server, and begin putting them through their paces. (We have already deployed test environments for some hosted clients.) Select a few early-adopter users to try out the hybrid client, move back and forth, and to provide feedback. You are able to run both flavors of the new Prophet 21 side-by-side.
One Caveat: Jetform
P21 has not fully supported Jetform for quite some time. Some organizations may still be using Jetforms, but in order to take advantage of the new .NET version of Prophet 21, you’ll have to be on Crystal Reports/Forms. If you need some help, we are experts in what Crystal Reports can achieve with Prophet 21.
A Promising Roadmap
Clearly, the new P21 will be a big change for everyone, but we think it definitely puts P21 more inline with current technology. We expect it to certainly help performance.
As with anything in IT, the devil will be in the details, but from what we’ve heard, Epicor is working hard to make this succeed, and we have high hopes that they will deliver as advertised.
Get More Out of Prophet 21
We help many distributors harness the power of their ERP data. Our expertise in Prophet 21 management provides a full spectrum of back-end system support, and we keep a close eye on new developments like Prophet 21 2017. If you would like to chat about what it could mean for your business, get in touch.