The world is changing rapidly. Those who analyze this change correctly and adapting it to their business processes effectively will win. Those who cannot keep up with the change will lose control of their business. In this exclusive interview, we talk about the effects of change with Lee An Schommer, Sr. VP of Global Product Manager at Epicor. She talks about the challenges awaiting the product management leaders and she gives effective tips for the cloud transformation journey in 2020.


As you look back on your career thus far, could you tell us about how you climbed the stairs of success?

Early in my career, I was asked to lead a couple of challenging transformations. After the first few successes, I found that I was raising my hand when others were hesitant to take the risk. Some of these risks included consolidating platforms, launching a new product in a compressed timeframe, and transitioning multiple products and customers from on-prem to SaaS. I continue to work with amazing teams and customers, and that’s the true secret to success. There’s nothing more energizing than working with a talented group of people, and Epicor is full of amazing industry experts.

What do you think was your greatest accomplishment at Epicor as Sr. VP of Global Product Management? What was your toughest decision?

Shortly after I joined Epicor, we started to more formally listen to our customers. Through several communication vehicles, we solicit customer feedback including our Customer Advisory Boards, Product Advisory Boards, site visits, product surveys, etc. We then turn the input into action. By joining forces, we have made tremendous progress in developing people-centric technologies and enhancements that are truly fit for purpose.

The challenge for any Product Management leader is where to invest and when to say “no” or “not now.” There is always more demand than hours and dollars. Therefore, your product strategy has to be well informed. Equally important is the need to explain the “why” associated with the investment strategy so that stakeholders understand your logic. I keep waiting for someone to give me an unlimited budget, but until then I will work to ensure I have a data-driven investment strategy that can be easily articulated.

What does the future hold for you? What do you think are the top strategic priorities for Epicor and how would you execute them in 2020?

In 2020, we continue our cloud transformation journey. Epicor does a wonderful job balancing its commitment to cloud and on-prem while building with cloud in mind and ensuring all boats rise or benefit from cloud best practices. Our key initiatives focus on helping our customers grow and transform at a speed that leapfrogs the competition vs. taking years to implement and realize value.

What do you think the future holds for the ERP industry? What are the top emerging ERP trends in 2020?

Buyers have been burned by vanilla ERP systems, the price tag, and the inflexibility. The industry is waking up and understanding the need for vertical and sub-vertical specialization to protect a customer’s secret sauce without breaking the bank. We will see continued digital transformation improvements in 2020, and the best ERP’s will show you how it can be done without sacrificing personalization.

What does worry you about what’s ahead in the ERP industry?

New technologies and helping customers keep up with the rate of change keeps me up at night. There are so many options that it can feel more art than science in terms of when to ramp up an investment – getting ahead of these new trends. The size of the company and the micro-vertical can influence the level of adoption. IoT is a great example. It’s been around for years, and yet some companies don’t know where to apply it and so they stall in their adoption. A great ERP will break down barriers, making it easy for customers to implement change. If you don’t, you will quickly become obsolete.

What do you think are the key factors that will motivate the next-generation workforce to adopt ERP solutions?

Experience is a new product. Any ERP system can handle quote-to-cash, but can you do it with ease? The next-generation expects an application that solves problems and is as intuitive as their smartphone with a similar ability to personalize. It’s one of the many reasons Epicor is so committed to our new Kinetic design system – a framework that creates a delightful, intuitive UI and UX helping to ensure our users are getting work done, not wondering what field is next.

Many of the emerging vendors offer out-of-box cloud-based ERP solutions and they will continue to do so. Do you think the competition will be tougher in the industry over the next decade because of this?

One of Epicor’s many differentiators is that we handle industry-specific requirements without needing years to implement. Many out-of-the-box solutions can be a great place for a small company to start. We take things a step further, showing how industry-best practices can be handled through configuration. We also have bundles to help jump-start a company’s transformation. It’s the best of both approaches.

What is the role of cloud ERP in digital transformation?

The rate of technology changes can be overwhelming. Some customers don’t know where to start. ERP systems need to demystify buzz phrases like digital transformation and Industry 4.0, focusing on customer goals and pain points. Odds are, how you solve the problem will be digital, including shifting to omnichannel; automating manual processes; leveraging BI to take quick action; and utilizing AI to assist, predict, and prevent issues.

As Epicor, do you think you can meet your customers’ expectations when you consider 2020 ERP trends? Are you ready for the trends of 2020?

Epicor has been rolling out smart factory and smart supply chain applications for years. We will continue to offer these and new digital transformation tools that are tangible, not over-whelming, always keeping the customer top of mind. It’s easy to get caught up in the cool factor associated with AI, IoT, and other trends. All of that is meaningless if you are not solving customer problems with people-centric technologies.