“”Some enterprises don’t like to think about integration,”” says CME’s David Hume. “”It’s a difficult process.””

Indeed, after the dislocations and pain of ERP deployments, it’s a word a lot of IT departments would rather avoid. Unfortunately, it’s one of those things that just won’t go away and

supply chain management has put integration right back to the top of the IT agenda.

“”It’s something we continue to talk about, but it’s slow going,”” says Adrian Gonzalez, senior analyst at the ARC Advisory Group. “”You have to have your own house in order before you start opening your door to partners.””

The good news for companies that already have an ERP or an integrated inventory management system is most of the internal integration work is already done, Gonzalez says. The big ERP vendors are making strong plays in the SCM market, and offering solutions that plug into existing enterprise systems.

Unfortunately, things are easier said than done for smaller companies, many of which never quite got around to ERP, says Hume. Moreover, even though the technological underpinnings of enterprise integration are becoming more affordable to the mass of Canadian manufacturers, it’s not always clear what to integrate.

“”We have to walk before we can run,”” Hume says. “”There is a lot of very sophisticated technology out there, but there are also a lot of medium-sized companies that can’t even tell you how they handle a purchase order.””

Indeed, at least one SCM solutions provider has decided that helping smaller companies is an irresistible business opportunity. “”All our competitors are interested in going up-market, but it’s pretty thin up there,”” says David Brown, president of Woodstock, Vt.-based Manufacturing Information Systems Inc. “”We’re interested in the ‘Fortune Five Million’ whose needs aren’t being answered by the Oracles and SAPs.””

MISys partnered with Accpac to get to that market segment for whom accounting is a software package on a PC rather than one of many integrated processes in an ERP. “”When the economy’s down, a lot of companies aren’t going to be interested in spending $10 million for enterprise integration,”” Brown says. “”I think there’s a real demand for solutions that provide manufacturing management but integrate with what companies already have.””

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