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Oracle and SAP passed over for IFS by water desalination firm

Seven Seas Water Corp. had very little interest in purchasing ERP systems from Oracle or SAP.

When it came time for Seven Seas Water Corp. to pick an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software provider, one thing was clear: company executives weren't interested in Oracle or SAP.

Seven Seas, which was founded late last year, is in the business of acquiring and building plants that make ocean saltwater suitable for drinking. The growing company, which serves resorts, municipalities and other commercial water users in the Caribbean, says that Oracle's and SAP's respective ERP offerings are simply too big and complicated.

Instead, Seven Seas chose

The right ERP vendor for the job

After rejecting Oracle and SAP, Seven Seas executives began to focus their ERP vendor evaluation process on three main players: Microsoft, Epicor and IFS.

The management team was looking for a highly scalable technology that was just the right fit for Seven Seas' ambitious business model, which for at least the next several years will include the acquisition and creation of water treatment plants throughout the Caribbean.

Microsoft and Epicor had strong ERP products, but neither turned out to be the right fit for Seven Seas, Curtis said.

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Microsoft offers a host of ERP systems, including those acquired from Great Plains and Solomon, but according to Jeff Lentz, Seven Seas' vice president and controller, extending those capabilities to Seven Seas' business model would have required too much customization. It's something that could definitely have been accomplished through third-party software companies, but Lentz said it just didn't seem like a worthwhile effort.

"Whenever you get involved in customizations it just adds another level of complexity in terms of relying on third parties and having to change the integration points every time a new version of the software comes out," Lentz explained.

The management team at Seven Seas had good experiences with Epicor in the past. They say the vendor offers a solid user interface and a wide variety of features. But in this case, said Curtis, the vendor really flubbed the presentation process.

"In the proposal process and in the presentations it was clear that either they were focused elsewhere or they were not a good fit for our business, and I'd have to say they were quite disappointing," Curtis said. "That having been said, the product was strong. I don't know what went wrong in the proposal process but it certainly helped shift our interest to IFS."

It soon became clear to Curtis and crew that IFS was the right ERP vendor for the job.

"The business model that IFS has built up from the utility space has a nice parallel in the water space, where you're building and owning your own plants and operating them," said Curtis. "So, over the course of the RFP and the meetings we became very comfortable that IFS was the best fit. We expect IFS to be scalable regardless of what other acquisitions we make."

IFS is providing Seven Seas with a database management system that captures several levels of information and offers some analytical features. But, according to Lentz, Seven Seas was particularly drawn to IFS's strong general ledger, procurement, project management and field services-related capabilities, all of which are key aspects of Seven Seas' business model.

Room for improvement?

In some areas, IFS's ERP technology takes some getting used to, said Lentz.

"[IFS's] tendency is to focus on functionality more than ease of use, probably no more so than an Oracle or an SAP, but certainly in terms of navigation and things like that -- it's a little heavier than maybe some of the more popular or simpler Microsoft products," he said. "We're getting accustomed to that."

Also, Lentz said he can't help but notice IFS's connection to Europe.

"[IFS] has its roots in Europe and you find a certain orientation, perhaps, to European conventions," he explained. "But that just kind of hits you and it's not something that's particularly bothersome."

What the future holds

Seven Seas is currently in the first phase of its IFS ERP implementation, a process that includes the deployment of IFS's general ledger and procurement capabilities.

Following that, Seven Seas will enter phase two of the ERP implementation, which will focus primarily on deploying project management and field services-related features.

Lentz said the implementation has been going smoothly thus far, thanks in large part to IFS's strong support services.

"We should be in position to go live [with phase one] sometime in the next couple of months," he said. "Then project management and field services will follow right on top of that."

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