The latest version of Macola’s ERP software continues to open up the product, and features changes that they say will end ‘version lock’ including the addition of screen plug-ins and back-end plug ins. There has also been a major extension of open APIs and new capabilities to make it easy to turn off unwanted fields.
CHICAGO – Macola Software, an ECi Software Solutions company, announced the release of the 10.7 version of their ERP and business management software at their EVOLVE 2018 event here. It continues the theme laid out at last year’s event that prioritizes shifting from old ERP based on complexity to the kind of user-friendly experience that the revolution in consumer technology has made people want in their business software.
“Macola 10.7 will open up Macola in new ways that other companies in the SMB ERP space don’t offer,” said Derek Ochs, Macola Software’s director of software development. “The platform now uses interfaces that are immune from ‘version lock.’ We have expanded our open APIs – the way systems talk to one another, with a well-defined interface that doesn’t change. UI plug-ins are new in this release. We have also added back-end plug-ins, with one basic type today with others coming.” Finally, Ochs noted that 10.7 adds new capabilities that make the product easier to configure, to turn off features that are just unnecessary clutter for individual users.
Ochs said that 10.7 adds a powerful and flexible extension layer to the platform, to eliminate the ‘version lock’ that has always been endemic to ERP systems, and discouraged customers from upgrading.
“Almost all progress in the world is based on extension,” Ochs told the EVOLVE audience in his keynote. “You all know how important extension is in manufacturing.”
ERP systems have worked from a different premise, however.
“ERP software would design features for every possible use – ‘feature creep’ – which made it overly complex and difficult to maintain,” Ochs said. “To avoid it, people tinkered with the software – tinkered with the database, or worse, the code base. ERP vendors were afraid to make changes because it would break things, and customers were afraid to upgrade for the same reason. That’s ‘version lock.’ We have fixed it here with an open architecture, so that there is a way that you can extend the system without it breaking every time you upgrade.”
One method is the introduction of screen plug-ins.
“These are like widgets that you can put on your Synergy dashboard – but these allow the plug-ins to talk to the page,” Ochs said. “Other vendors have this functionality, but we have added a layer between the screen and the plug-in so the plug-in doesn’t have to change. It gets you away from version lock. I’m not aware of any other systems that have this yet, but I’m sure people are working on it.”
What if you want to modify internals?
“That’s where the back-end plug-ins come in,” Ochs said. “It allows you to listen to events – similar to Event Manager but a lot more powerful. It’s a layer between the database that stops it from breaking, like it would from using Event Manager alone. With the back-end plug-in systems’ power, eventually it will displace Event Manager for newer applications.”
With the system becoming more open, many more new REST APIs – a cornerstone of the Macola integration platform – have been added.
“There are over 200 API functions in this release and we add more every day,” Ochs indicated. “In addition, without good documentation, developers won’t use your APIs. We got rid of the technical jargon and Macola-specific words that we used internally.”
With more open source plug-ins being created, and others being created by Macola’s technology partners, Ochs said he sees the future here – the near future – as an App Store.
“The App Store is a high-level concept right now, but I do think that the more open we make it, the better,” he said. “Other systems have certified – blessed – plugins on one hand, and a cowboy wild west on the other, where everything is at your own risk. I kind of like that model.”
Other enhancements make it easier to customize Macola ERP.
“We try to always let you favor configuration over customization – which lets a user rather than a programmer make changes,” Ochs said. “In 10.7 we do this by letting people turn off features that they don’t care about. We had to change the design of the page to allow you to quickly toggle things in the database, but now it is simple to turn fields off.”
Ochs said there were a few things he wanted to be in 10.7 which weren’t quite ready.
“The biggest was improving user-defined fields,” he said. “This is something that is in high demand. We do have these already, but we are redefining how they work. Right now, there are limitations on how many you can have. We want a more flexible system.”
As far as the long term roadmap goes, Ochs said that could be affected by what Jeff Ralyea, the newly appointed ECi Manufacturing Division President decides. Ralyea has authority over all four ECi manufacturing companies, including Macola.
“The long-term roadmap will be driven by the business direction there, with cloud options being important,” Ochs said. The road map from last year hasn’t changed that much, but we want to hold off on major decisions until Jeff establishes the strategic direction.”