Attaining a new level of development

In a competitive market for management solutions, Navision Canada Inc. hopes small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will climb aboard its Navision Attain platform – a granular package with modules covering ERP, CRM and the whole alphabet soup of e-business.

Attain builds on Navision Financials, an earlier 32-bit accounting and management release that offered manufacturing, logistics, distribution and e-commerce modules. To these features, Attain adds simultaneous access to continuously updated online data, multi-language capabilities, integrated supply-chain collaboration and administrative service management.

From the ground up, Attain’s architecture was designed to allow customers to either deploy an end-to-end solution, or pick and choose modules, said Karim Budhwani, the Richmond Hill, Ont.-based Navision’s director of product services.

“In addition, [Attain] comes with a full set of tools which we call a development environment. The application itself is designed on top of the development environment, which makes Navision very unique … we’ve provided an application that allows rapid implementation and customization,” Budhwani said.

“Our competitors are actually proud to have 25 to 30 million lines of code – we constantly try to reduce our code and at 900,000 [lines] we’re truly object oriented,” he added.

Navision Canada, which is a division of the Danish Navision AS, adds regional requirements such as Quebec French, PST, GST and Canadian payroll to the source code, then hands off the platform and development tools to a network of local third-part integrators, said Budhwani.

One of these specialist shops – or “Navision Solution Centres” – is Mississauga Ont.’s Blue Habanero Inc. Raymond Chesher, vice-president of sales for Blue Habanero, said that because of the modular sales model his group is one of the few that can implement solutions at a fixed price – an attractive proposition for many SMEs that can’t afford any missteps when they invest in enterprise software.

“Most systems off the shelf will handle about 75 per cent of the customers’ requirements, like standard ledger functionality, standard order entry, manufacturing, etc., but there’s always about 25 per cent of the functionality that the customer has unique requirements for. They usually fill that gap in one of two ways. They either do heavy modifications to the application at very, very high cost, or they make radical business process changes to their company – neither of these options is very practical for a mid-market company,” Chesher said.

John Macdonald, general manager of Navision Canada, said that because Attain’s footprint is so broad, the 300 Canadian companies who currently use the platform specialize in many different areas. Navision’s 100 per cent indirect sales model then allows different integrators to focus vertically on different areas. For example, Macdonald said, Blue Habanero focuses on ERP and supply chain solutions for companies in the top end of Navision’s $5 million to $250 million-dollar target range.

Because the systems are implemented locally, the people that implement the software and do all the modifications that are required, are also the same ones that provide the first line of support, said Chesher.

“It’s really key and important to our customer to know that the consultants that are helping to implement the software don’t just go away and leave them calling an anonymous 1-800 number where the first answer they get is ‘You’ve made modifications to the system, so we can’t support you.’ We actually support any of the modification that we do so the customer really gets that localized personalized service,” he said.