Lumber and building materials dealers are mostly upbeat about prominent software supplier Activant Solutions' purchase of Speedware Corp., a deal that was announced in late January. The offer by Austin, Texas–based Activant to buy all outstanding shares of Speedware, based in Montreal, closed on March 30. Speedware is the parent of several software companies, including enterprise resource planning (ERP) vendor Enterprise Computer Systems (ECS).
Activant supplies two separate ERP systems, while Speedware has business intelligence and other products in addition to ERP. Officials at Activant were unable to outline a product roadmap until the deal closed, but a number of dealers expressed no major concerns about how existing products may be affected.
Case in point: Edward Hines Lumber in Buffalo Grove, Ill. The company switched late last year from ECS' 4GL to Activant's Eagle ERP system, noting the dealer had great confidence in the long-term strength of Activant and its products. “We were concerned about the size of the customer base in the ECS 4GL product,” says John Payton, Hines' director of information technology. “We didn't see that product continuing to grow.” At the same time, the company was looking for a system that could support its corporate-wide business operations, and concluded Activant fit the bill. By combining, the two companies can create greater financial strength and long-term stability, Payton maintains.
Another Activant customer, Houston-based Cox Hardware and Lumber, previously developed its own software to perform business intelligence–type functions, so the Speedware products could prove to be an asset, says president Virgil Cox.
Williams Bros. Lumber, an Atlanta-based dealer that's currently an ECS customer, is also optimistic about the combined forces of Activant and ECS. “I think [Activant] has some good features, too, and am sure we can probably share what they have and what we have,” says David Montgomery, Williams Bros.' vice president of information technology.
Activant vice president Steve McLaughlin says there's minimal overlap in the two companies' customer bases, but an analysis currently is underway to evaluate all systems. It's not yet known, for instance, what will happen to a business intelligence product that Activant has been developing internally. “As we get closer to formally bringing these two companies together, we'll then have a roadmap,” he says. —Tom Smith is a freelance writer in Amherst, N.Y.