Exact, Macola Division is refreshed with a new leader and new software products.

Any confusion about Exact, Macola Division, ends with its name. Exact is the Dutch holding company, Macola is the product name—a product originating in Marion, Ohio, that has been dedicated to making complicated distribution processes easier since the late 1970s.

Back then, it was one of the only Enterprise Resource Planning software products on the market and was one of the most successful. But as with any legacy brand, things can fizzle. Luckily, Exact hired Alison Forsythe to head up the division and make it hot again, which she is well on her way to doing.

But Forsythe's connection to Macola started long before she accepted a position with the division in 2013.

“I started in the IT business a long, long time ago,” she says. “I like to say I started at the beginning of the PC. In the early days of my career I used to sell Macola software. … To make things even more bizarre is that as a young girl in the '60s and '70s, I used to spend my summer vacations in Marion, Ohio.”

The beauty of the Macola division's brand, and Forsythe's vision for the division, is that it is a tried-and-true offering with the potential to be as hip as a tech startup company. That vibe is exactly what Forsythe now sells to others—it's the best of both worlds.

“(A legacy product) sometimes can have a negative connotation in this technology world that we live in. We're not this cool, sexy startup app. But in ERP software, as a medium-sized business owner, I think you want something that has stood the test of time,” she says. “So, if you think about Exact and the Macola offering having been proven over 45 years, you're not that startup app that you're having to download every week on your smart phone to get the latest bug fixes,” says Forsythe. “I call it the gold mine. It's just such a fabulous opportunity. I think most CEOs and most executives would love the opportunity I was presented with.”

However, upon stepping into an office that “looked like a 1970s software company, if you think about filing cabinets and 8-foot-high cubicle walls,” Forsythe, as its new managing director, knew reinvigoration would also include both product and culture.

One of her initial moves was to release a new product, something that hadn't happened in a decade. Macola 10 was released just 12 months after she started. “(Since then), we've been on a major release schedule of every six months, and most recently we've gone to a quarterly release schedule, which is pretty aggressive for the complexity of our product,” she says.

Her next move was literal. Once in Dublin, Forsythe made sure the new office, housing 120 local employees, resembled a cool tech startup. It is outfitted with white leather couches, stylish shag rugs and constantly refilled vases of fresh flowers.

To retain veteran developers with vast caches of intellectual property while also lowering the median age in the office—which was approximately 55 in 2013—Forsythe started an internship program that has now resulted in new hires. Another initiative that has helped the Macola division gain traction is a devotion to building business partner relationships with the release of a new program called Macola Unity Partner Program 2.0. Macola has seen a 50 percent increase in business partners and resellers year over year.

Automotive interiors supplier HFI has been using Macola software for 20 years. In that time, HFI has gone from one location with one customer to seven locations with 60 customers. Karen Hartley, IT and business intelligence director, credits Forsythe with much of the Macola division's momentum.

“You can tell the strength of a leader based on the rest of their team,” Hartley says. “If you've not spent time with the Exact, Macola division, you might not see it. But if you spend time with them you're definitely going to see she's there, she's leading, she's setting the vision, and everyone has bought into it. I envy her that she is able to do that.”

It seems as if the division need no longer reminisce about the piles of industry awards Macola received in years past. In fact, it has been nominated for six in the last year.

“We still have a long way to go,” says Forsythe. “Developing software is ever-changing and always evolving. And so we have a lot of work still left to do to regain that No. 1 position in the marketplace, but that's my ultimate goal.”

Chloe Teasley is the editorial assistant.