Sanjeev Aggarwal's Blog

October 31, 2012

SAP TechEd 2012: Implications for SMEs and the Partner Ecosystem

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Sanjeev Aggarwal, Partner, SMB Group

During the week of October 15, I attended SAP TechEd 2012 in Las Vegas, along with about 6,500 SAP technology specialists and partners, and a small group of influencers. Although SAP is more widely renowned for its success in the large enterprise market, the small and medium enterprise or SME market (which SMB Group labels the small and medium business or SMB market) is a core part of SAP’s installed base and essential to SAP’s growth strategy. Roughly 80% of SAP’s more than 128,000 current customers are SMEs with less than 1,000 employees. In addition, SAP has more than 12,000 partners worldwide who provide SAP solutions and services to SME customers.

During this year’s TechEd, SAP discussed three areas that underscore SAP’s commitment to the SME market and its fundamental belief that strong growth opportunities lie ahead in this segment.

Taking HANA to the Cloud and to SMEs

  • HANA Cloud was by far the lead theme overall at 2012 TechEd. As Bill McDermott, co-CEO remarked, “HANA lies at the heart of the intellectual renewal going on at SAP.” HANA began life as an in-memory analytics engine, and quickly evolved into a database. Now, as SAP announced at the event, SAP is building the HANA Cloud as a next-generation platform for developers.

    SAP HANA AppServices and SAP HANA DatabaseServices are services that allow developers to create next-generation applications using native SAP HANA, Java and other rapid-development services. The good news is that SAP will now offer for free, developer licenses for SAP NetWeaver Cloud to get more support from the developer community. These shared services will build on SAP’s cloud platform vision by providing building blocks for portals, integration, mobile, analytics, collaboration and commercial services required to expedite building and life-cycle management of applications.

    SAP HANA One, a deployment of SAP HANA on the Amazon Web Services Cloud. HANA One currently supports a relatively small 64GB HANA instance on Amazon’s AWS cloud for $0.99 per hour. This will make it faster and easier and cheaper for developers to build affordable, HANA-enabled apps for SMEs.Although HANA Cloud is still a work in progress, HANA Cloud services and SAP HANA One are first steps to SAP realizing the HANA Cloud development platform vision. Significant work is required to move this from a development/testing proof-of-concept to a production platform where commercial applications can be deployed. SAP needs to develop a strategy to help developers move rapidly to commercial deployment and promotion, as Salesforce.com has done successfully with its Force.com platform and ecosystem.

  • SAP also announced that SAP Business One, version for SAP HANA, has been in limited release mode as of September 18, 2012, with general availability slated for some time next year.

    SAP Business One is SAP’s flagship ERP solution for SMEs with fewer than 100 employees. This HANA-powered version uses the HANA database and allows both the transactional (ERP) and analytical application to be run on the same server, and promises significant performance advantages. Running both ERP transactions and analytics on a single platform speeds access to information for analytics, reporting and search, without slowing down transactional processing.

    While not every SME will need to turbo-charge these functions, some SMEs are challenged with exponential data growth, and managing and extracting the insights they need from it. For instance in the health care industry, companies can integrate patient transactions with insurance company patient utilization records and hospital electronic medical records, to providing a complete real-time view to better manage patient care and costs. By crunching through more data more quickly, these businesses can more readily gain the insights they need to succeed in an increasingly complex and competitive world.
    Meanwhile, SMEs that don’t require the increased speed and power and analytics capabilities that HANA supplies can continue to buy SAP Business One based on Microsoft SQL database, which SAP offers as both an on-premises and cloud based solution.

Enabling Mobility for SMEs

With the acquisition of Sybase and Syclo (which SAP acquired in April’12), SAP is moving to help SMEs develop a mobile application and mobile management strategies. Sybase’s robust, market-proven Sybase Unwired Platform, is now augmented by the Syclo mobile application development platform to enable partners to rapidly develop, configure and deploy mobile apps for SME customers. SAP partners can also help SMEs to add mobile capabilities to their existing business applications, and/or help them develop custom mobile applications to address business requirements. SMB Group research studies indicate that many SMEs are planning to deploy internal mobile solutions in areas such as field service and CRM. In addition, they are planning to provide external mobile apps in areas such as payments, marketing and appointment and reservation scheduling to boost customer engagement and create new revenue opportunities.

Empowering the SME Partner Ecosystem

The partner ecosystem heavily influences SMEs’ business solution purchase decisions. Many of the partners I spoke with at the event provide consulting, implementation services and development for SAP’s SME-focused applications, including Business One, Business by Design, Business All-in-One, Business Objects Edge. Now SAP is helping these partners build skills in HANA and mobility to support new SME requirements.

Partners will play a vital role in helping SMEs customize application, analytics and reporting on the HANA platform or help startups develop new next generation application on SAP HANA Cloud. Likewise, on the mobility front, partners are essential to help SMEs develop a comprehensive mobility strategy that includes mobile access to business application and address the mobile management issues–including devices, access, security and mobile applications –in a unified way.

SAP is sparking renewed interest from and incremental opportunities for the SAP partner ecosystem. HANA Cloud, SAP Business One with analytics powered by HANA, and new mobility solutions will help SAP attract new partners and grow its partner ecosystem. Meanwhile, SAP’s laser focus on the mobility front will help it forge new partnerships with mobile solution developers that want to capitalize on the opportunity to provide mobile solutions via SAP’s Sybase Afaria platform. SAP is also opening up the SAP PartnerEdge program to help attract these new partners with educational tools, resources and training–as well as credentials to validate and certify partner skills for mobility and HANA.

In addition, the current SAP Mentors and partners that I met at TechEd were excited about the new opportunities that this will open up for them. For existing SAP partners, SAP’s new HANA and mobile solutions provides a pathway to incremental opportunities in their existing account, and an entrée to develop business in new ones.

Perspective

SAP is betting that these new technologies and solutions will give it an edge in the SME market. But for many SMEs, this is uncharted territory. SAP will need to make a hefty investment—particularly around HANA—to build awareness and understanding of the value that it brings to the table. Likewise, it must build on TechEd to ensure that it rolls out a steady, effective training program to help partners position, design, build, implement and support SAP solutions in these areas.

That said, as discussed in The Progressive SMB: Customer Stories are Worth 1,000 Analyst Words, SMB Group research indicates a distinct and growing segment of SMEs that we call “Progressive SMBs.” Despite economic uncertainties, Progressive SMBs plan to increase IT investments. They see IT as a tool for business transformation, and a way to create market advantage and level the playing field against bigger companies. Furthermore, Progressive SMBs have higher revenues expectations than their peers.

For instance, 50% of the small and 73% of the medium Progressive businesses (who are increasing technology spending) anticipate revenue gains in 2012, compared to just 15% of the small and 8% of medium businesses that plan to decrease IT spending.

The opportunity for SAP lies in growing the Progressive SME segment. After all, its unlikely that SME technology stragglers are going to become SAP customers. To accomplish this, SAP will need to make a significant investment outside of its installed base (as well as within) to educate SMEs about the increasingly dire consequences that technology laggards are likely to face, and the tremendous upside that they can gain by using IT solutions more strategically. Then, SAP must clearly connect the dots to demonstrate how SMEs can apply its new solutions to leapfrog competitors and grow their businesses.

If SAP can alert and educate a broader SME audience, then it can not only help narrow this gap, but also increase the market opportunity for its new solutions.

June 10, 2012

NetSuite SuiteCommerce: Transforming Commerce Solutions and User Experience

 Last week I had the opportunity to attend NetSuite

SuiteWorld 2102 in San Francisco. One of the most notable announcements was the launch of NetSuite’s new SuiteCommerce Commerce-as-a-Service (CaaS) platform for B2B and B2C businesses.

The SuiteCommerce offering is designed for e-tailers, retailers and other companies that sell online and provides these businesses with multi-channel platform which is integrated with NetSuite’s core ERP system. This gives companies a unified front-end to manage their various digital sites and brick-and-mortar stores, connected to their ERP to provide a single system of record for history of customers across channels. According to NetSuite, SuiteCommerce will help businesses to:

  • More easily customize web page content and integrate information into back-end financial systems
  • Tailor eCommerce solutions to the requirements of mobile, machine-to-machine (M2M) and social networking platforms
  • Enhanced social networking solutions through integrations that augment the platform with social functionality such as social ratings, reviews, personalized product recommendations and conversations

NetSuite will offer two SuiteCommerce options:

  • The Mid-market version targets businesses with smaller product catalog of products and services. The Mid-market suite starts at $1,999 per month and is available now.
  • The Enterprise version is aimed at larger companies and is designed to handle a more extensive product catalog of products and services. The Enterprise version at $3,999 per month and will be available in August 2012.

The vendor also announced a roster of SuiteCommerce partners, including Square, Stripe, Acquia, Bazaarvoice, MyBuys, Velaro and Shotfarm that have developed apps that integrate with the platform. In addition, it announced partnerships with the creative agencies that can help companies design their sites to optimize SuiteCommerce capabilities. These partners, agencies and VARs can extend the SuiteCommerce platform using NetSuite’s SuiteCloud development platforms and SuiteApps.

Perspective

The timing of this announcement couldn’t be better.

Technology trends are converging to create a perfect storm in the world of commerce—one that empowers customers and raises the bar for companies to meet new, more demanding customer expectations. Social media empowers customers with information from friends and other unfiltered sources. Mobile devices are
facilitating this trend, making it possible to research and shop for products and services anytime and anywhere. Cloud computing and ecommerce are blurring the boundaries between brick-and-mortar and online commerce stores, creating an imperative for merchants to provide consistency and visibility across channels.

This has created an environment where customers expect more from businesses throughout the commerce cycle. They want anywhere, anytime, any-device access to multiple sources for information gathering, product and service evaluation, selection, purchasing and customer service. As a result, merchants need to anticipate what the customer wants, automate and personalize customer interactions, and enable the customer to do business where, when and how he or she wants.

NetSuite’s introduction of SuiteCommerce is designed to help businesses meet these elevated customer expectations. NetSuite has had an integrated eCommerce offering for years, an almost 2,800 of its customers run their web sites and storefronts on NetSuite. However, SuiteCommerce is intended to go beyond the commerce experience to integrate social, mobile and other customer touch points.

As NetSuite’s CEO Zach Nelson noted in his remarks at the event, “Over the past decade, NetSuite has transformed how our customers operate their businesses internally. Over the next decade, NetSuite will transform how businesses operate with other businesses and with their customers through NetSuite Commerce as a Service.”

In addition, SuiteCommerce strengthens NetSuite’s “one system of record” integrated suite story, which is a good one in the mid-market. SMB Group’s research finds that “integrating different applications” is a significant challenge (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Top Technology Challenges in Medium Businesses


Source: SMB Group 2011 SMB Routes to Market Study

The SuiteCommerce offering also aligns with the direction NetSuite announced at last year’s SuiteWorld event, when it unveiled plans to move up from its SMB lineage (that harkens back to its NetLedger days) to pursue the upper end of midsize business, a two-tier strategy in the large enterprise space, and select industry markets.

SMBs increasingly see that customer-facing mobile applications can help them grow revenue, attract and retain customers, and keep up with the competition. SMBs are using both mobile-friendly web sites and mobile apps to offer functionality to foster this interaction, as shown on Figure 2. Regardless of whether SMBs are employing a mobile-friendly web site, mobile apps, or both, what are the top capabilities that they are providing to external audiences? And what do they plan to add in the next 12 months?

Figure 2 Business Functions Available/Planned Via a Mobile-Friendly Web Site/Mobile App.


Source: SMB Group,
2012 Small and Medium Mobile Business Solutions Study

Mid-market businesses are increasingly enabling mobile apps to access line-of-business functions to conduct business with customers, prospects, partners and suppliers. Mobile support in SuiteCommerce will enable significant new revenue opportunities for NetSuite SuiteCommerce VARs and service providers.

Quick Take

The large number of customers and partners in attendance at SuiteWorld 2012 seemed excited about SuiteCommerce and NetSuite’s direction to help transform from the core internally-focused business application into an integrated, commerce-aware business platform. I talked to several NetSuite VARs at the event, most of them were very excited about the comprehensive easy-to-use solution multi-channel commerce solution.

NetSuite’s ability to get both developer and creative partners for the SuiteCommerce launch bodes well, as these are the applications and services that will bridge the last mile for many customers.

SuiteCommerce currently offers good mobile capabilities to mid-market businesses. However, SMBs increasingly see that customer-facing mobile applications can help them grow revenue, attract and retain customers, and keep up with the competition. NetSuite should look at developing some core mobile apps that integrate with SuiteSommerce, these apps can me customized by the VARs and offered to mid-market business providing significant competitive advantage to the SuiteCommerce platform.

There has been a significant rise in demand for social networking capabilities in mid-market businesses. On the social side NetSuite has already enabled the platform for social networking. Several of the social solutions partners help complete the solution to provide a comprehensive social solution.

One question that remains unanswered, however (although asked by analyst Brian Sommer and explored in NetSuite SuiteWorld Part 1: The Big Points | ZDNet), is how NetSuite will help companies crunch through, manage and make sense the massive amounts of new, external and transactional data that they will be bringing in. While big data, HANA, Hadoop and in memory databases are still fuzzy concepts for many, major players (IBM, Oracle, SAP, etc.) will get better at articulating what it means–and their solutions. And as NetSuite turns further upmarket, the pressure will build for it to have a solid and well-crafted big data strategy.

April 16, 2010

Highlights from Iron Mountain Digital 2.0 Industry Analyst Meeting

Highlights: The overall annual growth in data volumes is beings driven by an increase in unstructured data created by social media and collaboration solutions, mobile solutions and rich media which is leading to much higher costs for information storage and management. This problem is further exasperated as the information creation moves from customer on-premises sources, to now include mobile edge devices and the cloud. SMBs and mid-market enterprises now need to take a much more holistic approach to information management. Driven by the need to support compliance, litigation, business continuity and disaster recovery requirements – SMBs need to carefully consider who they partner with as their trusted guardian of their information considering their need to store, protect, manage and retrieve this information in a virtual world anytime, anywhere, and anyplace.

Quick Take: I’ve been following Iron Mountain for a while, and this was their 3rd. analyst event that I attended. Everyone recognizes Salesforce.com as a cloud solution market leader; I would venture to say that the 2nd biggest cloud solution and services provider is Iron Mountain Digital. Key insights from the conference are:

  • Shift in company focus from Storage-as-a-Service to ‘Integrated Information Management Solutions‘ that is based on a location agnostic strategy – from on-premise to edge to cloud

  • Key Value Propositions to address the customers Total Cost of Ownership/Total Cost of Management of Information include:
    • Help customers reduce their spend and risk in owning / storing their rapidly growing information through policy-based intelligent information storage and access
    • Help customers improve operational efficiencies and reduce their spend in managing their information for use
    • Trusted partner in information management for both physical and electronic records and information, and in bridging from one to the other in terms of document conversion, data restoration, scanning, etc. 

What makes Iron Mountain different?

  • Information management platform with intelligence-driven and policy-enabled applications. This has been enabled through internal development and innovation (Digital Record Center for Compliant Messaging, for example), partnering (Total Email Management Suite, powered by Mimecast), and a carefully crafted acquisition strategy that started with Connected® and LiveVault® for backup to recent acquisitions that include Stratify® for eDiscovery and Mimosa for archiving.
  • Unique capabilities
    to “look into” and “look across” information
    . This will help with categorization of data – even at the point of creation – to enable intelligent access, compliance (including risk management), discovery, recovery, destruction and other potential use cases

  • Trusted partner who is financially strong. There are several companies offering remote backup solutions, and hosted email archiving, including you local VAR. But will these companies be around when you need the information 10-20 years from now for compliance purposes or to support litigation?
     What is still missing? Iron Mountain is accumulating a good war chest for location-agnostic information management solutions. They do have global relationships with large enterprise and upper mid-market companies – developed as the dominant leader in the physical information management services business that includes the storage of paper documents and magnetic tape storage media for backup and archiving purposes. They serve the SMB market through some core services, through direct and indirect channels. However, in my opinion, there is a larger opportunity in the SMB and core mid-market that includes:

    • Backup and archiving to support daily operations for desktops, servers and mobile devices
    • Backup and archiving to support business continuity and disaster recovery
    • Information management to support risk and compliance management
    • Virtualization of servers and desktops, and cloud computing is creating new and unique information creation and management opportunities which need to be addressed. The vendors that address these solutions (on public clouds based solutions) will be in the unique position to provide the services that Iron Mountain Digital 2.0 is seeking to provide. 

The first mover vendors will gain tremendous benefits, as these solution partnerships are now easy to replace – Iron Mountain can attest to this with their decade-long relationships with a large percentage of their customers. Iron Mountain needs to craft an SMB and core mid-market strategy with a more aggressive go-to-market plan than what I see at present.


 

January 20, 2010

Intuit and Microsoft – two SMB market leaders partnering on cloud platform strategies to deliver web applications

This agreement provides an end-to-end applications development environment and marketing/sales channels for application developers to develop and market application solutions to small businesses. Key elements of the agreement include:

  • Broadening the applications developer community to develop SMB focused applicationsIntuit to provide a SDK to help developers build applications on Microsoft Windows Azure Platform (and Visual Studio) and federate these web applications into Intuit Partner Platform (IPP) and launch these applications through the Intuit App Center (IAC).
  • Expand channel for application developers to promote and market their applications – Business Productivity Online Suite into Intuit Partner Platform (IPP) by year-end – Salesforce.com’s Force.com PaaS platform. Microsoft and Intuit will join forces to expand channels for application developers by introducing them to IAC. With capabilities to buy and access these cloud-based applications from the IAC and support for single sign-on will make it easier for SMBs to use these applications.
  • Microsoft to integrate Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS) is a set of messaging and collaboration solutions hosted by Microsoft, and consists of Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Live Meeting, and Office Communications Online. SMBs that use BPOS will have access to Intuit’s SMB focused business applications like QuickBooks and additional applications available through the IAC.

This relationship is focused on the U.S., the region where Intuit has majority of its presence. Microsoft and Intuit will support joint marketing programs targeted at the applications developers, channels and SMB companies.

In today’s fast-paced and volatile business climate, SMB need cloud-based application as they provide much better total cost of ownership (TCO) compared to on-premise installed applications. This relationship will provide significant benefits to SMBs that have shown increasing appetite to adopt cloud based solutions. The key benefits to the SMB community from this relationship are:

  • For Microsoft Windows Azure cloud platform service (PaaS), the Intuit relationship is a key endorsement of Microsoft as a key player in the SMB segment and of a company that has a good understanding of how to work with application developers. This combination will provide good competition to the
  • With Microsoft withdrawing from the small business accounting application area, creates a much more favorable partnership environment between the two companies to collaborate on the applications and channels front. A cooperative relationship between these two SMB focused companies will yield tremendous benefits to the SMB community.
  • With more than four million Intuit’s QuickBooks customers, the Inuit App Center will present a very attractive opportunity for applications developers to showcase their applications to the QuickBooks user community.

July 31, 2009

Prognosis on SAP’s Business ByDesign – SaaS based ERP solution for the core mid-market

I came across a good analysis on some aspects of SaaS vs. on-premise vendors and solutions in the smoothspan post Why Do SaaS Companies Lose Money Hand Over Fist?

After reading through the post and various responses, I have some comments that could shed more light on the SaaS vs. on-premise topic and how this relates to SAP’s continued focus on Business ByDesign.

  • The global ERP market opportunity driven by the large number of SMB/mid-market companies. In the U.S. there are 11 times more mid-market companies and on a worldwide basis the number is 13.5X.

     

    # of U.S. Companies

    # of Worldwide companies

    Enterprises (1000+ empl.)

    9,000

    52,000

    Mid-Market (100-1000 empl.)

    100,000

    700,000

    Ratio – Mid-market/Enterprise

    11X

    13.5X

     

     

  • The enterprise market is heavily penetrated by ERP type solutions, mostly on-premise solutions. The U.S. mid-market has less than 42% ERP penetration. This penetration of ERP solutions is much lower outside the U.S. Existing SaaS solution vendors until now have primarily focused on the U.S. market, with less than 15-20% international sales (other than Salesforce.com). SAP being a global company, has the potential of ramping up fast in the international markets which is very under penetrated, where SAP already has established relationships and market presence (significantly more than any of the SaaS vendors). This presents a significant upside revenue opportunity for SAP in the mid-market (especially in the 100-500 employee segment which is outside of the sweet spot of other SAP midmarket solutions – BusinessOne and Business All-in-One).
  • One also needs to look at the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of SaaS vs. on-premise solutions. A recent paper investigated details on this, The TCO of Cloud Computing in the SMB and Mid–Market Enterprises; A total cost of ownership comparison of cloud and on–premise business applications. Thee general conclusions are:
    • Considering a 4 year TCO, works in favor of the SaaS ERP solutions when the number of users is less than 400 users. Beyond these numbers of users, the on-premise TCO starts to become better (lower). These would be mostly enterprise companies, who favor on-premise solutions.
    • When considers a TCO beyond 4 years, on-premise solutions are better (lower). Again, these tend to be larger companies.
  • Most of the SaaS vendors like Salesforce.com and NetSuite have a much higher sales and marketing expenses ratio (~ 54% of revenue as shown in the smoothspan post Why Do SaaS Companies Lose Money Hand Over Fist?) primarily driven by their direct sales model. For Business ByDesign, for which SAP is promoting a channel driven model, this percentage should be lower.
  • R&D spending of 16% by SaaS companies – the strategy that needs to be explored by vendors looking to develop SaaS products, they need to seriously consider SaaS platforms like force.com (from Salesforce.com) and QuickBase (from Intuit). The developers that have used these platforms, have significantly reduced both their initial R&D spending and also their product development timeframe, brining SaaS solutions to market in some cases 1-2 years sooner. These SaaS/cloud platforms-as-a-service were not available when SAP embarked on development of ByD (or would they have used one, even if it was available…I am sure they have developed a significant internal expertise with this development experience). It is prudent for SAP to control the roll-out of Business-ByDesign until the product, delivery and channel kinks have been worked out. Prediction – Past experience with German engineering should alert the ERP market that in 2010, SAP will probably deliver a successful mid-market SaaS ERP solution for the core mid-market.

Reviewing the above, including good reviews from the current customers of Business ByDesign, it would be prudent for SAP not to scale back efforts on the roll-out of Business ByDesign – as strategy they have consistently communicating to the market.

July 9, 2009

Business Intelligence (BI) – Does it have a place in the SMB and Mid-Market Enterprises?

The recent demise of LucidEra has brought forward the discussion of the need for BI in the SMB and Mid-Market enterprises (companies with 1-999 employees and revenues usually less than $1 billion). My take is that this was based on the limited BI value LuidEra offered and the current difficult economic conditions vs. their SaaS based business model. With the explosion of BI solution targeted at the SMB & mid-market, the BI industry is inundated with newer solutions and scaled-down versions of existing enterprise solution targeted at this segment. I have also seen several discussions on the potential increase in adoption of BI solution based on these solutions being delivered in a SaaS model to address the IT resources and infrastructure in the SMB and mid-market companies.

Business Intelligence is all about gaining 360 degree insight into a company’s business, and helping company executive make decisions based on the facts as opposed to information in Excel spreadsheets or gut feel. Business intelligence can offer significant benefits to small and mid-sized organizations. The problem becomes sifting through the plethora of solutions to select offerings that meet the SMB’s needs. SMBs don’t have the required resources or time to do this.

The key question that needs to be addressed is – what are the BI related need of the SMB and mid-market companies and weather these needs are being met by these BI solutions? The solution delivery model is secondary to the key question. This segment of companies is realizing that business decisions need to be made on more than excel spreadsheets and gut instinct.

SMBs don’t understand data warehouses and BI, as it is applied to large enterprises as they do not have staff that can make sense out of the reporting provided by these standalone BI tools nor do they have IT resources/budgets to integrate standalone BI applications to data from various business applications and business processes. SMBs understand BI in the form of dashboards and reports with drill down capabilities. They need solutions that can provide quick real-time insights and ROI that can have measurable business results. How can the use information from the past to more accurately predict the future or to look at real-time data to more efficiently utilize the existing resources or inventory; make changes to enhance business process or operational efficiencies?

In my recent interaction with business solution vendors that focus on the SMB and mid-market, BI solutions are now available and embedded as part of a larger business solution – integrated business solution like NetSuite; SAP (based on Business Objects acquisition) – Businessone, Business-by-Design, Business All-in-One; Oracle Business Intelligence Standard Edition; other ERP and CRM solutions (Salesforce.com) .

SMB and mid-market companies need to first investigate the BI capabilities that are already provided by these applications or modules that are already integrated and can be easily add-on to their business application solutions. It does not matter whether these solutions are cloud-based (SaaS), hosted or on-premise; utilizing these exiting BI functionality will provide much easier implementation and ROI compared to bringing in new vendors. Most of the vendors mentioned provide easy to use dashboards with BI analytics capabilities to enhance operational efficiencies, analytical and predictive analysis, risk analysis, forecasting, etc. Business application vendors need to increase their focus on their BI solutions as a key value proposition to the SMB and mid-market.


 

July 7, 2009

The Compelling TCO Case for Cloud-based business applications in SMB and Mid-Market Enterprises

A 4-year total cost of ownership (TCO) perspective comparing cloud and on-premise business application deployment

Small and medium businesses (SMBs) face a tricky dilemma in today’s tough economic climate. It’s no longer business as usual; companies need to figure out how to survive through the current downturn, and get on track to capitalize on new opportunities that will emerge as the economy starts to grow again. They need business solutions to help them to manage more efficiently day-to-day, and also the intelligence they need to move the business forward.

As SMBs weather through turbulent economic storms, total cost of ownership (TCO) is often top of mind when evaluating new business applications. Many customers have become interested in how cloud computing or software-as-a-service (SaaS) can help lower their costs by eliminating upfront capital investments and ongoing maintenance costs associated with on-premise solutions.

Hurwitz & Associates recently completed an in-depth study comparing TCO of cloud-based business application and equivalent on-premise solutions.

Cloud computing essentially eliminates the need for customers to buy, deploy and maintain IT infrastructure or application software individually. Regardless of the application, the cloud computing vendor takes responsibility for all of the infrastructure required to run the solution–servers, backup, software, operating systems, databases, updates, migration, power and cooling, facility space, etc., and associated internal and third-party staffing costs. Because cloud computing vendors manage all of their customers on a single instance of the software, they can amortize costs over thousands of customers. This yields substantial economies of scale and skill, and lowers TCO.

Key findings from our analysis include:

  • Overall TCO for cloud-based integrated solution suite is significantly lower than a comparable on-premise solution. This holds true for both SMB and mid-market firms.
  • IT Infrastructure costs (hardware, software and maintenance) account for about 10% of the total cost of deploying on-premise business applications.
  • The cost advantages of cloud computing slowly taper off as the number of users increases beyond mid-market to larger enterprise companies.
  • Application subscription costs account for two-thirds of the total solution cost in the cloud computing model, where the subscription fee encompasses underlying IT infrastructure and personnel costs required to manage business solution. In comparison, business application costs comprise about 27% of total cost in an on-premise situation.
  • Costs for internal IT staff and/or value-added reseller (VAR), consultant or systems integrator (SI) resources required for application implementation and support represent a significantly higher percentage of total cost for on-premise solutions than for cloud-based business solutions.
  • Pre-integrated front and back office functionality in the integrated business application offering contributes to reducing integration complexity and lowers application implementation costs.

June 15, 2009

Intuit’s Federated Apps Cloud Computing Partner Platform Will Provide Very Significant Benefits to ISVs

One of the key technology pain-point (for SMBs) relate to multiple disparate SaaS/on-premise based business and collaboration applications that do not talk to each other (requiring re-entry of the same data) and each with their own separate access, UI, billing and pricing schemas – making it very difficult for them to resolve problems when they occur as they cannot triage the source of the problem. These SMBs lack the IT resources to identify the source of problems in an environment of multiple SaaS applications or have the capabilities integrate multiple soiled SaaS applications (each with a different UI, access requirements and billing platforms) and infrastructure services.

Intuit has a deep understanding of the SMB market based on its proven track record as leading business applications vendor in the U.S. Based on this in-sight, Intuit has developed a much more expansive CONNECTED SERVICES strategy to address the above mentioned technology problem – by providing a platform to connect and distribute all the varied cloud-based SMB applications and also providing a cloud-based development platform for ISVs that want to develop on the Intuit QuickBase platform.

Why is this of value to the ISVs that want to service the 6 million plus SMB companies in the U.S.?

  • Aggregation of applications on a cloud-based online application store – the Intuit Workplace portal to be part of the Intuit Marketplace with single sign-on where existing Intuit customers and Intuit and other small business prospects can find, try and buy any of the cloud-based applications that are part of the Intuit Partner Platform (IPP) ecosystem.
  • The biggest attraction for ISVs to join the IPP is the large installed base of Intuit customers in both the SMB and mid-market segments – more than 4 million plus active customers (with 25 million employees); which can be referred to as Customer Cloud. Reaching potential customers was identified as the biggest challenge by both the IVS panel and the VC panel. Selling to this vast SMB population has been the biggest barrier for ISV (especially the ones with less than 50 employees). Existing VAR channels do not work for this segment, online marketing channels are also very expensive and do not provide an adequate level of exposure to these hard-to-reach small businesses – in most cases the SMBs are not even aware of the application solutions. Successful cases of viral marketing based on social networking are rare. The Intuit IPP provides a platform for these ISVs to ride on the coattails of Intuit (several ISVs that are developing on the Salesforce.com Force.com platform have experienced similar success, although that ecosystem is only limited to applications developed on that platform – the federated strategy of Intuit’s IPP has the potential of creating a significantly bigger ecosystem).
  • The flexibility to:
    • develop new (and existing web applications) cloud-based applications with any programming language, database, or cloud computing resource and then publish them to the Intuit Workplace.
    • host the cloud-based solution on Intuit Workplace cloud datacenter or an alternate cloud computing data center (Amazon-EC2, Salesforce.com – CloudForce.com, IBM-Blue Cloud, Rackspace, etc.) and at the same time be part of the Intuit IPP application ecosystem and marketplace and get all the benefits associated with it.
  • The Intuit Workplace will provide the Single billing and e-commerce platform for all the ISV applications in the Intuit marketplace. This is of huge value of these ISVs.

This federated application capability now available on the Intuit IPP. Every application on the IPP will work together, use a single username and password, and be accessible via browser. Some of the federated applications will also work with the Intuit family of products. To make all these applications work in harmony on the IPP – Intuit will run a security assessment and privacy policy review on these applications prior to publication on the IPP. The four integration points for the federated applications are:

  • Data: To integrate applications with Intuit Partner Platform data, developers must program against APIs provided by Intuit to enable data synchronization
  • Login: A Federated Identity Web API allows users to use their Intuit Workplace login credentials to access the federated applications within Intuit Workplace.
  • User management and permissions: Intuit provides developers with a Web API so that their application can handle processes such as inviting additional users to their application.
  • Navigation: Developers with existing SaaS applications may have to make minor User Interface adjustments, such as removing sign-in/sign-out links within their solutions. The Intuit Workplace provides this in its toolbar to provide users a seamless experience between applications.

June 3, 2009

The next generation Contact Center – Social Networking + Traditional Contact Center

The traditional contact centers now support more real-time communications technologies – VoIP, IVR, e-mail, IM. However, the intelligence and information repositories that are leveraged by these contact centers is very much static and internally focused.

With the growing popularity of social networking and community knowledge, where contact center agents can take advantage of consumers/customers helping each other with issues and queries – reducing the number of inquiry interactions the contact center service reps have to make, delivery real cost savings and improving the contact center ROI. The issue is – the lack of a comprehensive easy-to-use solution that integrates blogs, social networking sites (Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, etc.) and search to easily aggregate the desired knowledge and mesh it with the internal knowledge repository, including the customer information stored in the enterprises CRM systems.

I was at the Salesforce.com CloudForce.com seminar some time ago, where they showcased their service cloud strategy. This Service Cloud showed an elegant and easy-to-use dashboard to present and search the popular social networking sites to the contact center agents – this will help them take advantage of all the community knowledge without spending a lot of time and effort following individual solutions like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WordPress,

Traditional contact center solutions when integrated with an easy-to-use comprehensive community knowledge solution – presents a market disruption elevating this new contact center solution to one that provides significantly higher ROI and customer satisfaction. The Salesforce.com ServiceCloud can be integrated with the traditional contact centers solutions that have primarily relied on static internal information to service the customers, and have been separated from the community knowledge in the cloud from social networking conversations, blogs and Google. The Service Cloud presents an excellent dashboard to bring these two disparate clouds to establish a cloud-based customer service platform and knowledge for contact/call centers – for customer service agents, customer self-service portals and partners. SIP and presence enable this cloud service platform, and it is ready for some very significant communication and collaboration – via VoIP phones (click to call), e-mail, or IM based conversations.

Why is this of value to Customer Contact Center solutions companies? The current leading Contact Center solutions from the leading telecom equipment vendors like Avaya, Cisco, and Nortel are more along the lines of the traditional on-premise solutions and do not present an easy solution to integrate the cloud-based community knowledge, except in some cases they have integrated search solutions by integration with Google. The Salesforce.com Service Cloud platform can be used to provide an integrated internal knowledge base and the community knowledge/social network (enterprises can define the scope, and members of their communities) from Twitter, Facebook, blogs, Google search, etc. In addition, one can include CRM to monitor customer satisfaction, address any questions/concerns, resolve problems quickly, provide product tips and tricks, and send out information in the customers’ preferred way of communication – without long waiting times or endless forwards and escalations. This could present a disruptive service solution which has the capability to significantly improve customer satisfaction and at the same time reduce the cost to provide this service.

This presents a good partnership opportunity for the traditional contact center application vendors to integrate with the social networking/community knowledge cloud-based service platform without the long internal development cycle. Adopting the Salesforce.com Service Cloud platform will provide a 1-2 years time-to-market advantage vs. the vendors that choose to do it themselves.

 


 

April 3, 2009

CitrixOnline #GoToMeeting is the leading Web Conferencing and Collaboration solution for Small Businesses

Filed under: Collaboration, Conferencing, mid-market, SaaS, SMB strategy — sanjeevaggarwal @ 4:22 pm

In a recent Twitter Tweetchat discussion hosted by @sbbuss, majority of the small businesses mentioned #GoToMeeting as their solution of choice for Web Conferencing and Collaboration.

The web conferencing software and services market is becoming highly competitive, lead by the presence of a few major brands and a plethora of small vendor. Web conferencing is an integral workplace application that is used for communications and collaboration.

Small businesses are primarily using hosted web conferencing services offered by service providers on a on-demand SaaS (Software as a Service)  delivery model for a flexible licensing model based on pay-as-you-use fee (cost per user per minute) or fixed fee (cost per seat per month). Medium businesses use a mixture of these hosted and in some cases on-premise IP-PBX based web conferencing solutions.

Designed for the unique needs of SMB enterprises, leading web conferencing vendors are striving for ease-of-use, simplicity, efficient network performance and flexibility in their licensing and pricing models.

Key Drivers for Web Conferencing:

  • Better support a global distributed workforce
  • Save travel costs and participant time
  • Support revenue generation activities
  • Availability of hosted service with pay-as-you-go
  • Ability to do impromptu meetings
  • Improve employee collaboration & productivity
  • Improve organizations efficiency
  • Better communication and collaboration between employees, customers, partners, suppliers
  • Increased adoption of web conferencing for training
  • Hosted solutions eliminate/ reduce need for client software

Vendors The leading global web conferencing vendors based on number of customers/registered users are Cisco/#WebEx, Microsoft LiveMeeting, CitrixOnLine #GoToMeeting, and IBM #Sametime Unyte and Lotus SameTime.

In the small business segment, #CitrixOnline GoToMeeting has the largest share driven by the very visible and successful TV advertisement campaigns.

Several new web conferencing startups – like DimDim, Yugma – based on open source are promoting free hosted solutions with basic features for a small number of users (usually 10) and charging SMBs as the number of users increases or for a customer hosted version. The question is ‘Are SMBs jumping to the free bandwagon?’ There always will be the small businesses (mainly SoHo users) that are looking to use these vendors on an ad-hoc basis where communications are not mission critical. SMBs do not want a repeat of the internet bubble where all these types of ‘free stuff’ companies got wiped out.

Applications/Markets This application is now used extensively horizontally across all small and mid-market companies. Sales, marketing (product announcements, partner recruitment, investor conferences), training (for distributed employees, partners, and customers), project management, and product development are the key application segments.

Vertical industries including financial services, technology, manufacturing, healthcare, construction, law, education, and professional services are among the top adopters of web conferencing solutions.

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