Sanjeev Aggarwal's Blog

January 28, 2010

Mid-Market companies benefit from the significantly better ROI offered by the synergistic relationship between ERP and BI

Strong value in considering/purchasing ERP plus BI simultaneously/at the beginning of the implementation cycle

ERP solutions come with a reporting toolset consisting of a predefined set of reports and with general purpose query tools to generate reports from data within ERP database. Most often, these tools are difficult and confusing to use and rely on an IT team to deliver the requested report, which can take time. ERP systems provide acceptable reports on day-to-day operations but if business requirements change, these static ERP reports need to be customized. Business users need on-demand reports, which are cumbersome and expensive to deliver in a timely manner. By using BI reporting solutions, these systems empower the business user to define and generate the needed reports, freeing valuable IT (or consultant) resources in the process, such that data and time can be better exploited to make meaningful business decisions.

I have been talking to several mid-market companies that have implemented ERP solutions followed by a business intelligence solution (initially deployed for reporting from the data in the ERP solution). Their recommendation, based on their experience of deploying both solutions, is that mid-market enterprises should consider utilizing ERP and BI together (possibly through a planned phased implementation approach), a strategy that would realize significantly higher ROI versus the alternative of considering each independently of the other.

The crux of this recommendation comes from closely looking at the customizations required to make the ERP solution useful for these companies. A significant number of customizations needed in ERP systems are related to generating reports to provide detailed information (in part, similar to that previously obtained through their formerly implemented legacy systems) for decision-making and presenting it in a useful and easy-to-understand manner—a daunting and expensive proposition. Complementing a BI solution with an ERP solution makes the generation of reports required by corporate management and various lines-of-business very easy and eliminates the need for any extensive customizations (as was required to generate these in an exclusively ERP system). The right business intelligence solutions can help extract significant value from the extensive data repositories in an ERP solution. The combination of ERP and BI should also bode well for mid-market companies in the current difficult economic environment, as companies strive for maximum efficiency by looking to cut costs and realize projects that provide them with short-term returns. The companies that have already implemented ERP could benefit by focusing on BI solutions for reporting, corporate performance management and consolidation (CPM) and strategy planning.

Mid-market customers using SAP Business-All-in-One as their key ERP solution have said that the extra time, effort, and money spent to customize their initial ERP could have gone towards paying for a BI solution (in several of the cases they were using SAP BusinessObjects Edge BI). Additionally, the reports they now get from their SAP BusinessObjects solutions (after integration) are more detailed and accurate than before. Other added benefits of this integrated solution—including savings on maintenance, IT administration time, integration and consulting support for upgrades, etc—largely result from the fact that SAP has already spent the time and effort to tightly integrate these two solutions providing better workflow and departmental self-service capabilities to develop and customize reports for their needs. With this solution, individual users can also more easily drill down from these reports to get deeper context to explain the factors influencing what is shown in reports beyond the visually attractive graphs and tables.

As a result, this combined SAP Business-All-in-One and SAP BusinessObjects Edge BI solution could provide significantly better Return on Investment (ROI) than each solution considered independently, and if the SAP BusinessObjects Edge BI can be paid for by reducing the customizations required in SAP Business-All-in-One, the combined solution also has a much lower total cost of ownership (TCO). With the mid-market focused Business All-in-One fast-start program from SAP coupled with the SAP best practices for the SAP BusinessObjects Edge BI for reporting and CPM solution, mid-market enterprises will be able to benefit from fast deployment, more productive and streamlined solution.

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.

 


 

March 19, 2009

Why are SMBs and Mid-Market Enterprises interested in Cloud Computing?

As SMBs and mid-market enterprises are looking at their IT budget and face the realities to cut them, they look at what is discretionary and what can be supported through innovative IT strategies. However, at the same time they need to adopt new technology solutions that will make them more competitive in the current economic environment and prepares them to grow when the economy improves. They following arguments shed light on why these companies are actively exploring various cloud computing initiatives:

  • Vendors Making it Easy to Adopt Cloud Services – Amazon leads the cloud computing movement because they make it very easy for companies to adopt their platform and storage services with implementation and pricing services that are easy to understand and try without the need for complex contracts and pricing. Vendors that seek to service the SMB market need to learn from the simplicity and flexibility of the Amazon Web Services model.
  • Change in Appetite for Risk – SMB and mid-market companies focus on risk has changed, driven by the realities of the current economic environment. Instead of making do with outdated systems and slowing adoption of new technologies, these companies are now more comfortable with the risks associated with cloud computing solutions. This is driven by examples of success achieved by some of the high-profile companies through “show-me” examples. They are feeling more comfortable with security, access and reliability issues.
  • More Effective Backup and Disaster Recovery SMBs usually do not have remote data centers. Cloud services provide them the ability to encapsulate the internal virtual machines and replicate them to the cloud off-site. Virtualization vendors like VMware and Citrix are making this easier.
  • Shift away from New On-premise Hardware Purchases – As SMBs and mid-market enterprises look at the Key IT initiatives that are being considered in the decision-making processes, initiatives that will help save costs and show quick ROI are getting attention. IT strategies based on flexible monthly operating expenses, without a significant upfront investment is gaining momentum. New hardware purchases and upgrades have a lower priority; business applications that are critical to the business operations are getting approval. However, implementing new business applications sometimes require additional new hardware purchases, the spending on hardware purchases can be alleviated by adopting flexible pay-as-you-use cloud computing solutions and services with business applications which are delivered software-as-a-service (examples NetSuite and Salesforce.com) or hosted in the cloud (example Rackspace).
  • Increase in Adoption of Virtualization – As SMBs and mid-market enterprises adoption of virtualization solutions enters mainstream, adoption of cloud computing solutions is becoming easier.
  • Significantly Reduced Application Implementation Time – SMBs don’t have to go through a two week purchase order process and an additional two weeks of configuration and testing before an application is available for productive use.
  • ISVs Solutions Supporting Cloud Platforms – Majority of the ISVs are now developing solutions that are multi-tenant and built to be delivered over the cloud. Some of them are using cloud platforms like force.com or Quickbase built to support cloud solutions.
  • Savings in Power and Data Center Space – Cloud computing enable SMBs to control server and storage sprawl by moving some of the applications and storage to the cloud vendors data centers, freeing up data center space and at the same time saving on power consumption costs. These SMBs do not want any more hardware in their equipment closets.

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