Simple Finance: SAP, Finance, Cloud, and Improving Finance Value to the Enterprise

As part of our ongoing “Finance in the Cloud” series, Saugatuck’s Mike West, Bill McNee and Bruce Guptill recently sat around a virtual conference table with Henner Schliebs, head of Finance Audience Marketing for global business management software giant SAP. The session dug into SAP’s drive behind its newest Cloud-based, subscription-only Simple Finance offering, covering SAP’s goals and go-to-market strategy (announced June 3, 2014 @ SAPPHIRE NOW), as well as digging into what SAP sees as key factors moving Finance leaders to consider, and increasingly include, Cloud in core systems of record.

Simple Finance is the first of a wave of planned SAP “simplifications” of traditional ERP / enterprise business management software. At June’s SAPPHIRE NOW event, SAP leaders predicted that the company’s entire Business Suite will be “simplified” by the end of 2015.

SAP’s vision for Finance as an entity, and especially for how Finance will use its software, builds on the goal of positioning the enterprise Finance group and operations as a “competitive weapon.” This requires unifying not only Finance systems, workflows, and data, but all key business management systems, workflows, and data throughout the enterprise, using a core and simplified user interface to enable ease of use and encourage widespread adoption. Continue reading

Cloud Finance – Competitive System, Not a Boat Anchor

Saugatuck Technology has recently revisited its long-standing coverage of the CFO and the finance systems that support that office in a series of interviews, briefings, and surveys to plumb the changes underway, as the Cloud asserts its viability for core business systems (See 1492SSR, Saugatuck Technology’s 2014 CFO / CIO Survey: Cloud Financials – The Third Wave Emerges,18Dec2014). The CIO / CFO survey report included responses from 317 finance and IT executives who participated in the research, with 85 percent senior decision makers with Director and above titles. Continue reading

Financials in the Cloud – New Survey Insights

What is Happening?          

According to analysis of Saugatuck’s latest web survey research, a third wave of Cloud Business Solution adoption is now fully underway and gaining momentum – focused on the Office of the CFO. But unlike earlier waves of Cloud solution adoption (e.g., CRM, HCM and Marketing systems), Cloud Financials will follow its own path, as a more complex set of deployment scenarios will play out – over a longer period of time. This will include “Sidecar” models, “Process-specific” migrations and a range of Private and Public Cloud redeployments.

Driving demand is not only the power of the new Master Architecture to deliver better, cheaper and faster outcomes – and addressing the highly fragmented nature of financial systems – but enabling the finance function to provider greater agility, flexibility and value to the business. This is particularly relevant given the dual mandates of an evolved (and more strategic) mission for finance, and the fundamental challenges of supporting the transition to Digital Business.

These are just some of the key conclusions from Saugatuck’s just released 51-page research report titled “Cloud Financials – The Third Wave Emerges” (1492SSR, 18Dec2014). The report leverages a recent web survey of 317 senior Finance and IT executives in North America, primarily from mid-size and large enterprises. Continue reading

Digital Business, Boundary-free Enterprises, and IT Change

Last month, we revisited and fleshed out the Saugatuck Boundary-free Enterprise™ business model by examining the four critical types of “boundaries” that formerly limited business (and IT) abilities, and which are being erased, realigned, or otherwise shifted: Technological, Functional, Organizational, and Cultural.

As we began saying almost a decade ago, “Cloud changes everything,” and its biggest change is in how, when, where, and why enterprises do business. Because we are increasingly likely to rely on new and different types of technologies and providers to do business, our relationships with IT providers will need to be re-examined and rebuilt. This will only expand and accelerate as more types and sizes of firms add, or migrate to, more types of Digital Business. Continue reading

FinancialForce.com – Prospering in the Salesforce Ecosystem

As part of Saugatuck’s ongoing “Finance in the Cloud” Series, Mike West and Bill McNee recently conferenced with executives from FinancialForce.com to learn more about the FinancialForce Cloud ERP / Finance solutions, their market reception, future plans for enhancement and how FinancialForce views “Finance in the Cloud.”

Launched in 2009 as a joint venture between UNIT4, a Dutch enterprise software company, and salesforce.com, FinancialForce was founded to enable real-time financial management built on salesforce.com’s technology platform, Force.com. The following year FinancialForce added Professional Services Automation, based on a solution acquired from Appirio. Thirteen months ago, FinancialForce made two more key acquisitions, Less Software (supply chain management) and Vana Workforce (human capital management). In early 2014, it announced its FinancialForce ERP – further repositioning itself as a unified back-office suite provider.

It has been quite a journey for FinancialForce. According to the Unit4 annual report total revenue grew 85% last year, “with the annual run rate in December 2013 (including services) reaching $30.6 million.” With continued strong growth in 2014, Saugatuck Continue reading

Epicor – Making Clouds in Manufacturing ERP / Finance

Epicor – Making Clouds in Manufacturing ERP / Finance

As part of Saugatuck’s ongoing “Finance in the Cloud” Series, Mike West and Bill McNee recently conferenced with executives from Epicor to learn more about the Epicor Cloud Manufacturing ERP / Finance solutions, their market reception, future plans for enhancement and how Epicor views “Finance in the Cloud.”

Founded in 1972, Epicor recently went through a significant re-architecting of their mid-market core offerings that provide customers significant choice in how they want to deploy their solutions – whether ERP, Retail or HCM (among others) – in the Cloud, on-premises or in some hybrid configuration. Few legacy providers have successfully invested in creating a common code base that can be deployed across multiple platforms. No doubt, the ability to transition a customer from on-premises to the Cloud (or the reverse) is a great selling benefit.

Prior to the call we had assumed that Epicor’s core manufacturing customer base would be more conservative in their adoption of its Cloud offerings; however, we were surprised to hear that demand is accelerating faster than we anticipated, with 15-20 percent of new ERP deal activity during 2014 Cloud-based.

Epicor’s Cloud Finance solutions are Continue reading

Contracting to the Cloud

The on-demand Cloud model is beginning to displace traditional outsourcing. But outsourcing has developed over many years alongside industry, and it has had an important impact in shaping service customer expectations and supplier contractual obligations. Cloud services do not readily fit the mold. While simple or limited Cloud is seldom an issue, the widescale replacement of traditional in-house infrastructure is beginning to bring new concerns into focus. This is particularly important for the evolution of IaaS and PaaS.

Although Cloud is simpler in its agreements than its predecessors and envisions a utility-based model, it must still fit in with the auditing, technical integration, and governance needs of the firm. Traditional outsourcing models have tended to focus upon the Service Level Agreement (SLA) for contractually defining what is to be provided and how. However, the SLA has proven to be a thorny issue in the Cloud environment, particularly in public Cloud services. The issue has focused upon the definition of downtime, such as might be experienced when a Cloud provider goes offline for several hours—as has happened several times recently. What constitutes downtime, and what penalties (if any) should be paid to the client when this affects business? But this masks a range of related contractual concerns.

Cloud services need to be fitted into an organization to be used effectively. This means that they need to be integrated with other suppliers in the evolving multi-vendor environment. Management of vendors has centered upon the Vendor Management Office (VMO), which is increasingly being called upon to deal with services originating in the Cloud. But these services have different characteristics from their predecessors, different lifecycles, and different procedures for onboarding and releasing. Continue reading

Twitter’s Fabric, Digital Business, Marketing, and CIO Challenges

As we close out every year, especially in periods of rapid and accelerating change, looking back to interesting and compelling events becomes a de rigueur part of blogging and analysis.

One of the more digital business interesting developments affecting enterprise CIOs in recent weeks was Twitter’s late October announcement of its “Fabric” software development platform for mobile apps. Fabric enables Twitter to create its own new digital business, while enabling enterprises and IT services providers to do the same. Since the announcement, I’ve researched it in more detail, spoken with a handful of experienced developers, and played a bit with the thing myself.

Here’s a year-end update on what Fabric is, how it can enable and challenge enterprise Marketing and other aspects of Digital Business, and how it in turn changes and challenges the role(s) of the enterprise CIO.

Fabric is a free extension with three SDKs that can be added to existing iOS and Android development environments. It enables very simple and straightforward, with drop-down menus for adding Twitter functions, analytics, and ads to applications. Developers select Continue reading

Tidemark: Mobile-First, Ease of Use Analytics

As part of Saugatuck’s ongoing “Finance in the Cloud” Series, Mike West and Bill McNee recently conferenced with executives from Tidemark to learn more about the Tidemark solutions, their market reception, future plans for enhancement and how Tidemark views “Finance in the Cloud.”

Formerly known as Proferi, Tidemark is a privately-held firm founded in 2010 that provides Cloud-based analytics solutions built for a mobile device-enabled platform. Tidemark has grown rapidly, and now has nearly 200 employees and over 50 customers.

Tidemark’s differentiation in the financial planning and analysis (FP&A) space, which has many competing providers, is a process-focused elastic grid platform that enables a high ease-of-use user experience designed to move financial analysis beyond the CFO suite. Tidemark targets the emerging urgency – not just in the CFO suite, but across the lines of business – for real-time analysis of multi-dimensional, complex Continue reading

Intel, Platforms, Ecosystems, and the Internet of Things

What is Happening?

Recent vendor announcements not only highlight accelerated growth of the Internet of Things (IoT), but also highlight the increasing potential for market confusion, the need for consensus standards, and resulting the value of provider ecosystems.

This week, Intel Corp. announced its “Intel® IoT Platform” and partnerships for deploying and managing the Internet of Things – with Intel focusing on connectivity and security, while partners will focus on mass deployment services. Wind River Edge Management 1484RA_fig1System provides cloud connectivity for device configuration, file transfers, data capture, and rules-based data analysis / response. Improved connectivity is touted via Intel IoT Gateway integration as well as expanded cloud analytics support for IoT Developer Kits. Security will be delivered by Intel Security, which includes McAfee Enhanced Security for Intel IoT Gateways as well as Enhanced Privacy Identity (EPID) technology. API connectivity will be delivered via the Intel Mashery API management tools.

A few weeks ago, SAP said it is teaming with Samsung to integrate Samsung’s wearable devices and mobile devices to create industry-specific enterprise applications. The vendors expect to leverage joint cloud solutions based on the SAP HANA® Cloud Platform mobile services. Specifically, the partnership targets the retail industry by integrating mobile payments as well as helping analyze shopping experiences. SAP has also enhanced its Manufacturing Execution Suite to take advantage of the expanding IoT. SAP says it is adding 500 new developers dedicated to IoT projects.

Meanwhile, on the home front, last week Cisco established an international joint venture with Bosch and ABB to develop and operate an “open software platform” for home devices and applications, and GE has continued to build out – and profit from – its “Industrial Internet” IoT initiatives aimed at commercial and industrial machine and sensor interconnectivity, management, and data analysis. Continue reading