Cloud Finance Answers Begin with Six Questions

Being the repository of the majority of company business data, Finance is becoming one of two de facto “data centers” for most companies in the 21st century (the other “data center” being Marketing). The use of Cloud-based systems by and for Finance will have – is having – the effect of making more business data available to more entities and will therefore engender more business change, and therefore cost, than has previously been expected or experienced. As they become more complex and costly, and as they affect more aspects of companies, Cloud-based solutions and services increasingly require solid business cases to support their acquisition. A new Strategic Perspective for subscribers of Saugatuck Technology’s Continuous Research Service offers six key questions that successful CFOs ask and answer as they begin to build bullet-proof Cloud acquisition business cases. Continue reading

Fear and Ignorance, Finance Leaders, and Cloud Hesitancy

What’s stopping the largest percentage of enterprise leaders, including Finance executives, from trusting even some of their systems and data to Cloud providers?

Ignorance-based fear.

December’s Saugatuck survey on Cloud and Finance, which has provided fodder for a terrific series of strategic reports, Strategic Perspectives, blog posts, and other insights published for and used by Saugatuck’s clients, included hundreds of open-ended responses regarding current and expected Finance IT systems and infrastructures. And while an encouraging plurality of survey participants indicated that they are moving, typically judiciously, toward using more and more Cloud for Finance, more than 20 percent of those writing in responses still expressed security-related concerns as their primary reasons for not even considering Cloud-based Finance systems.

The ones that stood out included the following:

  • “Every time our financial managers look at ‘the cloud,’ they only see that the information is outside our firewall and therefore perusable by anyone and everyone. Only completely public information will ever be stored off-site or outside of our company’s direct control.” – Controller, Healthcare, Upper-midsize company
  • “We are concerned about cloud security and competitors being able to access cloud information.” – Finance Director, Business / Professional Services, Midsize
  • “We have a fear of using the cloud based on possible hacking and fraud capabilities. Until it’s a proven technology we will keep everything in-house.” – VP Finance, Financial Services, Large
  • “Organizationally, we are evaluating the movement towards cloud-based computing, and are aware of the potential cost savings, but are tempered by the continuing risk of breaches.” – Director of IT, Healthcare, Upper-midsize company

First, let me vent in a blunt manner, then I’ll get to the more reasoned content.

Positions such as those expressed above border on willful ignorance. They are based almost entirely on perception, opinion, and Continue reading

Marketo Summit: Omnichannel Personalization Drives the Post-Campaign Era

What is Happening?

Earlier this week, Saugatuck attended the Marketo Marketing Nation SummitMarketo’s annual user conference. This year there were a total of 8500 total registrants, up 41 percent from last year’s event (Digital Marketing Leads Digital Business, 10 April 2014.).

While last year was primarily a platform for Marketo to prove their commitment to the large enterprise, this year it was clear that they have successfully navigated that transition, with many large enterprises in attendance. According to Marketo, many customers sent more than 20 employees to the event for training – another clear sign that Marketo is successfully penetrating these large accounts, and building a wider audience within organizations than a year ago.

As always, they announced several new capabilities during the morning keynote, interspersed with celebrity keynotes from Arianna Huffington and soul artist John Legend, which included new ways to track and interact with users through mobile applications and a robust set of integrations with ad platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google. While their offerings have traditionally focused on B2B communications through emails, their new platform is certainly transitioning to provide improved B2C capabilities as well. This is an adaption to stay ahead of the trend where people’s work / life balance is increasingly mixed.

Marketo Mobile Engagement is a Software Development Kit (SDK) that provides Marketo customers with a toolkit to instrument their mobile apps. Capabilities now include robust mobile app usage tracking and capabilities to market directly into the Mobile application through push notifications and content updates. This functionality helps ensure that Marketo is ahead of the game in supporting increased demand for Omnichannel marketing communication.

Marketo AdBridge is a set of integrations with major ad platforms. While the Google and Facebook integrations had been announced previously, Marketo announced a new relationship with LinkedIn on Monday. AdBridge aims to bring mass-personalization to ad campaigns by tying the ad buying process with preexisting Marketo profiles, and then tying the data generated in the ad profiles back into the Marketo database. While some very savvy users have been doing this already in order to inform their sales attribution metrics, AdBridge helps put that process in reach of less technical users by providing a product to do the heavy lifting. Continue reading

Microservices on the Horizon

In Saugatuck’s recent Cloud Infrastructure survey, we asked IT leaders to identify what the top 3 technology trends that would have significant impact on their businesses would be through 2017. Unsurprisingly, the current wave of infrastructure modernization led the way, with the highest percentages of respondents placing NFV, SDN, and Private Cloud chief in their sights.

Figure 1: Most Important Technology Trends through 2017

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Source: Saugatuck Technology, Cloud Infrastructure Survey, April 2015, n=327 (global)

Notably, Microservices remained farther down the list – with only 19% of users saying that it would have a top 3 impact on their infrastructure. However, when we look at this chart more closely, it has some broader implications on what all of the investment in network, storage and private cloud will ultimately by used for. Continue reading

AWS Summit 2015: Public Cloud and Microservices

What is Happening?

Yesterday, Saugatuck attended the AWS Summit 2015 in San Francisco, where Amazon gave an update on their business, and released several new products to the nearly 10,000 attendees at the Moscone Center and the 7,000 who watched the livestream. Andy Jassy, SVP of Web Services at Amazon kicked off the keynote by highlighting some key statistics about the business: from 4Q13 to 4Q14 they experienced 103 percent year-over-year growth in the amount of Data transferred into and out of S3 (Simple Storage Service) and 93 percent growth in the use of their compute service EC2. They now have over 1 million active users who have used the service in the last month.

Jassy brought several companies out to discuss the value of the AWS Cloud infrastructure. Jason Kilar, the founding CEO of Hulu, and now CEO of Vessel, a startup focused on video sharing and consumption, highlighted the ability to keep his team small, and focus on the business without having to build infrastructure. Wilf Russel, VP of Digital Technology Development at Nike described how the Cloud has fundamentally changed their application architecture and described their shift toward DevOps and Microservices. Valentini Volonghi, CTO at AdRoll discussed how the Cloud gave their business the reach to reduce latency by distributing their app around the globe. And Colin Bodell, CTO & EVP at Time Inc. who is migrating all of Time’s datacenters to AWS, citing that in the UK, they took their datacenter monthly run rate from $70,000 to $17,000.

Finally, Jassy used the opportunity to make several product announcements:

  1. Amazon Elastic File System (EFS) – a fully managed filesystem that can span multiple EC2 instances to enable multiple concurrent and scalable connections to a single file directory.
  2. Amazon Machine Learning Service – A one-size-fits all service that enables non-experts to implement Machine Learning algorithms on their data sets, or within their applications. This offers a simple API for training and modeling calculations which can then be called to perform specific machine learning tasks.
  3. Amazon Workspaces and AWS Marketplace for Desktop Apps – an Amazon VDI product to enable companies to create virtual desktops, as well as purchase, manage and provision the software for those desktop applications.
  4. The GA release of the Amazon EC2 Container Service – The Amazon tool for deploying, managing, updating, and running Docker clusters.
  5. The GA release of AWS Lambda – a Service designed to perform trigger / event driven compute in small doses. Provides a way to perform small, scripted tasks in real-time when triggers are initiated. Amazon highlighted its use in sending notifications, indexing, IoT, and as a serverless mobile backend. At present, Lambda only supports Node.js, but is adding support for Java in the coming weeks.

Continue reading

AribaLIVE 2015 – The Complex Reality of Networked Business Commerce

This year’s AribaLIVE event opened Wednesday with a performance by Ariba client Cirque du Soleil, complete with steampunk-style animated sky-sailing ships, stage smoke, haunting music, dramatic narration, and acrobatics. As I tweeted from the event:

#VoyageofDiscovery theme w/Cirque du Soleil opening #AribaLIVE. Smoke, acrobatics, complexity, fog. Perfect allegory for #Finance today

Anchored by Ariba SVP and CMO Tim Minahan, Wednesday’s opening session – and the second-day opener as well – was replete with stories of real-world business improvement through innovative applications of spend-management solutions. Experiences ranged from AIG finding the potential to save $70M simply by formalizing procurement to utilizing supply-chain sourcing management to reduce and hopefully end modern slavery. In sum, Ariba did more than one would think possible to make some of the most mundane aspects of Finance management – e.g., procurement, spending, sourcing, invoicing, payment – compelling.

What was most compelling for me was first, the increasingly interactive, and increasingly complex, networked nature of these routine-yet-critical aspects of Finance and commerce; and second, Ariba’s grasp of the need to both enable and leverage that increasing complexity to improve business for its clients and for itself via the Ariba Business Network concept and model.

For Ariba, to paraphrase both Scott McNealy and Bob Metcalfe, “The network is the business.” And everything about AribaLIVE 2015 themes, sessions, and discussions was built around The Network: how to use it, link with it, take Continue reading

CFOs and Cloud Caution – What is the Reality?

Saugatuck recently concluded a series of conversations with CFOs from all types and sizes of firms in the U.S., Western Europe, the Pacific Rim countries, and mainland Asia. Some of what was discussed tests the positions developed from our 2014 Cloud Finance study; more of the discussions drilled deeper into the changing roles of Finance and the CFO. An in-depth report that integrates our previous research with the shifting and evolving roles and needs of CFOs and Finance organizations will be published for Saugatuck clients later in April or May 2015.

A new Strategic Perspective published for Saugatuck research clients examines a core issue regarding CFOs and Cloud adoption: namely, is Finance adoption and use of Cloud-based systems lagging behind most other areas of the enterprise because CFOs are too cautious?

First, we need to establish whether Finance really is “behind” other areas of enterprise business in overall Cloud adoption and use.

Figure 1: Finance and Cloud – Not Applying Themselves?

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Source: Saugatuck Technology Inc. Continue reading

Cloud Infrastructure Survey: New Report Findings

What is Happening?           

Earlier today, Saugatuck Technology released the findings from its just completed Cloud Infrastructure Survey. The research and analysis clearly shows that businesses are moving rapidly away from traditional On-premises systems toward a range of Cloud infrastructure alternatives – including Internal Private Cloud, Hosted Private Cloud, Public Cloud and Hybrid (On-premises + Public Cloud). While CRM, HCM and Marketing-based SaaS solutions have dominated early Cloud decisions deployments, and more recently Cloud-based Finance offerings have begun to gain traction – the growing migration of On-premises production workloads to the Cloud, as well as the creation and deployment of Cloud-native production workloads clearly shows that we are entering a new phase in the transition.

Across major infrastructure services, both in the Cloud and On-premises, companies indicate a broad desire to upgrade their capabilities over the next two years. Additionally, On-premises virtualization – the dominant platform for IT Infrastructure today – will be supplanted with a combination of both Internal and Hosted Private Clouds, often supported by next-gen containerization technologies. While very few companies expect to be running entirely on Public Cloud by the end of the decade, a combination of Private and Public Cloud infrastructures (supporting production workloads), along with publically-available SaaS solutions (across an array of functional domains) will become increasingly the norm.

These are just a few of the conclusions from Saugatuck’s 73-page Strategic Report, released earlier today (Next-gen IT – Cloud on the March, 1553SSR, 02Apr2015). The report leverages a global web survey of 327 senior IT executives, across major geographic regions and business sizes. Continue reading

Journey to Cloud Starts with a Single Step

IT executives are increasingly recognizing that Cloud alternatives, unlike infrastructure technology refreshes, can be a key component of a new IT infrastructure that provides both cost savings and capabilities for improved service. However, to achieve these benefits, the IT organization must ensure the new infrastructure addresses business requirements rather than simply implementing the latest IT fad.

In a recently published Strategic Perspective, Saugatuck explains that implementing the right infrastructure upgrade depends on fully understanding future business requirements. Figure 1 helps visualize the linkage from business objectives, through business strategies, to business applications requirements, and ultimately to IT infrastructure requirements.

Figure 1: Linkage Between Business Objectives and IT Infrastructure Requirements

1551STR_figure1Source: Saugatuck Technology Inc. Continue reading

API with Analytics Yet?

The importance of the API economy has been apparent for several years, and API availability and use is growing exponentially. To date, this growth has been fueled by mobility, with APIs providing a mechanism for enabling tiny apps on mobile devices to perform important tasks by invoking the capability of hosted applications. At the same time, Big Data and Advanced Analytics have been developing steadily and moving toward direct real-time integration with business processes. Analytics APIs, particularly the new machine-learning driven Predictive APIs (PAPIs), can provide the glue to bring Analytics and processes together.

Analytics APIs offer the possibility of real time access to analytics inserted directly into composite applications. This offers great possibilities for enhancement of business processes, but it also opens the possibility of combining multiple simultaneous streams of analysis on an ad-hoc basis, creating a variable and scalable artificial intelligence.

Predictive APIs are already here and are being provided by major vendors and startups alike. This includes Microsoft, which provides Azure machine learning, and Google, which provides its Prediction API currently in a beta. Emerging providers taking revolutionary steps in this area include BigML, Swift API, Datagami, GraphLab, Apigee Insights, Openscoring.io, Intuitics, Zementis, Predixion, PredictionIO, H2O, Yottamine, Lattice, Futurelytics, and Lumiata. As with many other technologies in the IT sector, a lot of the innovation is happening with startups. In this case, however, startups greatly expand their capabilities of the underlying technology by opening up a wider range of APIs for assembly to handle an ever-increasing range of data and outcomes. Continue reading