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

Time to Rethink the “Data Center” Concept – and the Role of “IT?”

On the one hand, the IT function and organization for most firms has never been more about “data.” Big Data, data mining, advanced analytics, predictive analytics, real-time analytics, and so on rule media reports, analyst insights, event titles, the blogosphere, and provider announcements. The growth of Digital Business both feeds, and feed off of, data and more data. What used to be primarily a focus on software and infrastructure, many firms now see data and content providing their greatest growth.

On the other hand, data and its processing are every day less and less centered. It’s easy to see the proliferation of Cloud-based function-, application-, and group-specific analytics that accompany the parallel proliferation of Cloud-based applications and attendant data stores. And meanwhile, CIOs all over the globe are already telling us that because they can leverage Cloud capabilities, they want to never build another data center.

This has engendered some interesting discussions with the Saugatuck team and with our clients as well. If we as business and IT leaders are more and more about “data” every day, while we actively pursue non-centered uses, locations, and processing for that data, what do we do with the concept of the “data center?”

The data center concept grew because of traditional, centralized IT organizations, infrastructures, and policies that insisted that data was a valuable resource that therefore must be centrally held, controlled, processed, and secured. This version of reality became moot after the onslaught of desktop and portable computing, and has become even less meaningful to many in a Cloud-first IT and Continue reading

SIIA in Boston – Deciphering Data and Analytics for ISV Business

What is Happening?

ISVs can, should, and do profit from the use of advanced data analytics – not only by integrating them within software and services offerings, but more importantly, by integrating an increasing range and scope of data (including Big Data) and analytics into their own business operations and decision making. Data regarding user behavior, operational efficiencies, and relationship management can and should be analyzed to help determine and take advantage of customer / buyer desires and needs, as well as competitive abilities, solution improvements, development strategy, upsell / cross-sell opportunities, pricing, business models, and hiring / retaining the most useful employees.

These were among the lessons reported by Saugatuck Research Fellow Bruce Guptill, who had the pleasure of attending and participating in this week’s “Deciphering the Data Storm” event, presented in Boston by the Software & Services division of the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA).

Key lessons learned and reported by ISVs regarding the analysis and application of a wide range of business data (including Big Data) include the following:

  • Data needs “gravity” in order to be useful; i.e., data needs varying combinations of human business context, situational relevance, and environmental semantics (i.e., “the voice of the author”) in order to be qualified, let alone be useful in analysis.
  • Don’t always focus on reducing / limiting the “bigness” of data. Adding to / augmenting data with similar, complementary, and relevant data can provide and improve the “gravity” of that data. The key information sought may not be found completely in your own data. That being said, don’t be afraid to apply a variety of filters to screen Big Data; just be willing to accept failure and move on quickly when the filtering doesn’t work as expected.
  • Share data in common to improve collaboration. “Success” is defined differently everywhere, even within small ISVs. Utilizing common sets of data has more beneficial impact, and enables more and better business collaboration, than trying to develop and focus on a “single version of the truth.” Different groups will always have different perspectives, and use data in different ways; ensuring that the data used is common rather than simply absolute will enable better understanding, and foster more (and more useful) interaction.
  • Know what the next step is. In other words, set realistic business goals beyond simply analyzing data. Once deeply into the analysis, it’s easy to lose sight of business reasons behind the analysis. And as more data becomes more readily available from more sources, it becomes more and more easy to become overwhelmed.

Continue reading

UPDATED: FinancialForce.com – Prospering in the Salesforce Ecosystem

As part of our ongoing “Finance in the Cloud” Series, Saugatuck 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.”

NOTE: This Lens360 blog post was originally published on December 16, 2014. See March 26, 2015 Business Update in the Postscript section below.

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. Eighteen 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 Continue reading

The Business of Digital Identity

In the old days in each village, access to personally identifiable information was in your face: it occurred when the other villagers looked into your eyes. The days of the village and up-close eye contact have been replaced by vast amounts of digital data representing identity. The modern digital equivalent of identity information is stored in repositories in digital networks throughout the world. Continue reading

On The Road With Finance

What is Happening?

Over the past two weeks, Saugatuck has been on the road participating in a range of roadshow briefings and online webinars with CFOs, as well as in the opening keynote panel at a major finance-focused conference called FINANCE2015. Sponsored by SAP, and held at the Wynn hotel in Las Vegas, the conference brought together 2,000+ finance and IT execs, to learn about the future of finance systems.

While SAP announced a number of new products at the conference, based on conversations with prospects and clients, the big takeaway was the growing momentum it seems to be getting for its Simple Finance offering (announced in mid-2014 – see Lens360 blog post “Large-Enterprise Financials – A Less Scary Path to the Future,” 15Oct2014), which is the first instantiation of its new S4/HANA architecture. This Research Alert highlights some key takeaways from the events, along with some of the research that Saugatuck shared during the recent roadshow and at the conference, and a recent webinar for another client.

Why is it Happening?

In December 2014, Saugatuck published the results of a web survey it conducted with more than 300 senior Finance and IT executives. While readers can learn more about the broader research program results by going to a Research Alert published in mid-December (see “Financials in the Cloud – New Survey Insights” (1493RA, 18Dec2014) – we wanted to highlight one of the questions here that focused on impending demand across a range of finance functions over the short and mid-term.

Figure 1: Finance in the Cloud – Pace of Adoption by Sub-Function

1547RA - chart1

Source: Saugatuck Technology. Cloud in Finance survey, (CFO-only responses), N=162, North America (Dec. 2014)

There is little doubt that the Third Wave of Cloud Business Solution demand has begun, with more than 50 percent of Finance and IT execs indicating that they are either currently evaluating, or planning to replace their current Financial Systems within the next 24 months. But the sandbox called “Financial Systems” is indeed very wide and very Continue reading

Software Defined Networking (SDN): Core to the Future of the Data Center?

Software Defined Networking (SDN) is emerging as a new architecture for infrastructure flexibility in enterprises and in providers of Cloud infrastructure offerings. SDN is based upon separating the control layer from the data transport layer in a communications network. A key advantage is the use of a virtualized architecture that enables the use of commodity servers rather than custom-designed network controllers.

Some enterprises have taken steps to adopt software defined networking in their data centers, where it provides cost advantages and more flexibility in network configuration, and thus can accelerate implementation of new applications through DevOps techniques. For example, using DevOps, an application can be readily tested by temporarily accessing cloud resources to run the application at scale.

While enterprises have learned that a key attraction of virtualization is that it provides a means to make changes to an infrastructure easily and quickly – SDN presents a dilemma for vendors of traditional networking controllers. SDN enables the use of commodity-priced servers rather than conventional proprietary controllers in network infrastructures. This is quite attractive to enterprises due to the potential for significant cost savings (see Figure 1), and due to the greater flexibility in equipment and vendor selection. Continue reading

iPaaS, MDM, and API Management Solidify Dell Boomi Platform

Dell has just announced an expansion of its Boomi line which broadens its platform from its integration (iPaaS) and Master Data Management (MDM) center, out to include a complete API creation and management suite. The new suite enables both developers and savvy business users the ability to create, modify, publish, and monitor both SOAP and REST APIs.

While Dell is not the first to bring integration and API Management together, they are the first to bring MDM into the mix – and this combination is likely to prove very powerful, as shifts in IT overall are pushing more and more toward loosely-coupled data as well as services.  As we wrote in July 2014 in our Lens360 post, Master Data Management and the Internet of Things:

As the Internet of Things grows, and the complexity of systems dependent on sensor data continues to increase, we see major opportunity for IT to add new value through Master Data Management (MDM) programs. While recently the focus of MDM has often been in maintaining a single view of the customer across multiple cloud and on premises systems (such as CRM, order management, ecommerce, mobile, etc), we expect that the challenges in maintaining context around sensor data to be a primary driver of new MDM initiatives going forward.

It is clear now that the opportunity for MDM is beyond any one category of data, whether it be sales, HR, sensor, IoT, or Mobile, to name a few. With the combination of MDM and data integration, Boomi was already well positioned to help connect existing applications. By adding in API Management, they can now become an invaluable tool for application and service modernization. Developers will be able to create new services and APIs while managing data governance, even as these services become increasingly distributed. Continue reading

IoT Beyond the Consumer: The Industrial Internet and Smart Cities

The Internet of Things (IoT) comprises the concept of many connected objects. Much of the media discussion focuses on connected objects in homes and worn by consumers. Yet, business applications of IoT abound. New IoT technologies help enable enterprise services that can improve business and government operations.  Continue reading