Subba’s Serendipitous moments

October 3, 2009

Salesforce.com into financial applications

Unit 4 Agresso has now teamed up Salesforce.com — the poster boy of SaaS to create FinancialForce.com that will produce SaaS based accounting, and financial management applications.

Well SaaS has been growing, but CFOs are mostly conservative and would not want to the data to be in the cloud. Hence the success of Financialforce.com will be keenly watched.

Now there are several interesting issues that come about with this joint venture.

For a start, it seems that Salesforce.com is a minority investor. Salesforce.com’s presence will undoubtedly create higher visibility for SaaS based financial applications. Hence other vendors will follow suit giving the SaaS proposition a greater momentum. Enterrpise software vendors who offer products in the mid market space like Oracle, Microsoft and SAP will have to respond quickly to this trend.

But with this association, Salesforce.com also seem to be sending mixed signals to its App Exchange partners who use the Salesforce.com’s Force.com platform to build new applications. Well, they could build an application only to realize that Salesforce.com might one day compete with them. Recent acquisitions by Salesforce.com in many of the App Exchange parnters’ businesses have not made Salesforce.com popular with many of the partners. Yet, there’s no compelling SaaS platform currently.

It looks like Salesforce.com needs to clearly clarify its positioning, strategic goals and its partnering model.

April 20, 2009

Oracle acquires Sun — Unexpected and interesting

Oracle announced that it is going to acquire Sun for $9.50 in cash valuing Sun at about $7.5 billion or $5.6 billion net of Sun’s cash and debt.

The deal comes after talks between IBM and Sun failed. I had analyzed why the IBM may not really need Sun here and here. IBM had offered $9.40 per share. Oracle’s offer is a 40% premium over Sun’s closing price.

However this acquisition by Oracle is both unexpected and very interesting. Sun’s software assets could become better strategic assets to Oracle than Sun’s server or storage business. After Sun acquired MySQL , the relationship between Oracle and Sun had soured. Oracle had acquired Innobase to neutralize MySQL but it hadn’t made much headway. Of course Java could become the pivot of Oracle’s middleware strategy.

The open source database angle becomes interesting. Having MySQL in its stable gives Oracle access to its huge developer base and web applications market. Will Oracle kill MySQL to protect the Oracle 11g cloud margins or milk it for whatever it is worth before allowing it to die in neglect will be interesting to watch.

Sun has a large installed base and becomes an immediate target market for Oracle to target with its applications.

Since Sun’s manufacturing is already outsourced, there’s nothing much left for Oracle to do. It can sell whatever is left in the hardware business — the storage, server and any other chip business to either HP or Dell.

Oracle now fine tunes the database performance on Solaris and sells a combo. HP and others will feel the impact.

Oracle gets the scale and muscle to attack IBM.

On the overall, there seems to be a better strategic fit between Oracle and Sun, than Oracle and IBM. Both companies also have a strong feisty culture and hyper competitive spirits so integrating them could be easier.

What is also interesting is that Sun’s board approved the deal quickly and unanimously after just scoffing IBM’s deal which was just 10 cents less per share.

April 27, 2008

State of the Business intelligence industry

Dave Hatch writes a good report on the expansion and contraction of the “BI” here.

He mentions three factors that inhibit expansion within the enterprise:

  • A lack of BI skill sets among non-technical business users

  • The inability to integrate data from all sources necessary to meet business needs

  • Poor data quality – end users do not trust the information.

I would add a few more based on my experience in Asia Pacific:

  1. Vendors tend to pitch solutions to buyers than to end users.

  2. There is often a big disconnect between IT and end users in terms of what BI applications to target. In most organizations BI tools often end up as mere reporting applications.

  3. End users often have little understanding of the analysis that they need that would enable them to do strategic planning. Barring the CFO community where the budgeting and consolidation process is often well defined, other functional areas rarely have a well considered view of the role of analytics as applicable to their functions.

  4. Many BI projects have failed to produce the necessary business outcomes and hence there is some kind of skepticism. This explains why despite BI being high on the priority list of CIOs, the actual usage has stagnated, something that you confirm.

I have long held the view that for BI to succeed, the vendor community has to invest in more awareness, education and process know how with users. Given that the BI industry has consolidated with Oracle’s acquisition of Hyperion, SAP’s acquisition of Business Objects and IBM’s acquisition of Cognos, (3 of the largest pure play BI vendors), this is unlikely to happen. These large software vendors are likely to bundle BI as part of their overall applications strategy, which could give users a standard template driven packages, but enterprises are unlikely to gain significant benefits or competitive advantage, as they have not been part of of the evolution of the analytics mind set within the organization.

David also talks of BI being delivered as a SaaS service. We evaluated its appeal, and found that a lot of standard reporting applications lend themselves to the SaaS model. The moment the analytics applications has to seek data from diverse data sources, organizations have no choice but to go for the on-premise model.

I don’t think that vendors have managed to integrate unstructured information into their BI solutions. Clearly there’s a need and there’s a market opportunity.

I just want to emphasize the fact that it is not often the problem with the BI tool set, it is the inability of end users to devise their analytics frameworks relevant to their organization that is blocking the growth of the BI industry. The vendors haven’t addressed this. They would have to establish a baseline literacy of BI tools and applications, and ensure more effective implementation, rather than merely focusing on selling standard applications.

The promise of BI is yet to be translated into actual performance. BI technology has no value unless one gains agreement from the users on how it is to be deployed, more so when unstructured data powered by people whose roles and interests vary has to be incorporated. Clearly a major rethink is required.

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