UNIT4 Says “There’s an App for That”
Speed is the name of the game today. Whether we’re talking about technology innovation, market or economic change or simply the pace of business, acceleration is happening. Mid-sized organizations in particular are pressured by a continuing array of changing circumstances – macro market, competitors,workforce, regulatory actions and financial constraints – all in rapid-fire succession. A wide array of organizational stakeholders need to have the ongoing ability to input/consolidate/analyze changing information , view live performance results tied to current processes, assess risks, and seize opportunities. They need answers and they need them fast.
And yet, the wide array of corporate performance management (CPM), enterprise performance management (EPM) and business intelligence (BI) tools available today are neither fast nor easy to deploy for continuous ‘right-sized’ decisionmaking, nor easily accessible for the wider organizational hierarchy of workers. Nor are they available in a more desirable “pay as you go” format popularized by app stores. UNIT4, a company known for bringing change-embracing software solutions to market, says look no further for a fresh approach to analytics because now there’s “an app for that”: UNIT4 Business Analytics Apps.
ANALTYICS TODAY: Bulky, tool-like, slow
Organizations should not be forced to settle for large-footprint, expensive, multi-month deployments of licensed analytic software that add new cost with each new requirement. And yet this has been the only option for many looking for answers from the enterprise resource planning (ERP) operational backbone to which they are tethered. As deployments have expanded, responding to changing needs and making decisions are like steering a battleship, when in fact today you need the speed and flexibility of a high-powered speedboat. And yet, the hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars invested in these solutions makes it harder and harder to abandon ship.
Some of the largest, most dominant ERP solution providers have attacked the problem through acquisition of equally “large” analytical tool sets that add bulk to the solution and have the potential of further slowing down the decision-making process.
Hence, the global business and public sector community has installed literally millions of large-footprint, licensed software deployments. That formula is being challenged by a convergence of new mobile and cloud technologies, and fed by the growing impatience of buyers who are questioning big spends tied to long contracts. What are the choices today?
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
As an integrated suite of modules that forms the transactional system of record of the business, ERP can provide a wealth of data. But thinking ERP is the answer, per se, is like expecting to get a drink of water from a fire hose without being blasted with far more liquid than you can possibly consume. What you really need is a glass of water. You certainly don’t want to constrain or eliminate the power of the fire hose, but you do want a more manageable way of dispensing and consuming the water on a day-to-day basis.
As ERP solutions have matured over the past several decades they have grown broader and deeper, expanding beyond traditional boundaries, adding more force and power. This is all good because after all, these transactions are the pulse of your business and ERP, in sustaining that flow, has traditionally been viewed as the heartbeat. But if you view ERP as the heartbeat of the decision-making process you will skip a lot of beats, and you certainly don’t want to undergo open-heart surgery every time you need to make an adjustment (change) to your business.
Furthermore, how many people do you know have the patience and fortitude to search for answers by diving right into the details of their broad ERP solution? Whether you are an executive or first-rung manager, most workers don’t have the Information Technology (IT) expertise to drill much beyond what is shown in executive dashboards. Smaller, bite-sized, but important data collection/consolidation/review and decision-support actions get lost in the larger ERP environment. The lack of ability to perform these continual, repetitive analytic actions – potentially totaling thousands of daily small performance actions in even a mid-sized organization – can add up to a fairly toothsome financial outcome.
Business Intelligence (BI)
You might ask, isn’t “intelligence” what Business Intelligence is for? The concept behind BI is that, yes, you can distill data, slicing and dicing it in order to extract the “intelligence” from it. The problem is BI is generally delivered as a tool set, which transforms the burden of deciding “what do I need to measure, in what places, how often and with what associated actions” … into a fairly complex task force requirement. Once the group aligns on these matters (often taking weeks or even months), it must still shop for the tool, validate whether it is compatible with the existing ERP backbone, install, test, train and roll it out.
True, there is no limit to the type of analytics that can be developed using these tools. But the journey is long and it involves considerable departmental, IT and economic commitments. What’s more, when the first outlier question needs to be answered (i.e. one not previously anticipated), recoding of BI applications can put the team right back at square one of the process.
Corporate Performance Management (CPM)
If a tool set doesn’t meet the needs of the organization, how about Corporate (or Enterprise) Performance Management (CPM/EPM) suites? To date these have been quite loosely defined and often include financial planning, budgeting and forecasting, cash management, consolidation, legal/financial reporting, and sales performance, but may also include corporate governance, strategy and risk management. These are all critical functions but in taking a suite approach, we are right back to the problem we have with ERP. You lose focus. You don’t need a full suite to answer a particular question or drive one specific decision.
As you can see, it is no surprise that what we have today is a lot of confused decision-makers with no clear idea of where to even start to shop for solutions.
Where in the World?
And to further complicate matters, consider that today’s workforces are consistently on the move, not sitting at a desk behind a computer. They may be visiting remote locations of their own operations, making customer or partner calls or have a mobile-defined job. This makes web-based access very important, if not a “must have.” And with growing organizational reliance on smart phones, iPads and other tablets, workers now expect to find answers on whatever devices they carry with them.
This makes the concept of organizations having the ability to download a templated pre-defined analytics app, extend it as needed to a limitless array of workers (executive and non-executive; mobile or office-centric); and allow them to access and perform change easily – a very appealing proposition.
Introducing UNIT4 Business Analytics Apps
This is exactly the concept UNIT4 is introducing in its new Business Analytics Apps: turnkey, analytic-infused, purpose-built applications to solve a specific problem or meet a particular need. Think of these as bite-sized, “tapas-style” individual applications, available online to organizations through an apps store, easy to download, easy to complete, small and digestible. Each is a rapid, targeted repeatable response to a specific (often recurring) organizational need, representing a small pay-as-you-go investment with little to no risk, and yet produces a quick Return on Investment (ROI).
UNIT4 Business Analytics Apps are turnkey solutions, 90% complete with two rapid-fire choices for the last 10% of organizational tailoring/deployment:
- A do-it-yourself option via embedded ‘build & go’ capabilities that’s particularly fitted for those organizations that aim for complete independence to address performance challenges and/or opportunities
- A turnkey professional service bundle of 5, 10 or 20 days (depending on requirements) via a UNIT4 (certified) professional services team to get it to 100%
Each app will have embedded pre-built analytics tailored specifically for the solution. These analytic-infused solutions do not fall into the traditional categories of ERP, CPM, EPM or prototypical BI tools; they are a reinvention of the performance solutions market.
UNIT4 is working hand-in-hand with strategic customers in various verticals to develop the turnkey solutions. These customers represent industries including local government, education, retail and professional services. The first wave of Business Analytics Apps, true purpose-built, ready-to-consume apps that will also be smartly integrated with UNIT4’s core solutions Agresso Business World (ABW) and CODA Financials. These solutions offer customers a rapid targeted response to business change, emerging risks or new opportunities. The underlying architecture is change-enabling, whereby a change made in one application automatically flows to the other applications.
The first application will be introduced to the market in March 2012. The UNIT4 Business Analytics Apps Store is projected to be open for business in June 2012 with the first wave of applications. From that moment on, subsequent waves of solutions are to be released at quarterly or half-year intervals.
How Do Bite-Sized Analytics Change the Performance Game?
Do these Business Analytic Apps replace ERP or financial transactional applications? No, there will always be a need for ERP and ERP-like transactional systems. However, this approach could very well dramatically change how data collected and stored in these transactional systems is consumed.
It has always been easier to get data into ERP than to get actionable intelligence out. Hence much of the value is left on the table with information that is largely untapped beyond dashboard-like state-of-the-business views. With broad, deep and multi-purpose applications, most organizations simply don’t know where or how to start – without significant resource commitments on multiple levels. By creating these bite-size apps that address recurring specific needs, organizations can simply download the apps, finish them off in a manageable number of days, deploy via their mobile workforces and quickly gain value.
ERP and the accompanying performance solutions acquired by ERP vendors in billion-dollar deals are big-ticket items. And with deployments that take months or years, it’s not a stretch to say this is a scary spend for most organizations. Alternatively, UNIT4’s scalpel-like approach to enabling multiple roles in the organization to solve performance issues offers organizations a no/low-risk value proposition with a fast return, at a very affordable pay-for-use price point.
This approach eliminates much of the analysis-paralysis that can accompany a major undertaking like ERP. And it will also eliminate the confusion and the decision-making over what kind of a solution is required. You won’t need to choose between ERP, BI and/or CPM. These categories will be meaningless in this context. You will just download the app that answers your question or satisfies a particular need.
How Unique is UNIT4’s New Analytic-Infused App Platform?
UNIT4’s newest Business Analytics Apps suite is not unlike the vintage 1980’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercial where two people accidentally combine their individual chocolate and peanut butter confections into a breakthrough candy sensation. The “genius” is this bundle of individually proven components:
- Pre-built, 90% complete templates
- Available via an app store
- A turnkey professional service bundle of 5, 10 or 20 days, depending on requirements, to finish it off
- (Or) a “do it yourself” approach to finish the last 10% based on the embedded ‘build & go’ environment
- Pay-for-use model
- Change-embracing platform
- Backed by 30 years of enterprise problem-solving experience
One truly unique feature not currently available in the market, the embedded social-collaboration capability that allows users to continually amend, change, aggregate and input fresh data and results into the template. This “new” flavor of change for UNIT4, allows the company to advance its reputation as the enterprise solution market’s most change-friendly vendor.
Recommendations and Key Takeaways
For those organizations currently deploying the traditional array of ERP, EPM, CPM or BI tools, it will become increasingly difficult to justify spending money on what (for many companies) is software shelf ware. These turnkey, analytic-infused, purpose-built applications designed to solve a specific problem or meet a particular need can eliminate large up-front spends on EPM/CPM licensing, and significantly reduce (if not eliminate) the effort to define measurements/processes, key performance indicators (KPI’s), and data feed sources. Implementation and training will reflect the ease individuals experience today in downloading and running consumer apps. UNIT4 Business Analytics Apps begin to bridge the gap between consumer and enterprise apps that the industry is talking about but nobody is (yet) delivering.
Businesses and organizations seeking performance enhancements should see benefits from a more targeted response to their specific needs, and there will be a direct correlation between what you pay and the value you receive.
Existing UNIT4 customers should take advantage of the opportunity to help UNIT4 define these new bite-size apps. The more involved you are, the more your specific needs will be met. UNIT4 claims that “imagination is your only limit.” Those business leaders that can imagine a new world of apps will reap the highest reward. Start imagining.