Posted on July 12, 2012
Enterprise software vendors have made tremendous strides in unleashing the legacy type data contained within their software packages. But, whether it’s ERP, HR, CRM or any of the other related software areas, they all have struggled in simplifying reporting, data aggregation and customization capabilities because systems were cumbersome and difficult to use by those outside of the IT realm. Usually, creating custom reports from an ERP system has been a chore involving IT involvement to change report dimensions and make new reports for different purposes. This required coding, integration, testing and an entire project plan — just for changing a report. Aside from reporting, the chore of day-to-day (or moment to moment) decision making carried similar challenges.
UNIT4’s ERP solution Agresso and its best-of-breed financials solution Coda already have a strong reputation for serving a market sector that the company identifies as BLINC (for “Businesses Living IN Change”), via agility and interoperability capabilities derived from their respective Vita ™ and Link ™ architectures. Now, UNIT4 has expanded its change-centric value prop by delivering UNIT4 Business analytic Apps, a business intelligence (BI) solution that is a market first: bite-sized BI decision support tools that are inexpensive ($10 month or less), deployed in 3 days or less, and solve small, role-based recurring BI needs. Not only is Unit 4 the first vendor to offer such a service, but they further differentiate it by two major areas that other ERP’s will have to play catch-up in: embedded social collaboration and monthly pay-as-you-go- or- quit contracts.
This is a game-changer from a time/money/complexity standpoint…and it’s going to provide big impact to UNIT4 buyers. Previously, since each corporate (or public sector) department uses data from their ERP system for their own needs, there was a lot of time-draining and mind-bending personalization going on – not to mention repetitive actions. Groups not using UNIT4’s new solution have to identify and aggregate their own data, create their own KPI’s (or select from vendor lists in advance of installation) and then interpret the outcomes without “what-if” capabilities for decision making – unless they buy that too. Further, each of these efforts only makes sense to people within the department using it.
For customers that have UNIT4 Business Analytic Apps, they now have a supply of role-based, individualized problem-solving BI solutions that pull data from either the Agresso ERP and/or Coda source systems, and use an SOA framework to append additional source data. So far, UNIT4 has introduced 35 prebuilt BI apps for different unique purposes, departments and organizational functions, with more on the way. Some of the templated functions are required by managers across the board (i.e. “How is my department performing”) or can help to glean insights on Sales, CRM, HR and other areas. In short, this is automated analytic functionality for their ongoing day to day job performance areas – versus the typical longer term usage of BI solutions.
Once ordered via the UNIT4 App Store, the first app takes approximately about 2-3 days to pre-set the data pipes and requirements, and incremental setups for other departments can be done in mere hours. Executives that require real-time information can unlock their own data to foster unique decision support. The cost-saving beauty of this model is that you only pay for what you use on a monthly basis – no one year contract to sign — as with most SaaS models – there are no termination fees, and as mentioned previously, the apps are $10 or less per month/per user.
UNIT4 Business Analytic Apps are mobile capable (iPad and Android) and support running “what if” scenarios using your own data. These time-saving pre-configured “what if” scenarios are 90% complete immediately, and provide BI features that are not part of the standard functionality within many ERP systems. Even better, these apps include a nice social component that encourages collaboration and fosters a decision-supporting, business-process improving outcome. As with newer social software, activity streams are real-time, eliminating the need to gather and send emails and documents, wait for replies, etc. This personalized level of embedded and automated decision-making and collaboration functionality is not available elsewhere – without a lot of time, money and long-term commitment in the ERP or BI market. What’s more, alternative means to achieve this would require complex parameter setting, system integrations, not to mention the hard coding that would need to be re-done for each successive change to the business. Unit4 has created something unique and more importantly in this fast-paced world, change-supporting here. We expect it will not be long before the rest of the analytic world realizes they are in a game of “catch up” to match these capabilities.
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