In a very quiet and very subtle move, Callidus Software (NASDAQ: CALD) has offered to purchase the assets of ForceLogix for about $3.75 million. This sales applications software company provides sales coaching software to help sales managers realize the full value of their sales representatives. In 2010, Callidus Software entered into an OEM agreement to embed ForceLogix within a new offering called Sales Coaching; it clearly concluded that the opportunity to expose the application to further opportunities in its customer base was too important for ForceLogix to be allowed to continue to operate independently, and so it used some of its stated cash position of almost $11 million at end of September. This step into a pre-sales and sales management application is a key move toward expanding its sales performance management position. I would guess that Callidus sees some significant revenue growth in 2011 and beyond for its purchase.
Topics: Sales Performance, Salesforce.com, Sales Coaching, Sales Effectiveness, Sales Operations, Operational Performance, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Workforce Performance, Callidus Software, Sales Performance Management
Contact centers face a number of challenges beyond simply answering customer calls. Among them are improving customer satisfaction, increasing the number of calls resolved at the first attempt and ensuring agents comply with regulations. But chief among these, my research into contact center analytics shows, is the mandate to reduce the average length of time it takes to complete calls.
Wall Street has many leading indicators to work with, some serious – such as housing starts and the purchasing managers’ index – and some done a bit tongue-in-cheek. One of the latter is the Super Bowl Indicator, which says that if a team from the original National Football League wins the game, the market will be up for the year, but if an old American Football League team wins it, the market will be down. The amazing thing is that so far this heuristic has an accuracy rate better than 75%! On the other hand, over time some venerable weather vanes become unreliable. For example, the “hem line theory” (that stocks rise and fall with the direction of this aspect of women’s fashion) lost its (ahem) legs, partly because fashion these days is much more anarchic.
Topics: Sales Performance, Salesforce.com, IT Performance, Operational Performance, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Enterprise Software, Financial Performance, Information Management
At the 2010 Dreamforce conference (Twitter #df10) in San Francisco, about 18,000 people gathered to learn about the latest in salesforce.com’s applications and technology. Attendees from sales organizations might have been looking for some depth on the next generation of applications to support their sales processes or what the vendor will do to help sales managers manage, sales reps sell products and sales operations support it all. Certainly it’s reasonable for a sales force automation (SFA) customer to expect that.
SAP is in the process of acquiring certain financial disclosure management software assets from cundus, a German provider of BI and performance management software. SAP will be buying cundus’ Financial Statement Factory and informationCollector, which together manage the collaborative creation and editing of financial and management reports using both structured and unstructured information. SAP expects to complete the deal by the end of 2010.
One of the prominent salesforce.com partners on display at the recent Dreamforce in San Francisco was FinancialForce.com. It’s one of a growing list of providers of in-the-cloud accounting and finance packages built on the Force.com platform. Like other of these accounting vendors (such as Compiere, Intacct, Netsuite and - to some extent and eventually– Workday), it aims principally at companies that have outgrown entry-level accounting software such as Intuit’s QuickBooks. (I covered the emerging use of cloud-based applications for finance departments here.) However, there are key differences. One major difference is that FinancialForce offers customers the choice between buying accounting functionality as a complete package or doing so à la carte. This approach derives from its strategy of going after two types of customers.
Last week I attended salesforce.com’s Dreamforce user conference in San Francisco (Twitter #DF10). As a user of salesforce applications for the last four years in my previous positions, I was familiar with its analytic capabilities, or lack thereof. Certainly you can accomplish simple reporting and produce dashboards displaying salesforce data, which is adequate for narrowly focused reporting and analysis. However, as a user I was underwhelmed. For example, there are no built-in capabilities for pixel-perfect reporting, drill-and-pivot navigation of data, advanced visualization or predictive analytics. But if you need to perform serious what-if analysis or predictive analytics against your sales and marketing data, you’ll have to do some custom programming at least to make it work in salesforce. Given the overall importance of business intelligence, I was expecting to hear more at Dreamforce about new analytics capabilities for specific lines of business.
At the SAP Global Influencer Summit (Twitter #SAPSummit) that I just assessed the company addressed, among many other things, its SAP CRM vision and recent advances. SAP has shifted its focus from standard customer relationship management (CRM) to the customer lines of business where professionals increasingly see that the enterprise customer experience should span channels and processes in marketing, sales and customer service. SAP now is focusing on specializing its applications for a customer-focused set of business processes, which can be differentiated in its vertical industry solutions more than its horizontal CRM applications. This industry approach makes sense for SAP, which has not been able to tap into the new energy and applications in marketing, sales and service but is aware of multichannel customer requirements. Let’s start by looking about what SAP is focusing on in the customer lines of business.
Vishal Sikka raised an important point about the software business during his remarks at the SAP Global Influencer Summit that my colleague just assessed (See: “SAP Elevates Technology Strategy for Enterprise Software and Solutions“). He contrasted the business strategy of consolidation that other companies are pursuing with his view of SAP’s strategy of innovation. In one sense, this assertion is an attempt to disparage Oracle’s and to some extent IBM’s approach to constructing an IT business portfolio, even though SAP itself has been a consolidator in recent years. (Business Objects and Sybase, for example, are significant components of SAP’s product universe and go-forward strategy.) However, I believe consolidation vs. innovation is an important point to consider as we enter the second decade of the 21st century because it points to the potential for a basic shift in the dynamics of the software business.
A friend of ours, Doug Henschen, showed up in my inbox last week in a new guise. Doug for years edited the TechWeb (and before that CMP) publication Intelligent Enterprise, and in my opinion did a great job of distilling all that was important in BI and the enterprise use of information for competitive advantage.
One of the problems in the contact center and IT worlds is that terms mean different things to different people. Take “contact center” for example. The meaning was clear when it was just the call center because people knew it was a place that centralized the handling of customer phone calls. It became the virtual call center when calls were distributed over multiple sites. Then it became the contact center because some companies started to ask agents (a term that is interchanged with customer service representative, customer service agent and the like) to handle forms of interaction other than calls – e-mail, letters, chat and others. Now “center” has lost relevance as interactions are handled by the “best” person in an organization, whether in a formal center or working at home; indeed the agent may be in-company or working for a third party that provides outsourced interaction-handling services. This situation makes the term “contact center analytics” imprecise because what is really required is interaction-handling analytics.
At this year’s Influencer Summit (Twitter: #SAPSummit) SAP’s executive leadership team summarized the company’s progress in 2010 and described its plans for the coming year in a range of technologies. The event led off with co-CEO Jim Hagemann Snabe discussing by video from Germany the business and technology areas in which SAP expects growth in 2011. Jim focused SAP’s efforts in on-premises and on-demand delivery, mobility and in-memory computing, which are important to a new generation of products the company is bringing to market. He asserted that SAP does not need to acquire a lot more technology to innovate and grow its portfolio. While I thought the apologetic attitude about being late in updating SAP’s on-premise applications was unnecessary, the emphasis on its growth and technology was well communicated.
Near the top of one of the best columns I’ve read on l’affaire Wikileaks is this assertion: “Clearly, there is no longer such a thing as a safe electronic archive, whatever computing's snake-oil salesmen claim. No organisation can treat digitised communication as confidential. An electronic secret is a contradiction in terms.”
Talend, a vendor of open source data integration tools, recently announced its acquisition of Sopera, an open source application integration company whose products are based on a service-oriented architecture (SOA). It simultaneously announced an additional $34 million of funding. As I pondered what the announcements mean, I couldn’t help but think of the bigger picture. Is this entrepreneurial action typical of an open source vendor?
A few weeks back I wrote about how NICE Systems was venturing into the back office and my surprise that the core smart desktop product it had acquired with eglue, while a key part of this initiative, seemed to have disappeared as a stand-alone offering. Since then NICE has corrected my impression, pointing out that the product is still available in pretty much the same form as always. The problem is that you have to look hard to find it because it has been renamed Real-Time Process Optimization. If you follow this link, you won’t see confirmation that this really is the eglue product, but I assure you it is.
No one has seemed to notice that in the last several months, Hewlett-Packard has quietly made changes to its participation in the enterprise software market; this will significantly change HP’s value for CIOs and IT organizations in regards to business intelligence (BI) technologies.
Topics: Data Warehousing, IT Performance, IT Research, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Enterprise Software, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), HP, Information Applications, Information Management, HP Neoview
Years ago I was given a tour of a company’s factory by the CEO who was credited with engineering its recent turnaround. We were walking along a gallery one story above the shop floor when he pointed down to it and told me that when he first looked down on this scene he saw people dashing madly back and forth. Rather than taking that as a good sign of a busy factory, he said it was a clear indication to him of how inefficient the operation was and why the company was losing money. He immediately went about realigning the factory’s layout to smooth out physical flows and re-examined its manufacturing processes, and soon the business was profitable.
If you’ve walked past a playing TV recently, there’s a good chance you’ve noticed that Microsoft thinks it can profit from “The Cloud.” The folks in Redmond would have you store your pictures there so the family can access them, use it to collaborate over the weekend in a small business – you name it, Cloud Power can do it.
The cloud is much discussed in the business arena these days as well, but that conversation is being driven, I suspect, by an interest not in power but in cost. Enterprise system deployments – of ERP systems, CRM, supply chain and logistics management, HR management systems – are time-consuming, and costly, and fraught with hassles and missteps and wrong turns. Wouldn’t it be nice, the thinking goes, to hand that all off to someone else and rather than buying a bunch of hardware and software and installing it in a data center (or data closet), simply rent the device that that system delivers from someone else, taking delivery via the Internet.
You don’t have to think about that very long, do you? “You betcha!” is the answer. As technology, the cloud is hardly a radical advance – it’s the client-server model of 20 years ago brought forward into the 21st century. But it’s now a cost-effective option; if you’re a business executive, you’ll be hearing about it soon if you haven’t already.
But there is one upside to the local data center: The data in it is secure. When your sensitive data is flying through the clouds ad is stored who knows where, how secure is it? I can’t answer that right now, but it’s a question we’re pondering here at Ventana Research, and one we may pursue. What’s your thought?
Alan Kay – VP Research Management
A colleague recently asked of an online professional group of which we’re members, “Is your personal computer faster than the one the boss gave you?” While answers are still trickling in, it looks pretty clear that the answer is, “Yes, of course.”
Now, we do tend a bit toward the geeky, so there’s a bit of built-in bias. But it also stands to reason that business- and corporate-issued technology tools will lag in performance a bit behind what we choose to have in our dens or studies or family rooms. At home our criteria will be cost, of course, but also the ability to play games, or download entertainment files of various kinds, or shop easily and quickly, or, increasingly, keep up with friends and family on social networking sites.
Business infrastructure marches to an entirely different drummer. It needs to be cost-effective. It needs to be compatible with the systems on which the company operates. It needs to be efficiently supportable by the IT department, whatever form that takes. And it needs to be used for as long as it efficiently delivers value to the company. (Let’s not even talk about smartphones and the like – talk about IT headaches!)
That latter criterion is an interesting one. How does the IT department determine that it is doing what it is charged with as effectively as possible? As it happens, we should have an answer for you pretty soon now. Ventana Research is finishing up benchmark research on IT’s uses of analytics, metrics and KPIs as part of a much larger research look at business analytics. Stay tuned.
Alan Kay – VP Research Management
Someone slashed the top on my convertible a few days ago in a futile effort to find something of value. He or she got nothing; the perpetrator also managed to cost me at least the $500 deductible and, far worse, throw me into the maw of the monster that is the auto insurance bureaucracy.
What will come out the other end still remains to be seen; I’ll keep you posted. But what this unexpected event brought home to me – OK, call me a bit strange – is the importance of the information management we research and write about so often.
The police took down the information, and gave me a case number; presumably the incident is recorded in the department’s database. The insurance company gave me a claim number; what that number represents, I presume, is what I told the claims agent on the phone plus a link to my policy information. The claims adjustor came to look at my wounded car, then keyed in its VIN so he didn’t have to manually enter the details about the car, then consulted a parts database for part numbers and pricing and another database for the labor cost of the repairs. Then that got converted to a computer-generated report of the projected repair to me, the insurance company and the shop that will do the work.
So much data; so much information. And so little integration. When we focused our benchmark research on information management, that macro picture reflected what I’m experiencing: two-thirds of companies are still in the early stages of integration the information they rely on to operate. On the other hand, nearly three-fifths of businesses told us they view it as very important to improve information availability and readiness. So there’s hope.
Hope for the big picture, anyhow. As to repairing my convertible top and the jimmied storage compartments, that’s unfortunately another story.
Alan Kay – VP Research Management
Ventana Research recently completed its 2010 Financial Performance Management Value Index of the major financial performance management suites. Financial performance management (FPM) is the process of addressing the often overlapping issues around people, process, information and information technology that affect how well finance organizations operate and support the activities of the rest of the organization. FPM deals with the full cycle of finance department activities including planning, forecasting, analysis, closing and reporting. As I noted in my earlier blog about this year’s FPM Value Index, one striking feature of this software category is its general maturity. Budgeting and planning, reporting, closing and statutory consolidation, as well as dashboards and scorecards, have been around for more than a decade, so the suites we examined are all feature-rich and with one notable exception have remarkably similar capabilities at this time. (The exception is automated preparation of XBRL-tagged financial documents for the United States Securities and Exchange Commission – the SEC). Consequently the Value Index scores were tightly clustered. SAP’s suite just edged out those of IBM and Infor in the rankings, though both of those earned the Hot Vendor rating.