With 2010 almost behind us, the Technology Evaluation Centers (TEC) research analyst team takes a brief look at some of the newest software products to join its roster.
Business Intelligence (BI) Solutions—Jorge García
MicroStrategy was founded in 1989 as a BI consulting service and has evolved into a global BI software provider, servicing customers worldwide. On the market for more than 20 years, MicroStrategy has had the opportunity to acquire long-term experience in the field of BI. BI software applications have evolved tremendously over the past 10 years, and so has MicroStrategy.
MicroStrategy 9 is a versatile set of tools capable of leveraging a vast spectrum of BI capabilities for an organization. Using a primarily Web-based interface, MicroStrategy can easily deliver BI solutions for individual business units as well as entire organizations. Its architecture can support an efficient BI platform for nearly all types of companies. It provides a rich set of analytical features as well as strong administration capabilities.
Established in the midmarket tier, MicroStrategy is gaining presence in larger organizations, where it is now directly competing with the big players on the market. Fierce competition is expected as MicroStrategy develops stronger and enriched BI solutions over the next few years.
With many challenges confronting the BI space—new trends in mobile BI, use of common office tools for BI, and the new software-as-a-service (SaaS) BI offerings, among others—MicroStrategy can be considered a player in this field.
Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Solutions—Gabriel Gheorghiu
Plex Systems is one of the strongest SaaS ERP solutions for manufacturing on the market, and we certified Plex Online in 2010. Founded in 1995 as Plexus Systems, the company started as a project for an automotive supplier, and by 2001 the SaaS model was the only one offered by Plex.
The flagship product is Plex Online, which targets companies from industries like automotive, aerospace, food and beverage, medical devices, and electronics. The product offers complete functionality for manufacturers, structured in modules for corporate operations, customer relationship management, supply chain management, manufacturing operations, quality management, and product development. In addition, functionality for business intelligence, groupware communication, mobile access, and workflow engine make the product strong competition for other ERP vendors, regardless of delivery model.
During the certification process, we noticed that Plex Online navigation is user friendly even for people on the shop floor. Useful for manufacturing, and unusual for a SaaS solution, is the option to scan data into the system for operations like shipping, receiving, and even time tracking. Worth mentioning is the integration with Microsoft Exchange, Outlook, and Visio, but also with radio frequency identification (RFID) and programmable logic controller (PLC) technology.
Plex Online needs to enhance its sales management offering, but otherwise performs well when compared with the average of solutions in our ERP Evaluation Center, especially with respect to human resources and quality management. Plex Online is a strong, flexible SaaS ERP product which can be a great fit for manufacturing companies wanting to reduce IT costs and still benefit from the depth of functionality of an on-premise ERP solution.
Human Resource Management (HRM) Solutions—Sherry Fox
Sage Abra Human Resource Management Software (HRMS) was designed to help organizations increase the efficiency of human resources (HR) administration, including benefits, employee self-service, attendance, recruiting, and training. It provides a single point of data entry and stores information in a centralized database. Sage Abra HRMS 10.0 was released April 1, 2010.
Sage Abra delivers fully localized products for the United States and Canada; however, additional locations are handled by third-party organizations. The fact that Sage’s focus is on English-speaking regions provides it with an opportunity to hone its product capabilities and ensure that things such as compliance standards and regulations are managed in a timely and efficient manner.
Sage Abra HRMS replaces paper-based, time-consuming, and error-prone HR methods, and is modular, so users can customize the solution according to their needs, desired level of automation, and budget. Along with a comprehensive set of features for HR, benefits, time off, and training, Sage Abra HRMS 10.0 includes Web-based employee self-service, benefits enrollment, and workflow features to keep the workforce connected at all times.
Its versatile set-up allows clients to “turn on” and “turn off” the modules according to their requirements. An important element of the Sage Abra product is that it integrates well with multiple systems, whether they are other Sage products or third-party solutions (e.g., ADP PC Payroll or Pay Expert).
Its strengths in the various areas of human resource administration and reporting make Sage Abra HRMS a good fit for organizations looking to have a better level of control over their employee-related information and spend less time trying to maintain it.
Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) Solutions—Kurt Chen
SmartOrg software systems and services reflect more than thirty years of experience working for companies in optimizing project and portfolio value. Portfolio Navigator evaluates and tracks the economic value of business opportunities, including research and development (R&D) and new product development projects and portfolios. The system integrates a process framework with a decision analysis engine to provide a clear understanding of the drivers of economic value, including a quantitative analysis of the impact of risk and uncertainty.
To organizations with a variety of brands, product lines, scientific research, and technology development, prioritizing development projects has always been a critical but time-consuming—and often arduous—decision process. To facilitate the decision making and collaborations around portfolio management, Portfolio Navigator encapsulates complex mathematics for value calculation and exposes decision analytics through an intuitive user interface (UI). In this way, users are able to concentrate on doing what they know best while letting the system deal with the mechanics.
In terms of functionality, Portfolio Navigator represents only a small slice of the PLM pie. I chose to highlight this product here because:
SmartOrg doesn’t attempt to cover everything related to portfolio management but rather strives to provide the best solution for project portfolio value optimization. As a stand-alone product, Portfolio Navigator does a great job in optimizing portfolio value. However, it would be more beneficial if the solution worked with other systems that deal with the broader product development process. Portfolio Navigator already integrates with SAP Portfolio and Project Management (PPM), and I’d like to see further integration between Portfolio Navigator and more PPM and PLM solutions.
ERP Solutions for Distribution—Aleksey Osintsev
Vormittag Associates, Inc. (VAI) focuses on developing and providing enterprise management software solutions for medium and large companies in various market verticals, including discrete and process manufacturing for both make-to-stock and make-to-order types, wholesale, specialty retail and point-of-sale, and warehouse management. As a provider of software built on IBM technologies, VAI is heavily supported by IBM, and is one of the midmarket leaders among ERP vendors that leverage IBM technology.
S2K Enterprise is a viable and practical choice for medium-sized businesses looking for a more affordable alternative to high-end systems. The venerability of IBM application technology (and its former platforms AS/400 and System i) should not distract potential customers in making their choice. S2K software is reliable, robust, and significantly more affordable than many tier-one ERP systems, but still provides advanced capabilities and often allows faster return on investment (ROI) due to lower licensing costs and, especially, lower fees for implementation and system maintenance and support.
Another attractive quality of the system is the SaaS deployment offering, which is becoming more popular, especially for small to medium-sized manufacturing and distribution businesses. Relatively rich functionality and many modern and timely features, along with proven technology and affordability, provide an attractive combination for medium-sized businesses that are looking for an ERP system to manage their day-to-day tasks as well as their strategic goals. On the other hand, IBM-based ERP software is proven, and its image should not be a deterrent for users who are not fully aware of the capabilities of the newer generations of these systems.
Also TEC Certified in 2010
Some of the other products that were TEC certified this past year:
To conduct your own comparison, try TEC’s online software evaluation and selection system.