With UNIT4’s announcement that it will launch 35 role-based and fast-deployment BI apps via a pay-for-use subscription model, as well as SYSPRO’s announcement of its new Business Software App Store, the idea of consumerization of software comes to mind, again …
Definitions of consumerization vary, but a common theme is that technological innovation in the consumer market is driving major changes in IT for businesses, governments, and other large organizations.
Indeed, it’s clear that consumerization in the corporate world is happening at a fast pace—especially over the last couple of years, as an increasing number of software selection and deployment projects are being sponsored directly from the business side (as opposed to from IT, which was the norm a couple of years ago).
This change in direction has given the user (the real software consumer in most cases) the ability to engage more directly with software selection and deployment as well as its configuration and evolution.
While consumerization in some industries such as mobile technology has taken place in a more organic fashion, it’s been a slow process in the business software industry, mostly because of the complexity and wide variety of software solutions and needs, and also because in the past most enterprise software offerings were heavily monolithic and focused on providing robust solutions with a wide corporate view.
In this context, it’s worth taking a close look at the offerings from UNIT4 and Syspro offerings to understand their potential reach.
UNIT4 Business Analytic Apps
In an interesting maneuver, after buying Exie AS (an interesting provider of business performance management solutions), UNIT4 incorporated much of Exie’s expertise and technology into UNIT4 Agresso and Coda Financials ERP and financial offerings, creating a first set of 35 “small” business applications (available via online purchase) to provide analytics services to its customers.
Intended to have small deployment cycles, and focused and identifiable functionality for users, as well as cost advantages, this option lets customers look for particular solutions based on their needs, within different categories, e.g.:
- “Is my budget on track?”
- “Is my utilization on track?”
- “Am I on track with my contribution/profit?”
The idea is that after the first “big” infrastructure deployment upon purchase of the first BA app (data repository, analytics framework, etc.), succeeding deployments will use this initial infrastructure to make subsequent deployments faster and easier.
SYSPRO Software App Store
SYSPRO has announced a similar initiative, in that it will be launching the SYSPRO App Store to help users extend SYSPRO’s ERP functionality, via downloadable third-party functionality extensions. Working with its partner and customer community, SYSPRO will provide the means for users to share/buy (via direct purchase) extensions created by their peers, as well as a way for SYSPRO resellers to submit solutions. The view is that this will create opportunities for all parties in SYSPRO’s ecosystem.
SYSPRO will evaluate and approve all products before allowing them to be published. It will also allow users to evaluate and rate products, handle version changes, and browse and navigate through the SYSPRO App Store using different dimensions such as categories, names, and products.
SYSPRO has taken a wider approach in regard to enabling their community to have a direct impact on the way their ERP offerings can potentially evolve, and letting users not only select their functionality/features, but also to create new functionality according to their peers’ needs.
These two new offerings provide perspective on an interesting shift in the means of enabling businesses to assimilate technology in a more practical way. It also enables cost savings by providing more focused and lower-cost applications that are perhaps more capable of providing results over an even shorter term. There are other types of offerings that are making corporate functionality more accessible and cost-transparent, as in the cases of QlikView and Kognitio, or the increasing availability of on-demand corporate offerings.
I think that some companies will need to stick with more monolithic and traditional solutions, at least for some time. But it is a reality that corporate software will continue to evolve toward more user- centrism, cost transparency, and practicality.
In other words: highly consumerized enterprise software.
But what do you think? Drop me a line with your thoughts, and I will answer as soon as I can.