Financial apps emerge in the cloud. Cloud-based financial apps are growing in number and seeing healthy demand. Cloud suite vendors Workday and NetSuite provide the general ledger and accounting functionality associated with ERP systems. The same is true of FinancialForce.com, minority owned by Salesforce.com and majority owned by European ERP firm Unit4.
On-premises giants Oracle and SAP seem to be waking up to the threat. Oracle introduced cloud-ready Oracle Fusion Financials in late 2011, and SAP released Financials OnDemand in November. The latter is based on functionality from the SAP Business ByDesign suite, and it's likely to be paired with SAP SuccessFactors human capital management applications to answer the competitive threat from Workday.
For a deeper level of planning and budgeting functionality in the cloud, look to pure-play financial performance management vendors such as Adaptive Planning, Anaplan, Host Analytics, and Tidemark. Adaptive Planning, founded in 2003, has more than 1,200 customers and 30,000 users, and in 2012 it acquired cloud business intelligence vendor MyDials to bolster its dashboarding capabilities. Host Analytics, founded in 2000, has deep CFO-oriented functionality, including consolidation, and it's the second-largest vendor in this group, with more than 800 customers and 14,000 users. Anaplan and Tidemark are fast-growing startups. SAP and Oracle are just starting to bring performance management functionality into the cloud, so check their roadmaps if you're inclined to stick with your on-premises software vendor.
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Financial apps may never become as pervasive as CRM in the cloud, but the increasingly global nature of even midsized organizations -- with income streams and financial management needs on several continents -- makes cloud-based deployment an attractive option.
Big data adds benchmarking value. A few cloud vendors have recognized that they're sitting on an incredibly valuable asset: the data generated by their many customers. The trick is aggregating this information in a secure, de-identified way such that it can't be traced back to a particular customer. This idea is not new. ERP vendors and user groups have collected and aggregated data for years in order to compile benchmark statistics. It's usually a data-swap affair in which you agree to provide your own data to the aggregated pool in exchange for access to the average and best-in-class statistics across your industry.
SuccessFactors jumped on the benchmarking bandwagon even before it was acquired by SAP, tapping into aggregated data from thousands of cloud customers to deliver by-industry employee, departmental and total-workforce metrics such as operating profit per full-time employee, the turnover rate among top-performing employees, internal hiring rate and voluntary termination rates. Workday recently announced plans for a Workday Big Data Analytics offering, set for release in the second half of 2013, that will bring third-party data sources into the analysis without complex ETL requirements. The more data you can bring to an analysis, the more accurate it's likely to be, so we like the idea of big-data-enabled benchmarking.
These are five cloud apps that we'll be watching in 2013, and given Oracle's plan to acquire Eloqua, announced just last week, there's one more trend to watch in 2013: continued acquisitions of cloud-based marketing automation and marketing analytics companies. That trend started with IBM's purchase of Unica a few years ago, and since then SAS, Teradata, Oracle, Salesforce.com and others have jumped on the bandwagon. As we see it, most of the demand for marketing applications is in the cloud.
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