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9/10/2012
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SAP, Adaptive Planning, GoodData Step Up Cloud Competition

Three performance management and business intelligence announcements show a maturing market for cloud-based reporting, planning, and analysis.

The first wave of cloud-based business intelligence offerings, launched in the last decade, largely drew tepid demand. Separate announcements on Monday by SAP, Adaptive Planning, and GoodData underscore that focused reporting, planning, and analysis applications--rather than general-purpose tools--are what customers want from cloud-based services.

SAP on Monday introduced SAP Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) OnDemand, which at this early stage consists of three focused applications: Expense Insight, for analyzing the details of (and possible mistakes in) charges to departmental cost centers; Real-Time Profit And Loss Analysis, which offers drill-down analysis of cost allocations and resource consumption; and Capital Project Planning, designed to help financial and non-financial decision makers understand the financial implications of investments and optimize the use of capital.

These three apps on their own are a modest start on performance management in the cloud, but SAP said it expects to introduce additional apps each quarter over the coming months so that it will have more than a dozen by the end of 2013. For now, SAP calls them a complement to its on-premises EPM offerings. As the collection fills out, EPM OnDemand will become more of a stand-alone cloud-based offering.

"These are packaged apps designed to solve focused business problems, but you can snap them together for more comprehensive processes," said David Williams, SAP's solution marketing lead for EPM in an interview with InformationWeek. "The first three are very much foundational, and the forthcoming apps will use the same data model. The plan is also to open these up to our partners so they can build them out for targeted industries."

[ Want more on performance management? Read Will Financial Apps Be Next Cloud Growth Story? ]

Cloud-based performance-management vendor Adaptive Planning announced Monday that it's acquiring MyDials, an OEM-partner and cloud-based business intelligence vendor. Founded in 2006 and headquartered in Australia, MyDials was a small, private company with roughly 75 customers and two dozen employees. The details of the acquisition were not disclosed, and it's essentially a tuck-in deal, but it does confirm that the more focused cloud-based vendors are the stronger players leading the consolidation.

"Broad-based, general-purpose suites are hard to get your arms around," John Herr, Adaptive Planning's CEO told InformationWeek. "Our starting point is the chief financial officer, and that's helpful because you have to start somewhere and IT isn't always the best place to start."

Herr said the plan for MyDials is to bring focused applications to operational areas outside of finance. MyDials offered general-purpose BI tools as well as add-on, dashboard-style apps for sales, marketing, HR, finance, and professional services. Adaptive Planning recently incorporated MyDials' data visualization technology into its Adaptive Discovery module, released as an add-on service in August. The acquisition will help Adaptive Planning infuse other aspects of its services with data visualization capabilities and it will help it address reporting, analysis, and planning needs in operational areas outside of finance, Herr said.

In a third cloud-related announcement Monday, four-year-old BI startup GoodData went public with its first-ever sales and marketing push, positioning its services as a "BizData monetization platform." Part of the message was that the company offers a "complete stack of integration, modeling, and visualization" capabilities in the cloud, but it also said that it's offering three focused, pre-built business analytics mashups (think applications) called GoodSales, GoodMarketing, and GoodSubscriptions.

"These are new products based on four years of building solutions for our business customers, and they include a complete set of user interfaces, analytics, dashboards, key performance indicators, models, data connectors, and so on packaged as a product," Roman Stanek, GoodData's founder and CEO told InformationWeek.

That last app, GoodSubscriptions, is a nod to GoodData's biggest business, which is as an OEM-supplier of business intelligence capabilities to other cloud-vendors, including Get Satisfaction, Zendesk, and Market Metrix. GoodData claims to have more than 6,000 customers, but only about 250 of these subscribe directly through GoodData. The remainder are customers of GoodData's OEM customers, which are themselves providers of focused applications. Get Satisfaction, for example, analyzes online community participation and effectiveness, while Zendesk uses GoodData to report on the performance of its cloud-based help desk service.

As noted, the first wave of cloud-based BI vendors didn't set the world on fire; LucidEra, for one, went out of business while MyDials is following in Oco's track and quietly disappearing through acquisition. Nonetheless, financial backers are betting that more focused offerings can win in the cloud, with Adaptive Planning and GoodData recently winning $22 million and $25 million rounds of venture-capital funding. It's a bet that the cloud's promise to solve specific problems quickly will win out over on-premises, IT-led deployments of general-purpose technology.

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