Tag Archive: business intelligence


Most BI thought leadership articles these days include a fairly significant section on mobile data consumption, and how trends are heading in this direction. The predictions from analysts suggest that by 2013, as much as 33% of business intelligence functionality will be consumed via handheld devices.This inherently sets out to challenge the thinking of traditional BI vendors in terms of how their solutions become relevant in the mobile space. It can be tempting to re-invent the wheel in an effort to lead the charge with something really cool, something that demo’s well, without carefully thinking about what device the majority of customers are likely to use, and how they will consume or interact with the data on this device, and of course, what makes practical sense to add value to their day to day operations and decision making. To read more, CLICK HERE

 

Small and medium businesses (SMBs, defined as companies with 1-1000 employees) comprise 99% of employer firms in the United States and account more than 50% of total IT spending (Source: SMB Group estimates and U.S. Census Bureau Data). The SMB Group’s 2012 Small and Medium Business Routes to Market Study will help technology and telecom product, software and services vendors and service providers deepen their understanding of how businesses in this extraordinarily market discover and gain awareness of technology solutions; the sources that influence them to consider, evaluate and purchase them; the purchasing process; and channels that they buy technology solutions from. The study will also provide trending insights based on year-over-year data comparisons with the SMB Group’s 2011 Small and Medium Business Routes to Market Study Study results and analysis will help vendors make well-informed marketing, product development, media and channel decisions to successfully reach, influence and market to North American SMBs with one to 1,000 employees… Read more : Click Here

Microsoft Excel is the universal language of business and accountants and most decision-makers in small to mid-sized businesses use ‘the king of spreadsheets’ in some way for reporting. In fact, research analyst Gartner has conceded that “Excel is still the number one reporting tool”[1]. Why then, would you want or need to use Sage Intelligence, a Business Intelligence (BI) tool, and not just Excel for your business reporting?

Let’s begin by answering this question with some more questions: Can you say with conviction that you have a clear view of your company’s performance? Do you have visibility of MTD and YTD sales year on year? Can you see, whenever you want to, how your profitability or cash flow is tracking? How about top 5 customers, expenses, or salespeople

To read more: Click here

By Keith Fenner, Senior Vice President of Sales for Africa at SAGE ERP Africa.

Keith Fenner

Keith Fenner

This years’ annual Sage Insights 2013 Conference is taking place from 7-10 February at Misty Hills in Johannesburg and brings together local and international Sage staff, solution providers and third party developers.  The conference serves as a platform for players in the industry to network with the purpose of providing some insight into 2013 and what to expect in terms of trends and product developments in the fields of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Business Intelligence (BI).

An opening address from Managing Director of Sage ERP Africa, Jeremy Waterman, will kick the event into gear on Thursday, 7 February 2013.

Himanshu Palsule, Chief Technology Officer and Head of Product Strategy at Sage Group will address the roadmap that is planned for the launch of Sage 300 ERP, formerly known as Sage ERP Accpac, which is in line with Sage Group’s directive to consolidate its brand name globally.

Keynotes will be delivered by Sean Mooney, the Head of Research and Development at Sage Group, on developments that are expected for Sage CRM in addition to Benoit Gruber, Vice President of Product and Alliances Sage ERPX3, Product Marketing Europe and Sage mid-market, speaking on the road ahead for Sage ERP X3.

The launch of Sage ERP X3 Version 7 is also one of the big announcements scheduled for Sage Insights 2013.  This new technology update will make native thin client access to Sage ERP X3 a reality from any device, desktop or mobile.

For more information visit:  www.sageerp.co.za

by Michael Brennan

Sage has been carefully listening to its global market for Sage ERP X3 with regards to feedback and requests on the topic of Financial Reporting and is already making progress on integrating a powerful and flexible reporting technology based on cutting edge BI technology. The Sage ERP X3 core product team in France has embarked on a strategic partnership with our team with the intention of providing a modern Excel-based financial reporting designer and tools.

We have been in the business of offering robust Excel-based business intelligence tools for 11 years and have been working on Sage ERP products since 2005. Sage France’s move to collaborate closely with our team, mainly based in South Africa, is well aligned with Sage Group’s core strategy of consolidating group assets across regions and presents an exciting roadmap of consistent product and service offerings globally.

As global market BI market trends continue to evolve we have been investing heavily in new advanced technologies to power our next generation offerings and are pleased to announce Sage ERP X3 version 7 will include fully integrated financial reporting capabilities based on its next generation In-Memory Database BI Platform codenamed ‘LIME’. This new column based database platform has been engineered from the ground up to cater the needs of tomorrow’s businesses with a core focus on high performance, flexibility and great user experience. The new platform is able to accelerate performance by pre-calculating financial logic and place the results into its in-memory BI database to dramatically improve real-time query performance.

Expectations on this new offering include report design automation to cater for novice Excel users as well as flexible drag and drop formulas for capable Excel users. This approach allows both types of users to pull financial and analytical ledger data directly out of Sage ERP X3 v7 and arrange it within Excel using their existing Excel skills and save your Excel report securely back to the Sage ERP X3 server. In addition to utilizing cutting edge technology, we are also including major usability and modernization changes to our  report designer tools as we ramp up to deliver on ever increasing market demands for simpler BI and reporting software. This is great news for users who are already using Sage Intelligence Financial Reporting for Sage ERP X3 v6 and v6.5 who can look forward to substantial business value increases when moving to the integrated report designer within Sage ERP X3 which will be available as an option to all users using version 7.

Both French and South African teams are excited about the extent of new business value planned for Sage ERP X3 version 7 as a result of their collaboration and having a dedicated BI team focus on the Excel financial reporting capabilities of Sage ERP X3 allows the French team to ship more value to market each release.

Most BI thought leadership articles these days include a fairly significant section on mobile data consumption, and how trends are heading in this direction. The predictions from analysts suggest that by 2013, as much as 33% of business intelligence functionality will be consumed via handheld devices.

This inherently sets out to challenge the thinking of traditional BI vendors in terms of how their solutions become relevant in the mobile space. It can be tempting to re-invent the wheel in an effort to lead the charge with something really cool, something that demo’s well, without carefully thinking about what device the majority of customers are likely to use, and how they will consume or interact with the data on this device, and of course, what makes practical sense to add value to their day to day operations and decision making.

Vendors need to understand their customers’ needs implicitly before investing in a mobility strategy so that the right type of information is staged for a particular device, and that the right device is used for that purpose, otherwise it just becomes another useless trend/fad that doesn’t really serve its purpose.

Another key consideration is whether to create an interactive proprietary app that is native to a specific device, or to stage static data to the cloud that can be consumed agnostically on a wide variety of mobile devices. In most cases the former provides a richer user experience, but is this practical in light of how fast the mobile device market is moving?

One could argue, at this stage of the game,  that 80% of consumer needs are satisfied by staging static data via the cloud because it is so much more than what they are accustomed to getting anyway. The reason I say this is that in my experience in providing BI solutions to SMB customers over the last decade, I have seen that sophistication sells, but very seldom does it get implemented to the same degree. Sad but true.

On August 23, 2012 a contingent from Sage Alchemex, developers of Sage Intelligence Reporting software, returned to South Africa from Sage Summit 2012, Sage North America’s annual partner and end-user conference, last week. This year, Sage Summit was held at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee, from August 11 to 17. Sage Intelligence was showcased extensively, with seven Sage Alchemex team members in attendance running a total of 32 Intelligence learning sessions over 6 days and manning a busy Sage Intelligence tradeshow booth which allowed demonstrations to groups of 10 and more at a time.

 

Sage Summit attendees congregating around the Sage Intelligence booth.

Sage Intelligence Reporting is a business intelligence module for a number of Sage ERP and accounting products, which promises richer insight into a business. Using the familiar Microsoft® Excel® interface, it enables more robust reporting and easier access to Sage ERP and accounting data, providing affordable, intuitive business intelligence for small to medium businesses.

Sage Summit 2012 saw the attendance of Sage Alchemex, not as an OEM partner, but as a Sage-owned subsidiary. Alchemex was acquired by Softline, a member of The Sage Group plc, effective October 1, 2011. Charles Teversham, Sage Alchemex MD, says that attending Sage Summit 2012 as part of the Sage Group was “the culmination of a number of exciting developments over the last few years and the launch pad for several exciting initiatives which will take us into the future”.

Sage Summit provided the platform for the launch of these initiatives by the Sage Alchemex team, including:

The Report Designer Add-In for Sage ERP 100 Intelligence Reporting

An addition to the existing Report Designer module, a report layout generator which allows for easy-to-use drag-and-drop financial report design, the Report Designer Add-In presents an alternative method of report design to empower Sage 100 ERP Intelligence Reporting users to take full control of all design aspects of their reporting layouts. It provides drag-and-drop Excel financial formulas which communicate with a new In-Memory processing engine promising excellent performance, maximum control and greatly enhanced flexibility. It promises to provide business partners and consultants in particular with the flexibility they need to create bespoke reports for customers.

Free Report Templates

The vision of Sage Alchemex to fuel a proliferation of report templates, beyond the standard report templates that ship with the Sage Intelligence module, was shared at Sage Summit 2012 and a platform for sharing additional report templates was launched. Report writers can use these templates as a basis for quickly and easily providing customized reports, and thereby added value, for their customers. A number of free report templates were launched on the Free Report Templates Group on the BI Community for use with the Intelligence Reporting module.  Sage Intelligence partners or customers can help themselves to these templates or post reports themselves for sharing amongst the Sage Intelligence community.

 

Stephen Coull, Sage Alchemex Sales Director, says “Sage Summit gives us the opportunity to connect with Sage colleagues, partners and customers and show them the power of Sage Intelligence. This was our fifth year at Sage Summit, but our first as a member of the Sage family, and our product continues to be well-received. Apart from all the focused activity around showing and teaching the product, the Sage Alchemex team heard overwhelming feedback from partners and customers about how much they had seen added to the product in the last year and how they were really excited about the future of the product following the ‘road ahead’ sessions where the new in-memory Add-in grabbed the most attention. Many Sage ERP 100 delegates stated that this provides a good reason to move off FRx to the Sage Intelligence solution.”

Teversham says, “Our longstanding and very successful partnerships with Softline Pastel and Softline VIP entrenched the use of ‘BI in Excel’ in South Africa via Pastel’s Business Intelligence Centre and VIP Payroll’s Business Intelligence Manager during the last six to seven years. An OEM agreement signed with Sage North America in November 2009 set us up to proliferate the use of our software globally. Then in 2011 we were acquired by Softline, providing us with the opportunity to, together with Sage, address the burgeoning need for business intelligence in their small and mid-sized customer base worldwide. Given the feedback from Sage Summit, and the positive response to our initiatives, Sage Intelligence is poised to become the business intelligence tool of choice for SMMEs world-wide”.

by Darryl Smith

Darryl Smith

Darryl Smith

This is a difficult topic to discuss, particularly as I am a passionate employee of a Business Intelligence (BI) software vendor. So of course Alchemex is the best solution, but seriously in the interests of fair blogging and not to market our own product, I will try to be as objective as I can and keep away from naming vendors.

I was in a meeting in Europe last week and in the meeting there was a person from a large ERP vendor trying to make a selection from a set of BI tools. They were evaluating from a list of 250 BI products! And a large portion of these were developed in just one country, Germany.  I was quite amazed. 10 years ago or so there were only a handful of BI vendors to choose from. Wow things have changed.

These days none can really answer the question “which BI tool is best for SMB’s?” as it is very general. The good news is that in this time the set of technologies, solutions and practices that sit under the BI banner has expanded vastly creating more specific niche areas within that BI banner that individual vendors can choose to excel in and then to eat their piece of an ever expanding pie.

No BI vendor can be the best, or realistically even do well, at any one time in all areas. Those that specialise well for the market segment they serve will continue to thrive. This still does not mean that the task of selecting a BI solution is not daunting for the end customer (SMB customers for the purpose of this blog). They are generally not IT savvy and the BI jargon and technologies can take years to fully understand. It is like being English and being in a foreign country ordering food off a menu with no English translations.

But perhaps a way of simplifying it is not to look through the vast menu of BI vendors and then the non-trivial menu that each of these provide for the components in their stack, but rather to identify what the business needs most and through this trying to quickly eliminate the majority and then spending more time looking deeper into a refined list. Kind of like arriving at a restaurant having a good idea of what you would like to eat and then zooming in on that area.

I am going to generalize as an example but some of the generalizations would probably ring true for customers in the SMB space. Assumptions….

1.            I am an SMB with only an ERP system

2.            My primary areas that I need insights into are around Financials

3.            Understanding my sales is also important to me

4.            I am interested in other information in my system to but these are less critical to me

5.            My ERP system is desktop based (bear in mind that ERP SAAS offerings are still a small part of the market today although this is changing)

6.            I don’t have a complex IT infrastructure

7.            I don’t want to spend large amounts of money on implementation, consulting and support

8.            I don’t want to pay large license fees

Immediately criteria 6, 7 and 8 eliminate ALL enterprise level vendors, criteria 5 and 6 eliminate Web based solutions and criteria 7 eliminates any solution that does not ship with reports for your specific ERP system out the box.

So in this generalised scenario one would be left with more commoditised affordable desktop solutions that target the ERP system with bundled solutions. This should narrow it down to a handful of product options and that is when it is important to  really start looking at the finer detail of a business’s needs.

And if one wants to get information in a familiar environment like Microsoft Excel, the choices are narrowed down even further.

Over the last few years most ERP vendors have acquired the BI solutions that they feel work best for their market. And you may find your ERP vendor is one of these that provide a bundled solution. This could eliminate many costs of ownership for you and the single point of ownership from the vendor can eliminate a lot of pointing fingers when you do require support.

By Charles Pittaway, Managing Director of Netcash, part of the Sage Group plc.

Charles Pittaway

Charles Pittaway

Connected Services is a buzzword in the industry at present, though many people are still grappling to understand just how important it will become.  I strongly believe that any business or personal solution simply cannot afford to operate in isolation.  In order for software, handheld devices and hardware to offer something of real value, they will have to be developed to interact with one another.

In the face of the information explosion that is changing the way that we communicate at core level, I feel it necessary to take a step back and investigate where it all started.  When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, it was initially intended as a voice communication tool.  The realisation that the telephone was able to transfer data set the wheel in motion for the evolution into the telex and faxing sphere.  The connection of the humble telephone into cellular networks ultimately formed the foundation for the internet, which was the big game changer.

We now had the ability to transfer information and data across multiple platforms, which has had a tremendous influence on how we do business.  An example is internet banking, which essentially allows two different banking systems to connect in order to perform a transaction.  The user then receives a notification via SMS or e-mail, which brings two additional platforms into the equation, beautifully illustrating the concept of connected services.

The question however remains as to what further evolution may be on the cards for connected services and the ramifications it may have.  There are currently two very different schools of thought in play.  The advent of the cloud led to the creation of Software as a Service (SaaS), which essentially allows us to utilise software such as accounting and payroll solutions through the web on a pay per use basis.  The traditional business model is however application based, where the software is downloaded onto a personal computer and utilised from your desktop or laptop.

I foresee these two schools of thought merging in the next five to ten years into hybrid solutions.  In order to evolve into true connected services, both online and offline solutions will need to change its platforms to allow inter-changeable communication to take place.

The international business economy was non-existent 20 – 30 years ago.  Countries were isolated and restricted to trade within its own borders.  It has since developed into a global economy that is interlinked:  Whatever happens somewhere in the world has a knock-on effect elsewhere.  If you bring that same analogy back to connected services, then hardware, the internet and software has given rise to a global economy of technology.  All the different vendors cannot operate in isolation and truly successful vendors and service providers will be the companies that get that right.

Inter-operability is already well on its way to becoming the next buzzword, paving the way for strategic alliances and agreements that will allow every application or software solution to be accessible from any device.  Business Intelligence (BI) will become a key aspect in the process of collating all the available information in such a way that it will assist users to make intelligent decisions about their business.  Imagine if you had your order system, warehouse, banking, accounting, distribution and every other aspect you can think of, connected with one click of a button?  The vendors that can ultimately get all the links in the chain connected, will be king.

Connected Services allows for transactions to be owned by various vendors, whether it is a banking system, order system, e-mail or SMS.  It is ultimately not about the number of systems to be linked in a supply chain, but how these systems interact to automate a total solution.

Softline part of The Sage Group plc and leading provider of business management software to SME’s, has acquired business intelligence technology company Alchemex.

What is Alchemex?
Alchemex provides affordable and flexible excel-based business intelligence software for SME’s. It bridges the gap between Excel spreadsheets and the data that lives in the business application, by providing flexible, customer centric reporting. Businesses require timeous and quality information delivered in an easily understood and usable format. Alchemex fulfils this need. It can be deployed on either the desktop or the internet allowing real-time access to data from anywhere in the world.

Software Synergy for SME’s
The synergies between the businesses of Softline and Alchemex are readily apparent; the Alchemex business intelligence solution is a natural extension of Softline’s business applications; it serves the same market as Softline, being predominantly SMEs; and it affords existing and future users of Softline applications a greater breadth of service offering, under a single banner.

Better, Together: Quality, affordable SME business software
In a competitive market value-added offerings such as business intelligence are necessary to grow market share. Companies have a real need for an affordable tool such as Alchemex in order achieve a higher level of clarity in their business, to make better decisions and to become more profitable.