Oco’s "Canned" BI Solutions: A New Way to Look at BI




Last week my peer, Russell Cooper and I completed a successful certification of Oco Software’s business intelligence (BI) solution. Oco was represented by Jacques Hebert, the senior technical business analyst and marketing representative.



Oco's products are such that the client does not need to add support staff, because they deliver cost effective “out-of-the-box” or "canned" functionalities. The solutions, developed over the years, are the culmination of merging the common requirements of customer requests for each of the items the company offers. The result is an offering consisting of more then 90 percent of customer’s requirements at about 10 percent of the implementation costs.

Oco’s approach is a canned software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution with very secure (banker-certified) cloud computing, whereby the company guarantees to provide small to medium businesses (SMBs) with fixed-cost, targeted solutions to address:

  • Sales and Profitability – 9+ BI solutions



  • Commercial Operations – 6+ BI solutions



  • Source and Procurement – 9+ BI solutions



  • Inventory – 8+ BI solutions.



  • Transportation and Logistics – 12+ BI solutions



  • Asset Management – 7+ BI solutions



  • Service Performance – 7+ BI solutions



  • Quality Performance – 8+ BI solutions


The company also offers 66 standard BI reports out of the box.

A typical main-screen user interface lists the above categories and also details the individual report titles. As well, the screen presents other opportunities to go directly to key performance indicators (KPIs), dashboards, and alerts—a very rich set of ready-made business offerings.

Oco has been growing at healthy rate in the BI space, as their approach is unique because of the following factors.

  • Oco offers a guaranteed fixed-cost solution with a full implementation completed between six and ten weeks.

  • Oco's solution fits more than 90 percent of any standard business’s needs.

  • No major hardware acquisitions are necessary for the client; all hardware, software, and support are done at Oco.

  • No staffing increase is required by the client to support the offering, as there is minimal IT intervention.


Oco’s Technical Approach


The company's technical approach is very interesting and is a welcome opportunity for SMBs or for those doing large-volume business. Here is a summary of what the company can do:

  • tailor the front-end interface to support a company's name on headers, on various reports, dashboards, drill-down displays, etc.



  • calibrate the minimum and maximum variables pertaining to critical business measures, to that company’s standard



  • install a proprietary data extractor program that interfaces to known database-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to retrieve the information for any of the categories listed above, taking into account that some categories may not be available from the client’s ERP business system



  • extract data from flat (text) files and from other sources, such as spreadsheets


The reports and dashboards that are provided allow a company to get into the BI analysis mode in very short order. Oco has stated that it can deliver a full solution in as few as 10 weeks. Oco’s solution is software as a service (SaaS) and cloud computing.

When I questioned Oco about security, Jacques Hebert indicated that a bank customer had verified all aspects of security, from encrypted secure data transfer to encrypted archived data, and had given Oco a clean bill of health. More recently, Oco advised me that the bank had just signed a contract for a second Oco solution.

It is important to remember that Oco solutions address specific business issues for customers. Also, it is important to note that all of their customers who have had a solution over 3 months have returned to ask Oco for additional solutions! These extra solutions are usually customer-specific, but when they are general, are added to the catalog of available deliverables.

TEC’s Certification Process


We used a live meeting session to view the Oco product, with a speaker-phone connection with Oco’s Jacques Hebert, who presented the product to us. Russell led the way, and we proceeded with a product overview: we were shown the targeted marketplace, the product's capabilities, and a bit about the company history. We then proceeded with a thorough and structured certification process, looking at the specifics that a BI solution vendor must provide.

For these requirements, we witnessed a full range of graphs: from pie charts to bar and line. We visited some reports and asked for drill downs from some of them; we viewed the reporting; and we saw responses to some requests to show the product's analytical capabilities. Over the three hours of the certification, we went through our “show-me” list and evaluated around 160 of the 2000 criteria (or approximately 8 percent). These criteria included the mix of core analytics for sales, procurement, and finance.

Conclusion


Oco passed certification with a most credible solution. Oco’s offering is part of a new class of BI offerings, where the offering is about providing solutions, as opposed to providing programming tools to generate custom solutions. Russell and I were very comfortable with Oco's offering: without online analytical processing (OLAP) (or "slice and dice"), businesses would be satisfied with having a relatively economical "out-of-the-box" BI solution with a promise that it will be delivered in under three months, and with minimal IT investments.

My take on Oco’s approach is that their solution is very cost effective for the customer. Customers do not require any support staff, which in itself provides a significant cost advantage over an in-house solution.
 
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