The New and the Noteworthy: 2008 Vendor Wrap-up

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2008 seemed to be the year for mergers and acquisitions (M&As) in the world of enterprise software—with companies like Oracle picking up Primavera Software’s project and portfolio management (PPM) offering, and Symantec grabbing up MessageLab’s messaging and web security offering. But it was also a year for some software firms to see their latest solutions shine.

With 2008 nearing its end, Technology Evaluation Center’s (TEC’s) research analyst team takes a brief look at 10 of the newest vendors to join its research roster, as well as some of the more noteworthy enterprise software solutions to hit the market this past year.

Global Shop Solutions
Ramco Systems
Callidus Software

Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Solutions – Alex Hankewicz

IFS – For over 20 years, this global software firm has provided a completely integrated modular product that covers nearly 20 industry verticals, ranging in such technically diverse industries as aerospace, energy, telecommunications, and process manufacturing (e.g., pharmaceuticals). The true genius of this system lies within the simplicity of the product’s design. The product was developed over several years of client usage and has continued to evolve.

The current seventh generation of the component-based software, IFS Applications 7, is entirely based on service-oriented component architecture (SOCA). The system has such robust features that many of the modules are being deployed as “best-of-breed” solutions in numerous customer locations. One of the ways that IFS stands out from the rest is through the use of open-source application programming interfaces (APIs), where the software modules can integrate with open source products. In conclusion, this vendor may not get the press or hype that some of its more famous competitors do, but it can stand up to—and in many instances can surpass—them, in terms of  delivering fit, form, and functionality due to  the product’s scalability.

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Visibility – Recently, I was given an opportunity to review two versions of this Boston, (US)-based vendor’s ERP package in both the engineer-to-order (ETO) and mixed-mode industry versions. I was pleasantly surprised that, given the breadth and scope of both the technical and highly regulated nature of the industries that use this software, the capabilities of the solution were nothing short of remarkable. After asking the vendor to demonstrate nearly 800 individual criteria, I was unable to find one instance where the software did not perform as Visibility indicated it could. The company has a significant client base in both North America and Western Europe—in particular, the United Kingdom (UK). is a fully integrated ERP solution, making use of the .NET framework, providing a common user interface and a single integrated platform with excellent functionality. At the end of the day, when you’re looking to acquire an ERP system that has excellent functionality, a solid base of customers, knowledgeable people that stand behind the product, and a reputation of unparalleled customer service, then I recommend Visibility as a solid vendor worthy of your consideration.

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Global Shop Solutions – This Texas, (US)-based vendor has served up ERP “Texas style”, with a robust, solid, and dependable solution. Just like the people in Texas, the system reflects a grass-roots philosophy—“build from the bottom up.” This is also reflected in its adherence to core manufacturing principles—namely, eliminating waste and redundancy. If I may say, it is reminiscent of straight-shooting Texas folk who’ve been known to say “just get on with it and get the job done.” The same no–nonsense approach is reflected in each of the vendor’s product offerings that serve the ETO, mixed-mode, and discrete manufacturing spaces. Unlike another Texan export with a global presence—and I don’t mean oil—Global Shop Solutions means what it says and says what it means. With an install base in the US, Europe, Asia, and “down under” in Australia, it offers one of the lowest total costs of ownership (TCO) in the industry. If you’re looking for a product that is feature-/function-rich and scalable, then consider Global Shop Solutions as an attractive vendor offering.

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ERP Solutions – Leslie Satenstein

Flexi – Earlier this year, I certified Flexi’s financial suite of software packages. As an IT professional with more then 20 years of application development experience, including C++ programming and providing system architecture design support to three Canadian banks and one credit union, when I read that Flexi, founded in 1991, wrote its software in C++ and that it was geared to banking, credit union, and insurance fields, my interest was piqued.

Common concerns that a banker has are the reputation of the company and the expectation of it being around for the long run. Flexi’s products are “banker approved”—and added to the fact that the software was written in C++, it matches my interests regarding technical operations.

We sometimes fail to realize that smaller banks can easily process three million transactions a day, and often it behooves a financial software application to be robust, accurate, and capable of efficiently handling batch processing of large volumes of transaction data.

What does a financial services industry expect from a family of products? Well, it should be easy to use, have built-in security with access controls, be Certified Public Accountant (CPA)-approved in the US and Certified Accountant (CA)-approved in Canada. The Flexi product has all this, and furthermore, auditors like Flexi’s “SOX-Smart” built-ins and its functionality for compliance with Financial Accounting Standards Board No. 52 (FASB52), International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).

Financial software should also allow for easy maintenance. FlexiFinancials meets this criterion, and at the same time gives me that warm-fuzzy feeling that it is topmost in its marketplace. Certifying this suite of products was a thrill, because all the things I wanted to see in a financial services package were demonstrated and built-in. FlexiFinancials is the financial service industries “kitchen sink.”

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Business Intelligence (BI) Software – Leslie Satenstein

Targit – This experienced Danish BI vendor offers solutions for the small to medium business (SMB) marketplace. I got to know the company and its product prior to doing the certification during a pleasant chat with Ruben Knudsen and Ulrik Pedersen, both Country Managers for Targit’s U.S. and Canadian operations. I learned that in good times and bad, Targit has managed to keep its staff. This loyalty has paid off in spades, with a staff that is outstandingly knowledgeable in BI and a product that is virtually error-free. It contains all the functionality needed to compete against the big guys by offering a standard suite of applications and additionally by providing the client with a “roll-your-own” capability.

On the web site is a very large list of customers and case studies—as well as video testimonials from some of its clients. Although many of its customers are based in Europe, there are a great many from around the world, including Australia, North America, South America, and Africa. A partial list of industries or applications for which they have solutions include aerospace, human resources (HR), woodworking millwork, retail, glass manufacturing, heavy machine manufacturing, health care, petroleum, food, and more. End-user training at Targit can be done on-site or at one of its offices. I personally would enjoy taking the Tampa Florida classes in late January, early February. Golf, anyone?

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Oco – Oco is named after George O’Connor, who founded the company in 1999. Oco does not provide your typical BI online analytical processing (OLAP) software, but provides BI solutions. That said, with Oco there are no development tools for the client; the client is provided with a collection of approximately 120 solutions, covering all the major and secondary areas that are of interest to any company that has ERP software.

I had pleasant discussions with Jacques Hebert, Oco’s business analyst, and Kristin Hambelton, from Oco’s sales and marketing department, about the company history and why they took that “canned” solution approach. They felt that the biggest drawback to SMBs new to BI was the heavy upfront costs of getting started, and the support licensing fees. Oco’s approach was to provide a system with reports, dashboards, graphics, drill-down capability, maps, and import and export tools as an on-demand BI solution. Typically, the vendor’s software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering allows the client to be up and running in less than twelve weeks. In fact, unless there is some exception, it offers to implement a new system for a client in less then twelve weeks and at a fixed cost.

From Oco’s experience, most organizations set up to handle their most pressing BI needs.  If these are already in the “canned” assortment of applications that are provided by Oco, then the implementation times will be dramatically cut. Of the software that Oco provides, all headings, field titles, etc, are software lookups, not hard-coded into the program(s) so that one program serves many customers. All the offerings are supported from one single image system. This means that any tweaking, enhancing, or bug fixing is done on the server, and gets implemented for all.

Oco’s most satisfied customer is Welsh’s, producer and distributor of grape juice and other products. Welsh’s obtained a full return on investment (ROI) within the first month following “go live.”

Oco BI solutions are experiencing great acceptance in the SMB marketplace, due to the guaranteed fixed-cost implementation fee.

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Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) – Kurt (Yu) Chen

Parametric Technology Corporation (PTC) – Founded in 1985 and headquartered in Needham, Massachusetts (US), PTC develops, markets, and supports PLM software solutions and related services that help manufacturers improve the competitiveness of their products and product development processes.

PTC offers a suite of mechanical computer-aided design (CAD) tools and a range of web-based collaboration technologies, enable manufacturing companies to create virtual computer-based products (digital products), collaborate on designs within the enterprise and throughout the extended supply chain, and control the digital product information throughout the product lifecycle.

The year 2008 saw some really good news from PTC. By achieving 14 percent GAAP year-over-year revenue growth, PTC passed the $1 billion (USD) mark for fiscal year 2008 (FY08). In July 2008, the company was selected by EADS (a global leader in aerospace, defense, and related services) to harmonize enterprise PLM solutions across all EADS business divisions as part of that company’s PHENIX initiative. This was probably the biggest contract in PTC history.

Looking ahead to the year 2009, I would expect PTC to keep growing both organically and by acquisitions. The recent small acquisition of Synapsis Technology shows the company’s intent in green product design and environmental regulatory compliance solutions. In 2009, SMBs may expect more offerings from PTC. Besides these, expansions in computer-aided engineering (CAE) and publishing are likely to take place.

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Human Resource Management Systems (HRMS) - Sherry Fox

Ramco Systems – Many of the HR issues that businesses face today are common points of interest for HR (and related software) vendors. As such, software products are designed to address these issues by helping organizations properly manage new talent recruitment, employee productivity tracking, workforce or succession planning and modeling, and baby boomer retirements. While other companies like Ramco have a similar aim, Ramco’s solution has an added feature that most HR solution providers are just beginning to get a handle on—analytics.

This past October, I had the opportunity to certify Ramco’s Enterprise Series human capital management (HCM) solution. In order to be “TEC Certified,” vendors have to meet specific and stringent requirements set forth by our analysts. Overall, the certification with Ramco went very well. There wasn’t one aspect of HCM that it did not know about or demonstrate to us through its solution.

During the certification, 200 criteria/functionalities were validated. I found that the menus were well organized, with common functionalities grouped together. Horizontal scrolling was used when an entry required more data than what a line could contain. Data screens were user-friendly and easily searchable, and their general layout was very clean and uncluttered—making them easy to read.

As a global provider of enterprise software and services since 1989, Ramco has delivered its solutions to customers in 35 countries worldwide. Its HCM practice, while relatively new, tackles old challenges, including analytics, by focusing on strategic workforce management issues that to date have not been supported well with technology or analytics in the HCM space.

Ramco’s HCM solution provides unique technology and analytics platforms, and predictive tools that help with employee retention and productivity. Together, these capabilities provide the ability for organizations to have the right data and tools at the right time. In my opinion, Ramco’s Enterprise Series HCM solution passed TEC’s certification with flying colors.

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Learning Management Systems (LMS) – Sherry Fox

Saba – Since 1997, Saba has been a global provider of strategic people management solutions and services. Saba’s products are used by over 1,300 organizations and over 17 million users worldwide. Its unified solutions provide HCM solutions that cover learning, collaboration, performance, compensation, and talent management.
This past summer, my colleague and I were fortunate enough to have Saba’s director of product marketing speak with us to demonstrate Saba’s suite of enterprise software offerings—including its learning suite. During our discussion, we received an overview of the company, as well as a look at its unique strategies for training clients on how to use its software.

When Saba clients purchase one of Saba’s products, they receive the regular user training offered by most software vendors. Saba, however, goes one step further by offering its clients the ability to enroll in Saba University’s learning programs. These learning programs are geared towards clients, new users, experienced users looking for additional training, project managers, and business owners. I think it says a lot about a company when it’s willing to go that extra mile for its clients and users; and just imagine how empowered they must be after completing their training.

Saba’s learning suite itself has a very rich set of functionalities and is very user-friendly. From what I saw during the product demo, learning how to use the software would be relatively easily—given its layout and menu structure. However, by getting first-hand training through Saba University’s unique learning program, attendees can leave the course with the assurance that they have the skills necessary to use the software application to its full potential. Saba—in my opinion—gets an “A” (for awesome).

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Enterprise Incentive Management (EIM) – Sherry Fox

Callidus Software – Callidus Software was founded in San Jose, California (US) in 1996. It provides service to more than 180 companies—including those in industries such as banking, pharmaceuticals, telecom, and insurance—and to over 1.9 million salespeople worldwide.

In 2002, Callidus released its TrueComp 2.0 sales performance management (SPM) solution, which was aimed at addressing the many challenges faced by compensation administrators around the world—including the management of quotas and territories. Since its inception in 2002, TrueComp has gone through several releases. Its latest version is TrueComp 5.2.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of speaking with Jock Breitwieser, Callidus’ director of public and analyst relations. After seeing TrueComp up close and personal, I was truly impressed by its capabilities—and truly blown away by its graphics. Its robust sales performance and incentive optimization functionality includes analytics, quota management, and territory optimization. Such functionality enables users to project the impact of new compensation rules using side-by-side comparisons.

Essentially, TrueComp allows compensation managers the ability to create business rules and calculate payments. And with its ability to automatically calculate compensation benefits, the solution can help minimize management costs and eliminate the possibility of overpayments. It’s is robust enough to manage the most complex compensation plans, but it’s also simple enough to administer without having to heavily rely on the IT department. TrueComp is available through SaaS delivery and can be easily integrated with key sales systems.

While Callidus is currently providing software and services to larger enterprises, one of its goals for 2009 is to expand into the mid market and small to medium enterprises (SMEs).

One last service that I just have to mention is Callidus’ TrueConnect Customer Community. This is an online community forum, where people can meet to exchange their expertise, ideas, and give advice. There are currently 240 members from 21 different countries using TrueConnect (which, incidentally, represents approximately 46 percent of Callidus’ customer base). It’s a great way to keep clients connected and ultimately helps Callidus improve upon what they are already pretty darn good at—EIM.

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