Most BI (business intelligence) or analytics products start off as tools. As a result, their usefulness is limited, often to the imagination and patience of a talented user somewhere. Many of these products become SPOTS (software packages on the shelf) due to their lack of use/usefulness. In time, some of these vendors make the transition to offering more complete applications that shed light into specific business problems/situations. We’ll call these “solutions” while the predecessor products are merely “tools”.
A few days ago, Unit4 was briefing analysts in Boston re: their new performance management solutions. A briefing like this usually entails a discussion about how the tool will integrate with an ERP solution. Promises are made that the tool will unlock insights into data that is “trapped” in the ERP solution. Usually, the discussion devolves into a conversation about data cubes, ETL and other artifacts of data warehousing topics.
The Unit4 discussion was different.
The company is taking a PaaS (platform as a service) approach to analytics. In essence, they are building an ecosystem of business intelligence applications (not just a tool or limited application solution).
Users will be able to:
- Tap into an array of BI applications available from an online application store
- Use the applications via a usage or pay as you go basis
- Develop their own applications or extend existing applications. Third party service providers will also have access to development tools to build additional applications.
- Utilize Unit4 service partners to complete specific personalizations of the applications
- Monetize their investment in new/modified applications through reselling of the application via the Unit4 application store
- Pre-existing industry templates for many applications
- Access non-Unit4 data stores for other, non-ERP, business insights
Many of the capabilities discussed with analysts will rollout over the 2012 year.