Seven upstarts to watch in enterprise apps

Enterprise apps may not have much of a cool factor, but they continue to do the dirty work for companies of all sizes. Here are seven upstarts that are making enterprise software a little cooler.
Written by Conner Forrest, Contributor

Enterprise software: The big trends and why they matter

The choices for enterprise apps such as CRM and ERP have long been dominated by big players and custom software. Thirty-year-old incumbents have had much of the market cornered for decades, and many startups couldn't scale to fill corporate needs.

The past few years have seen growth in the popularity of startups that are rethinking enterprise apps. As these companies mature, they reach a point where they are no longer really startups, but are robust enough to take on the old guard.

Here are seven companies that offer great alternatives to the billion-dollar incumbents in enterprise apps. 

1. Workday

Workday got its start in early 2005 when David Duffield left his post as CEO of PeopleSoft and started the company. Workday is a cloud-based provider of analytics and management software. The company went public in 2012, and is competing with Oracle and SAP.

The company's business model is built around subscriptions, rather than selling software. Workday is easily one of the most popular enterprise upstarts and is continuing to grow in popularity. At the time, Flextronics deployment of Workday was the largest deployment of a cloud-based HR system at 200,000 employees. Workday is a great option for companies who are looking to move quickly and avoid massive investments in software.

2. Tableau

Seattle-based Tableau is an enterprise software company focusing on business intelligence and data visualizations. Tableau was a spin-off from research done at Stanford University and the development of the VizQL Visual Query Language. Users can get fast, shareable analytics and visualizations, with the option for automatic updates.

"We help people see and understand their data. That's our mission statement, but it is also how we really describe the product. It's about people. One of the big differentiators of Tableau is that the tools are designed for anyone; whether you're technical, whether you understand SQL, or whether you are a business user, a teacher, a doctor," said Francois Ajenstat, senior director of product management at Tableau. 

3. Infor

Infor got its start in 2002 and remains a private company. It is known for its ERP products, but focuses on supply chain management and customer relations as well. The company has over 12,000 employees and has acquired numerous enterprise companies since it started.

"The company focuses on twelve major industries so we can leverage deep micro-vertical knowledge and tailor our applications for customers' needs out-of-the-box, avoiding expensive configurations characteristic of traditional horizontal platforms," said Brian Rose, senior vice president of Infor Labs.

"Also, we’re very focused on elevating the user experience — delivering a modern UI with a beautiful look and feel and launching Infor Ming.le, which provides a centralized platform for employee collaboration, where information is shared and conversations are organized into streams across the enterprise," added Rose. 

4. SugarCRM

SugarCRM is the company behind the web app Sugar. Its products have elements of collaboration and social selling, and sales-force automation is offered as well. SugarCRM's CEO Larry Augustin said that the company is more focused on creating a product that empowers employees than creating a product that is focused on management.

"We're looking to enable every one of the employees in that company to have a better understanding of the customer," Augustin said. "We're taking consumer application ideas and bringing them in to the enterprise. So it's a product for the individual user in the enterprise, not so much focused on being a product for the company."

5. Kenandy

Kenandy is an ERP system that was designed in the cloud. The system focuses on being easy to use and implement, providing automation features for business processes and drag-and-drop functionality for building dashboards. The company's products are built on the Salesforce platform.

Stewart Florsheim, Kenandy's vice president of marketing communications, said, "Kenandy is the cloud ERP platform for the innovative global enterprise. We're built 100 percent native on the Salesforce1 Platform, so we're a true multi-tenant solution. We're redefining the world of ERP, starting with the acronym! Kenandy Empowers Real People to work the way they want to work on any device, anywhere in the world. It's easy to use, implement, and change. Kenandy creates enterprise agility and provides a foundation for business innovation and transformation. We offer a completely integrated system that includes Order-to-Cash, Planning and Production, Procure-to-Pay, and Global Financials."

6. Clarabridge

Clarabridge is all about customers. This SaaS company was formed in 2005 and its main value proposition is data analysis. Clarabridge can report on structured or unstructured data gathered from chats, surveys, call center information, social media, and surveys. Language processing is also used to assist in analyzing customer feedback.

Another of the company's value propositions is its Intelligent Customer Experience (ICE), which allows users to analyze data and respond in real time. Businesses using Clarabridge will be able to monitor feedback at every point of the relationship with the customer, which helps users manage the experience better and respond with changes if necessary.

7. Allegiance

Allegiance is focused on providing industry-specific customer experience tools. Its new Dashboards 2 tool gives users the ability to drag and drop from multiple data sources and instantly glean insight from their data. According to Al Nevarez, vice president of data science at Allegiance, the goal is to find the link between the customer's experience with your company and how that affects the bottom line.

"At Allegiance, we are passionate about helping our clients find new value in their customer feedback data," said Nevarez. "We do this through a unique and rigorous approach of combining predictive analytics, software, business knowledge, and design to create usable products for a broad array of business users. As a result, customer feedback, combined with operational and financial data, provide unbound opportunities for survey and customer experience professionals to clarify the linkage between feedback and the bottom line."

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