Vendors satisfy market appetite for enterprise agility

The combined impact of cloud, mobility and big data on enterprise applications has piqued the market’s taste for speed and agility. Now, enterprise software vendors big and small are racing to feed the market’s growing appetite.
Written by Leon Spencer, Contributor

The rise of cloud, mobility and big data has conspired to dramatically speed up the development, deployment, and usage of enterprise software applications.

Now that the market has acquired a taste for this speed and agility, enterprise software vendors have been working hard to quench the market's rapidly growing appetite, releasing cloud-based enterprise service offerings designed for real-time responsiveness along with big data, mobility and social integration.

For Ben Cordeiro, CIO of Australian business process guidance software vendor, Panviva, the fight to remain agile in the enterprise software space by shifting to the cloud has paid off, with the company now able to easily meet the market's desire for speedy turnaround times for application development and delivery.

"We're now able to respond much quicker, even with integrating to enterprise scale apps, within a fraction of the time it once took," Cordeiro told ZDNet. "Customers can receive the benefits of our software much more quickly. It used to take months to fully implement, now it’s more like days.

"From the vendor's perspective, you can't predict everything. If there's anything that's changing at a rate of knots, it's technology. You really need to get onto a platform that doesn't just service what you know today but will be able to evolve rapidly for the things you haven't even thought of yet — and now we can respond and deliver those to our customers extremely quickly," he said.

Ben Cordeiro, CIO of Panviva.
Image courtesy of Ben Cordeiro

Panviva moved its hallmark SupportPoint product to the cloud late last year. The decision was driven partially by the competitive advantage of being in the cloud, but also because more and more customers were asking about it.

"Our goal has been about executing a rapid transformation of our product and business around the cloud to respond to where our customers and product base is moving," said Cordeiro.

"A lot of it was noise that we were facing in our market, so it was important to remain focused on the value proposition in each case. It was also prompted by the need to respond to our market and to go to a different licensing model, but also our own need to take our underlying platform to the next level.

"It was our way of modernising our technology to not only serve the direction of our company, but also become a lot more future proof," he said.

Panviva announced the launch of its SupportPoint Cloud offering in December last year, effectively offering its clients in Australia and internationally a wholly cloud-based product. However, it is still able to be licensed for on-premise environments as well.

Overall, the move has allowed the Melbourne-based company to respond to marketplace pressures and client requirements with a remarkable level of agility — which seems to be fast becoming the make-or-break factor for enterprise software vendors.

At Sydney's Amazon Web Services (AWS) Summit in April, Vodafone Hutchison Australia's head of technology and product architect, Craig Rees, said that he expected agility to emerge as the single determining factor between an enterprise's ultimate success or failure in the market.

"For Vodafone, we believe the winners in the new game are going to be the ones that can adapt quickly," said Rees in his presentation at the event. "Agility will define the winners and the losers."

Rees said that Vodafone had managed to increase its rate of software project deployments from a few releases per year to a few per week since its CRM platform to the cloud, utilising AWS' offering.

"Now we have no more 18-month projects, when we end up delivering features to market that customers no longer need," said Rees. "It means that no more of your operations team have to get woken up in the middle of the night to fix a defect and then not turn up to work the next day."

Rees' comments mirrored those of Amazon's vice president and chief technology officer, Dr, Werner Vogels, who also spoke at the summit in Sydney.

In his speech, Vogels suggested that big enterprises should be taking on the infrastructure agility of small startups if they are to survive in the increasingly competitive global market.

"Agility is becoming more and more crucial to companies to be able to be more competitive," he said.
For SAP Australia and New Zealand's general manager of platform solutions, Paul Muller, the technological forces driving much of the change in enterprise software — mobility, cloud and big data — have all contributed to a rapid increase in the rate of technological evolution within the enterprise industry.

Paul Muller pic
Paul Muller, SAP Australia and New Zealand's general manager, platform solutions.
Image courtesy of SAP

"The shift to the cloud, rise of mobility and the increase in the harnessing of Big Data are all rolled into the business world's growing desire for real-time application processes and an immediate quantifiable return on investment," Muller told ZDNet Australia.

"The rate of change in the last couple of years, even month by month, is very rapid. Businesses need to be extremely lean, very flexible and very responsive. What our customers are asking for now are business applications that can move as quickly as their customers are demanding," he said

Muller believes that businesses are now expecting and looking for fast, quantifiable returns from new enterprise application deployment, with IT departments playing a changing role in implementation, and marketing departments claiming a greater oversight.

"[Companies] are looking for a quick return," he said. "They need to prove to the business that the investment is going to bring about a material return in a short amount of time. This is particularly true for listed companies, which answer to public shareholders.

"They want to get on with the business they're good at and they don't want to invest in copious amounts of infrastructure and this is where the cloud phenomenon becomes really important."

Another area of speed-inducing influence for both SAP and Panviva is mobility and the burgeoning use of mobile devices for increasingly complex business purposes.

The rise of mobility and its integration in enterprise applications is helping to raise the expectation of real-time responsiveness among end users.

For Muller, mobility represents just one driving element among many in the rapidly increasing rate of change in the world of enterprise software.

"We look at mobilisation as part of our overall strategy," said Muller. "How we deliver the enterprise apps to users is important. It needs to be fast and secure. Not an inhibitor.

"Mobile is just another component in the deployment of apps in the cloud. We see it as an inherent part of the architecture, but we also have a very comprehensive mobile suite for developers," he said.

Gartner's "nexus of forces".
Image courtesy of Gartner

According to IT research group and industry barometer, Gartner, mobility is one of four elements in a "nexus of forces" driving the rapid evolution of the enterprise software sector, with the other three forces being: social, cloud and information.

Gartner's report on the "nexus of forces" said, "organisations that ignore the nexus of forces will be displaced by those that can move into the opportunity space more quickly — and the pace is accelerating."

According to Oracle's vice president, applications product management for Japan and Asia Pacific, Doug Hughes, cloud, mobility, and big data have all played a major role in the company's evolving product development and delivery to customers.

For Hughes, the shift to the cloud is a particularly powerful driver for change within Oracle and other enterprise software vendors.

"People are looking to the cloud as an option. Is it everything at the moment? Not yet, but it is an option that is driving some of the change," Hughes told ZDNet Australia.

According to Hughes, one of the effects of the shift to cloud-based enterprise applications can be seen in the changing role of business versus IT within industry.

Doug Hughes, Oracle's vice president, applications product management for Japan and Asia Pacific.
Image courtesy of Oracle

"In the past, enterprise apps and enterprise programs were always IT program to enable business, whereas now, the business is very much engaged, and that’s partially come out of cloud," said Hughes.

The businesses Hughes and his Oracle cohorts engage with these days are taking a larger role in the decision-making process, adoption, and deployment of enterprise services. It no longer resides with a company's IT department.

"That's been driven partially out of the fact that implementation time scales are dramatically reducing — and they needed to," said Hughes.

Oracle, like its big name peers such as IBM, Microsoft and SAP, have all moved with the market into the cloud, some with more vigour than others.

At the beginning of April, Oracle began spruiking its database-as-a-service offering in Australia. This latest release joined the company's existing suite of enterprise-grade cloud solutions, including its platform-as-a-service and infrastructure-as-a-service offerings.

Oracle is clearly in good company, with the market leader, Microsoft, focusing heavily on mobile and the cloud in its effort to reorganise itself around a One Microsoft vision, as promoted at its Build 2014 developer conference in San Francisco in early April.

By Gartner's estimation, Oracle narrowly overtook IBM last year in revenue ranking, thanks in part to trends such as big data and analytics.

"Global trends around big data and analytics with business investment in database and cloud-based applications helped to drive Oracle's top-line growth," said Gartner analyst, Chad Eschinger.

Meanwhile, Gartner research vice president, Joanne Correia, said in March that the software market had been changing shape over the past five years and that "cloud is driving the bulk of this change".

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