Got Apps? GetApp Introduces CloudWork to Integrate Them

Last week, I spoke with Christophe Primault, CEO of GetApp, about GetApp’s new CloudWork platform, which provides a growing catalog of pre-built connectors to integrate cloud-based business and social media apps. Listen to the podcast or read the summary below.      

 

Laurie: Good morning, Christophe. Could you start by describing what GetApp is and what it does?

Christophe: Okay. GetApp helps small businesses be successful with cloud business applications. We started a couple of years ago by building a marketplace where small businesses can discover business applications that are suited for their needs.

Laurie:  Great. I know you got started around 2010, a couple of years ago. About how many apps are available in the app marketplace now?

Christophe: Today we have close to 5000 different applications available, and they are split in about 300 different business categories.

Laurie:  Now, I know that GetApp is a little different type of marketplace than say Google Apps marketplace or Salesforce AppExchange. Can you just describe a little bit about what makes it different?

Christophe: Sure. So what we are trying to do is be independent and inclusive and let small businesses see everything that is available in the market. We are not tied to any particular vendor or systems. We access apps that are integrated with Google Apps or Salesforce or any application, but by coming to GetApp you will be able to see all the applications in each category that can be of interest to you.

Laurie: Okay. So kind of like the Switzerland of small business app marketplaces?

Christophe: Yes. Exactly. It’s like a Swiss Army knife for small businesses looking for business applications.

Laurie: And about how many visitors do you have coming to GetApp these days?

Christophe: This has been ramping up month after month, and today we have close to 150,000 visitors coming to the marketplace every month. Overall 95% of these are small and medium businesses (SMBs).

Laurie: Great. And how do you define an SMB? What size company?

Christophe: We are mostly targeting the low-end of SMBs. It’s companies with between 0 to 100 employees, but we do have also larger companies that are coming to GetApp to find applications for their own departments.

Laurie: I understand that you have a new offering from GetApp called CloudWork. Can you tell us what it is?

Christophe: Absolutely. CloudWork is a new solution that we launched one month ago, and it is a continuation of GetApp. While GetApp is the first step for small businesses looking for business applications to discover what they need, CloudWork really comes in when you start using more than one application in your organization. Let’s say you are using four or five, and you have developed silos of data in each of your applications and you realize that these apps don’t talk to each other. You want to integrate these applications together to increase productivity, so this is what CloudWork is doing. It’s an easy to use platform and you don’t need any technical knowledge to get apps to talk to each other.

Laurie:  Okay. Yes, I think most of us that are small businesses, we can relate to that. We start by using one application to fit a certain need, and then as we need another we add another. Before you know it we have a few different cloud apps, but they don’t necessarily talk to each other. So we’re trying to manually coordinate what’s going on. What was the genesis for deciding that you needed to do this?

Christophe: Yes, that clearly came from our users. We found applications on GetApp or anywhere else, and now we run integral applications, but they don’t talk to each other so we developed processes attached that are repetitive, that are not bringing a lot of value to the organization that could be automated. So, we decided, maybe this is something interesting to do. And then we asked ourselves, as an SMB using over 20 different cloud apps, is it a problem we have?  How could we address this problem and how much value will it bring to us? We realized that we could save a lot of time and be much more productive in doing more value-added tasks in the organization if we had the ability to automate many of the internal processes and tasks. This is how we decided to build the CloudWork platform to do that.

Laurie: So, how would it work for me? Can you walk me through it? Once I go on the CloudWork site, what would I need to do? How much work would it take on my part?

Christophe: I am going to take a very precise use case to tell you how you can use CloudWork. For example, cloud-based CRM is one of the most common applications for an SMB. So, assuming you are using let’s say Zoho CRM, you will come to CloudWork, you will sign up for an account and you will authorize CloudWork to talk to Zoho. You will do that with just a couple of clicks, and then we will show you a list of applications that can integrate with Zoho with the objective of capturing your client’s profile in Zoho all the customers, all the interactions your company had with your customer.

So let’s take an example. You start with Zoho CRM and then you decide that any e-mail that comes in via Gmail to your organization should be logged under your customer profile on Zoho CRM. So you integrate Zoho with Gmail. If you want to see which invoices and payment status of invoices, then you will integrate with Freshbooks. If you want to see when your client has received an e-mail campaign then you will integrate Zoho with MailChimp. If you want to have all your data in Zoho to be backed up on an online storage platform, then you will integrate with Dropbox, and so on.

So, in this specific case,  in just a few clicks you are adding different applications and building a unified view of all your company’s interactions, which of the apps you are using in your company under your customer profile in Zoho. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes to set up. No code is needed. You don’t need to have any particular knowledge, and with just a few clicks you can set up your account and then the tasks run in the background.

Laurie: So, at the end of the day you’re saving a lot of time because you don’t have to be manually trying to connect these things. And you’re gaining productivity and cutting down on manual kinds of errors so your information is more accurate.

Christophe: Yes, you’ve covered what are the main objectives of CloudWork. Increasing productivity of your sales people or your customer support people, avoiding making errors when you’re cutting, pasting, or exporting files from one application to another, making sure also that you always back up data outside each of the applications that you’re using. So productivity, saving time, more security are the main benefits of CloudWork.

Laurie: If someone wants to try CloudWork, how can they try it? Is there a free trial?

Christophe: Yes, absolutely. It’s very easy. You go wwwcloudwork.com. You get started. There is a free trial. In fact, the product is currently free for all to use. There will always be a free version of the product. Most companies they will be able to use CloudWork for free. For very heavy users that will be automating a lot of tasks during the month it will be a paid version, but today it is free. We integrate with 15 very popular applications, and we are adding new different applications every week.

Laurie:  So with GetApp, you addressed that discovery challenge, how do I find applications that I might need to run my business. I know people will also find there is a lot of guidance in terms of reviews, and evaluations, and discussions that small businesses can look at to get information about the apps as well as just getting the apps. So, you’ve addressed that discovery, with CloudWork you’re addressing a lot of the integration issues, what’s next? What’s the longer term vision for GetApp and CloudWork?

Christophe: You’re absolutely right. We are not going to stop there. Our plan is to be what we call a cloud operation center for small businesses. Really the idea is you start with GetApp where you discover applications. You also get a lot of education material on how to get started with cloud applications, what are the pros and cons, which ones you should keep for your business, and then as you start to be a heavier user of applications you will have integration needs. This is one of the first services we offer in CloudWork, but in the future you will be able to access different applications with a single password as an example, or you will be able to have a better view of who is using which kind of application in your organization. So, basically we are going to add additional services to CloudWork so it becomes a single place in your organization where you can manage all your cloud services.

Laurie: That sounds fantastic. For small businesses, if you have not been to the GetApp.com site, I would advise you to check it out because there are a lot of great applications and advice on there. Thank you so much for your time today, Christophe, and for talking to me and sharing this information with us.

Christophe: Thanks a lot Laurie. It’s been a pleasure talking to you and sharing with your listeners the benefits they can get out of GetApp and CloudWork. Thanks a lot.

Are Business App Stores Gaining Steam with Small Businesses?

I’ve been reviewing data from our latest survey, the 2011 SMB Routes to Market Study, which zeros in on how SMBs discover, learn about, evaluate and purchase software and service technology solutions.

This study was a refresh of our 2010 SMB Routes to Market Study. In both years, we asked customers, “Do you use/plan to use business app stores or marketplaces (e.g. Salesforce AppExchange, Intuit Workplace, etc.)?” As shown below (Figure 1), 28% of small businesses are using app stores. The good news is that this is up from 23% last year.

Figure 1: Small Business Use and Plans: Business App Stores and Marketplaces

This year, we also asked respondents how frequently they use app stores. As you can see, only 6% of small businesses use them on a regular basis–which pales in comparison to the 42% that use search engines regularly–and also falls far short compared to sources such as email newsletters; colleagues, friends and family; vendor web sites, and Facebook–among other things.

In this 2011 survey, 17% medium businesses (100-999 employees) indicated that they use app stores on a regular basis, which may mean that as businesses get larger, and their integration requirements increase, app stores provide more value.

Source: SMB Group 2011 (click to enlarge)

App stores focused on the needs of small and medium businesses (SMBs) have been proliferating quickly. Some of the SMB-focused app stores that have set up shop include:

  • Intuit’s Workplace App Center, which provides a central location where small businesses can locate and try business applications that work with QuickBooks and with each other.
  • Google Apps Marketplace, which offers Google users apps that integrate directly with Google Apps.
  • Zoho’s Marketplace, which provides applications that work with Zoho’s solutions.
  • Constant Contact Marketplace, which offers small businesses with applications that integrate with Constant Contact’s email and marketing tools.
  • GetApp.com, which, unlike most app marketplaces, isn’t organized around a core application or platform, but positions itself as a neutral, “meta-marketplace” that is application and platform agnostic.

There are also many business app stores that aren’t exclusively focused on SMBs, but feature plenty of apps relevant to SMB requirements, such Salesforce.com’s AppExchange and Sugar CRM’s SugarExchange

Theoretically, these sites should make it easier for users to find, try, evaluate and purchase applications. But our study analysis suggests that app stores will need to do more to live up to their promise of becoming a premier and potentially disruptive SMB information and purchase channel.

Top Takeaways from Pervasive’s 2010 IntegratioNext Conference

Wow the déjà vu is just too strange! In June of this year, I attended Pervasive’s Metamorphosis Partner event–during which IBM announced that it would acquire Cast Iron. Now, in November, during Pervasive’s very well-attended IntegratioNext User Conference, Dell announced plans to buy Boomi.

As I wrote after the Metamorphosis event, IBM’s acquisition of Cast Iron put the spotlight on the tremendous demand that cloud computing is creating for integration software to bridge the gap between on-premise and software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications—as well as between SaaS solutions. This drumbeat has continued to strengthen, leading Dell to the conclusion that Boomi’s integration capabilities are an essential ingredient to making its Virtual Era solutions and services strategy a success. Integration is very strategic and critical for both IBM and Dell, and each has vast marketing and technology resources to invest in these acquisitions. As a result, Cast Iron and Boomi are likely to become more formidable opponents for Pervasive.

So how will Pervasive, which has arguably been the market leader in the integration space to date, fare as competitive pressure continues to mount? Based on what Pervasive announced at IntegratioNext, and as importantly, the conversations I had with many customers and partners at the event, I think Pervasive will manage just fine, for several reasons.

1.     Pervasive has an innovative, stress-tested integration portfolio that’s growing stronger. Pervasive has been a leader in helping end-user customers, ISVs and channel partners solve the tricky problems of data and application integration since 2003. Today, Pervasive’s integration line-up includes a wide range of integration options for on premise, cloud to cloud, between cloud and on premise, including:

  • Data Integrator, an integration platform that connects a plethora of databases, flat files and legacy formats and applications, including virtually any software-as-a-service (SaaS) and on-premises applications. With the latest release, Data Integrator V10 in now available the cloud as well as on-premise.
  • DataCloud2, initially launched in 2009, is a fully multi-tenant, on-demand integration platform that combines the Data Integrator platform and DataSynch with Pervasive Integration Agent, a lightweight agent that sits behind a company’s firewall to connect on-premise apps with the cloud. Developers can tap into Pervasive data services, including its catalog of data adapters, to accelerate development.
  • DataCloud Marketplace, where both customers and partners can shop for integration tools. End users only buy the solution the need, they don’t have to purchase other technology from Pervasive. Pervasive has already created several small business integrations, such as Salesforce.com to Intuit QuickBooks and Salesforce.com to Freshbooks–pricing starts ad $19.95 per month.  Developers that create integrations with Pervasive technology can put them the marketplace, set their own price, and create an ongoing annuity revenue stream.

2.     Pervasive enjoys a great track record with ISV partners. About 60% of Pervasive’s business today goes through the channel, mostly via ISVs that embed Pervasive integration within their solutions. Embedded ISV integrations are becoming a key differentiator for business software and cloud vendors because they ensure that the integration won’t cost more than the solution.

3.     More focus on the SI and consultant channel. While embedded ISV integrations are a great, friction-free way to provide integration, they won’t solve for an endless combination of integration scenarios—particularly in the SMB market. Pervasive is providing more tools and marketing programs that SI and consultant firms are also finding very attractive. Strategic Growth, for instance, uses Pervasive technology to provide reasonably priced, repeatable and easy to integration between Salesforce.com and NetSuite. Since these software vendors won’t integrate with their competitors, partners can seize on the opportunity to build new revenue streams by creating integrations to serve their own customers, which they can also sell in the Pervasive Marketplace.

4.     The integration challenge has always been complex, and is becoming more multifaceted. More applications need to be integrated both in the cloud and on premise. In addition, adoption of new mobile and social media solutions is on the rise. By providing more turnkey (and less costly) integrations Pervasive and its partners can alleviate the problems of one-off custom integrations and costly updates.

5.     Pervasive is taking significant strides to boost its marketing capabilities. Pervasive hasn’t always articulated what it does and how it helps as clearly as some of its competitors. But, the vendor has hired new marketing people to help it articulate its strategy, messaging, and the business value of Pervasive integration solutions in a clearer, more compelling way. At the event, I did notice that Pervasive sessions seemed much more tuned to business value than in the past–now they need to keep it going.

Finally, Pervasive enjoys its freedom. Although I don’t believe that IBM and Dell will squander their respective acquisitions of Cast Iron and Boomi, each of these acquired companies is now a little fish in a very big pond. As such, they are likely to sacrifice some agility as part of these larger, more bureaucratic companies. In contrast, Pervasive, as an independent company, can keep a laser-like focus on integration, without worrying about having its focus diluted and/or dispersed within a large IT company that has many other irons in the fire.

A Clear Message for Vendors In the SMB Technology Market

We recently wrapped up the SMB Group’s “2010 Small and Medium Businesses Routes to Market Study”, which uncovered quite a few interesting trends about how SMBs discover, learn about, evaluate and buy technology solutions and services. We are publishing free research briefs on the SMB Group site on some of the key findings, including Social Media: Shaking Up the Way Small Businesses Evaluate and Purchase Technology Solutions and Services, and SMB Business Outlook and Plans to Invest in Technology Solutions and Services, which are available here.

Another finding that I find quite fascinating is how frustrated and confused many SMBs are about technology solutions. Survey respondents indicated that their top two technology challenges are figuring out how different types of solutions can help their businesses, and getting better insights out of the data they already have:

  • Top technology challenges for small businesses:
    1. Get better business insights from existing data: 35%
    2. Figuring out how different solutions can help the business: 32%
    3. Implementing new solutions/upgrades: 32%
    4. Integrating social media with Web site, marketing tools, etc.: 24%
  • Top technology challenges for medium businesses:
    1. Get better insights from existing data: 33%
    2. Figuring out how different solutions can help the business: 32%
    3. Integrating social media with Web site, marketing tools, etc.: 32%
    4. Implementing new solutions/upgrades: 30%

As you can see from the above data points, SMBs view figuring out what solution can best help the business and getting better insights from existing data as bigger challenges than implementing a new solution! Scarily, these challenges are just as significant in medium businesses as in small ones, despite the fact that most medium businesses have IT staff, larger IT budgets and better access to external technology advisors.

Clearly (no pun intended) this confusion and frustration creates a huge, and in my view, a vastly under-rated (by most vendors, anyway) inhibitor to SMB technology adoption. It reinforces my belief that any company trying to sell into the SMB market needs to do some serious self-evaluation,  as I discussed in my post earlier this year, Does Your SMB Marketing Message Need a Makeover? Seven Questions to Ask.

SMB requirements for clarity, transparency and a demonstrable value proposition will become even more intense as more SMBs starting shifting from generic search engines to application marketplaces/app stores and social media to learn about, evaluate and buy solutions. These newer channels provide more and better context for SMB customers, and provide a source of unbiased insight about other customers’ actual experiences with solutions.

While our study shows that search engines are the top information source for SMBs today, social networking site such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook are gaining momentum at a rapid rate. And, although SMB app stores are an even more recent phenomenon, our findings indicate that a majority of  SMBs are aware of and using/planning to use them. Among small businesses, 23% use them and 29% plan to use app stores; while among medium businesses, 44% use app stores and 24% plan to use them.

With so many products and solutions competing for SMB mind and wallet share, and new information sources and channels that are making it easier for SMBs to sort through the clutter, vendors need to redouble their efforts to clearly describe their solutions, provide solid evidence of how it can help businesses achieve their goals, and clarify how it differs from competitive offerings. Otherwise, the market–with the help of social media and app stores–will do it for them.

There’s an App Store for That!

App stores focused on the needs of small and medium businesses (SMBs) seem to be proliferating quickly as cloud computing takes off. As discussed in “What is an App Store, and Why Should You Care,” a marquee SMB vendor, such as Google or Intuit typically builds the app store and serve as the anchor tenant for it. The vendors that run the app stores typically have a strong brand and a large customer base. They woo developers to build and integrate complementary applications around their core applications and/or platforms, and in return, take a commission on sales.

Some of the SMB-focused app stores that have already launched include:

  • Intuit’s Workplace App Center, which provides a central location where small businesses can locate and try business applications that work with QuickBooks and with each other.
  • Google Apps Marketplace, which offers Google users apps that integrate directly with Google Apps.
  • Zoho’s Marketplace, which provides applications that work with Zoho’s solutions.
  • Constant Contact Marketplace, which offers small businesses with applications that integrate with Constant Contact’s email and marketing tools.
  • NetSuite’s SuiteApp.com, which features third-party solutions that integrate with  NetSuite.

Plus, there are a few more SMB-centric app stores that I’ve been tipped off on that are in the works, but not yet announced. Of course, there are many app stores that aren’t exclusively focused on SMBs, but feature plenty of apps relevant to SMB requirements, such Salesforce.com’s AppExchange and Sugar CRM’s SugarExchange. There’s an even app store for Twitter. Not to mention all the marketplaces for mobile apps that work with different smart phones, from Apple’s App Store to Google’s Android Marketplace.

All of which leads me to wonder how this growing bubble of small business application marketplaces will sort out. Theoretically, app stores or marketplaces can help make it easier for users to find, try, evaluate and purchase applications. But things can get complicated if you use applications from several vendors that have a marketplace–for instance QuickBooks, Google Apps and Constant Contact.

Enter GetApp.com, which launched earlier this year. Unlike most app marketplaces, GetApp isn’t organized around a core application or platform. Instead, GetApp positions itself as a neutral, “meta-marketplace” that is application and platform agnostic. Any app can be listed on GetApp (the vendor has about 600 listings to date). In fact, many applications that are listed on GetApp are also on different proprietary marketplaces.

To help address integration requirements, participating vendors provide GetApp with landing pages and documentation to verify integrations between their apps and other apps and marketplaces. User ratings, feedback and commentaries offer validation–or not–about how well these integrations actually work.

GetApp’s model for developers is also different. Basic listings are free, but developers can sign up for a premium, or more complete listing, with a pay-per-click model; the vendor doesn’t take commissions based on application sales.

GetApp is a David among Goliaths, but will be interesting to watch. Potentially, GetApp can provide SMBs with more choice, transparency and neutrality than vendor-specific marketplaces–and give developers a new channel without requiring them to re-write their apps for another platform.

While it’s too early to predict how GetApp–or SMB app stores in general–will fare, the SMB Group will be tracking the marketplace area closely. In fact, we are asking respondents about their awareness, use and plans for marketplaces (among many other things!) in our 2010 SMB Routes to Market survey, which is fielding now.

It should be quite interesting to see if marketplaces can live up to their promise of becoming a new, powerful land very disruptive SMB solution channel.  If you know of other SMB app stores that we should be taking a look at, please let me know!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,573 other followers