SAP Business One: Big Business Capabilities on a Small Business Budget

SAP has forged its corporate identity in the large enterprise space, serving the likes of Coca Cola and Dow Chemical. But, while attending SAP’s Sapphire user event last week, I had the opportunity to meet with Andreas Wolfinger, Global Head of Solution Management and Product Management for SAP Business One, and Jennifer Schulze, Director SME Solutions Marketing (who I interviewed in this SMB Spotlight video) and get an update on SAP Business One –which may be SAP’s best kept secret.

In a nutshell, SAP Business One is designed from the ground up to meet the needs of small businesses and departments and divisions of large businesses. Geared to organizations with limited or no IT resources, SAP Business One offers a unified business management solution that integrates core business functions, including financials, sales, customer relationship management, inventory, and operations. Also included are embedded analytics, ad hoc queries, and standard reports, and integration with SAP Crystal Reports software. Because SAP Business One is built as a unified solution, it can help small businesses get the synergy they need across different business functions, streamline processes, and cut down on redundant data entry and errors.

SAP offers the solution in 40 countries and 25 languages—providing coverage that few other small business ERP vendors can rival. SAP Business One also boasts about 550 add-on solutions, many of which provide industry-specific functionality.

Business One is a packaged solution that customers can run on-premise, but is also available in hosted and hosted subscription offerings. It has a very small footprint, which enables smaller companies to run the solution on a laptop instead of a server. Business One customers are typically up and running in 2 to 8 weeks. Available via SAP Business One partners, pricing (including software license and implementation) typically starts at about $20,000 for five users.

To expand awareness and extend its market reach, SAP introduced the SAP Business One Starter Package in May. The starter package offers a fast, affordable, low-risk on ramp even for very small businesses. It includes pre-configured administration, financials, sales, purchasing, and inventory processes and implementation services for up to 5 users. Pricing starts at under $2,000 U.S., and companies go live in 3 to 10 days. When and if you need to add more users or functionality, you can upgrade to the standard edition of SAP Business One, without having to migrate data, learn a new application or re-train users.

Despite its small size, SAP Business One can also take advantage of sophisticated technology that can provide businesses with a competitive edge. For instance, I was surprised to learn that SAP has Business One running directly on HANA, SAP’s column-based, in-memory database, in its labs. HANA enables applications to zip through calculations for millions of records in just fractions of a second. According to SAP, this is valuable even for companies that don’t have to crunch through huge volumes of data. For example, in-memory technology will also improve the performance of the application. Though not yet ready for prime time, SAP plans to introduce Business One In-Memory Database with the release of the 9.x family, slated for early 2012.

Small businesses have very diverse needs and constraints, and Business One won’t fit the bill for every small business. However, small businesses that want a flexible, capable integrated, on-premise business suite may be pleasantly surprised to learn about–and investigate–what SAP Business One has to offer.

Pervasive Puts Its Galaxy Integration Community Into Orbit

–by Sanjeev Aggarwal and Laurie McCabe, SMB Group

At its annual Metamorphosis conference earlier this month, Pervasive announced Pervasive Galaxy, which merges an online integration marketplace and community into a single, streamlined platform. Pervasive has designed Galaxy to remove boundaries between buyers and sellers and make it easier for end-user customers to understand options, review vendors, figure out what’s best for their needs, and shop for/purchase integration solutions. Galaxy’s built-in community capabilities help vendors connect with customers to gain input, gather feedback, exchange ideas and help crowdsource new solutions.

As we noted in our SMB Group Top Ten 2011 SMB Predictions, better, faster integration is becoming a critical business solutions differentiator. Cloud computing has made business solutions more accessible and affordable for a wider swath of companies, but integrating them can break the bank. This is especially the case for SMBs, who usually don’t have the money or appetite for complex or time-consuming integrations.

This reality drove Pervasive, a long-time leader in the integration space, to send Galaxy into orbit on the heels of some very big players making significant acquisitions in the integration space; IBM’s purchase of Cast Iron earlier this year, and Dell’s recent deal for Boomi.

Here’s a quick synopsis of the announcement, and our take on what it means for the integration market and the stakeholders in it.

The Integration Challenge

Integration is one of the biggest and costliest hurdles for companies that need to adopt new applications. Companies need to integrate applications and data sources to maximize productivity, reduce redundancy and inaccuracies, and streamline workflows. Yet integration between and among external cloud and on-premise applications, different data sources and existing business workflows can be costly and complicated. This is particularly true for SMBs, who lack IT staff that can develop integration between applications, or the budgets for solutions that require time and labor services.

How Galaxy Addresses the Integration Challenge

With Galaxy, Pervasive is creating a place where customers can easily identify and access affordable and capable integration solutions and vendors, and also provide vendors with feedback about their integration requirements. Galaxy will offer data integration products, solutions, connectors, plug-ins and templates, and serve as a community platform for customers, developers, integrators and other relevant vendors. Pervasive’s intent is that this convergence will nurture a strong ecosystem which will facilitate more rapid, innovative and accessible integration solutions.

Vendors on Galaxy will offer customers both integration components and turnkey cloud integration services. For instance, integration components available in Galaxy include engines, workflows, connectors, agents and rich data services that can support a range of needs, such as data loading, data matching, profiling, transformation and business analytics. Galaxy will also offer ready to run solutions for point-to-point solution integration in a subscription-based SaaS model.

How Galaxy Works for Customers

Galaxy enables community participants to build, preview, test and buy integration solutions. These might include pre-built data integration solutions, connectors, plug-ins or templates that enable faster integration solution development.

Instead of starting with a Google search, or contacting a VAR or consultant and trying to figure out if there is an existing integration solution that’s right for their needs, customers can go to Galaxy and see if there’s an existing solution that fits the bill. They can also use Galaxy to locate a partner than can customize an available integration to their individual needs, or build a custom solution from scratch.

Building an integration community is Galaxy’s other primary focal point. End users will not only be able to shop for ready-made solutions on Galaxy, but will also be able to view and rate templates, connectors, plug-ins and solutions. They can also use Galaxy to inform developers and integrators about their needs, request new integrations, and link to others with similar needs to share the costs of getting a new integration developed. End-users who build integrations themselves can, if they want, also sell them to others via the Galaxy platform.

How Galaxy Works for Partners

Pervasive Galaxy offers developer and system integrator (SI) partners an integration marketplace platform, development tools, store, community collaboration and revenue sharing–basically everything they need to build and sell their solutions. There is no charge to build integrations. Once partners build the solution and start selling it on Galaxy, they keep 70% of the sale and the other 30% goes to Pervasive. Partners retain their intellectual property, and can offer documentation and the required technical support (possibly for an additional fee).

Galaxy should help developers get their integrations to market more quickly, and make their offerings more accessible to a broader constituency. For instance, Galaxy’s “try and buy” program gives developers a way to demonstrate ROI before they commit to a purchase–giving skittish and/or cash-strapped SMBs a risk-free way to try the integration and see if it pays off before they have to spend money for it.

In addition, partners can take advantage of Galaxy’s community to tap into integration requirements across a range of businesses. This should enable them to tune their integration solutions more closely to actual requirements, to explore potential new markets for their products and meet customer needs in a more repeatable and profitable manner.

What Does Galaxy Do for Pervasive?

Galaxy gives Pervasive a centralized mechanism to market and provide access to its growing array of development and testing tools–including Pervasive Data Integrator, Pervasive DataCloud, Pervasive Data Profiler in a more streamlined way to developers and integrators–and build a new revenue stream based on the sales of the integrations that partners build and sell.

Pervasive has initiated, built and will maintain and manage the Galaxy marketplace platform. As the Galaxy community grows, Pervasive should also be able to extract a lot of insight about customer and partner integration requirements and demands across different horizontal, vertical and geographic markets, which it can use in its own product planning efforts. Pervasive and its community members will jointly develop and participate in demand generation and building visibility for the Galaxy market, vendors and community.

At some point, Galaxy could serve as a launch pad for integration testing and certification, conducted either by Pervasive or by the community, helping to reinforce the company’s position as a leader in the integration space.

Quick Take

The integration challenge is becoming increasingly more complex because of trends such as cloud computing, mobile solutions, social media and the exponential growth of data. These trends will continue to drive the need for companies to integrate more applications and data from an increasingly dizzying array of sources.

These trends are also driving Pervasive and its integration competitors to tear down some of the barriers that have made integration so difficult in the past (see Dell and Boomi: Doubling Down on Integration, for our view on Dell’s approach to this challenge).

With Galaxy, Pervasive has built a streamlined, in-context ecosystem for customers to search for, identify, evaluate and purchase integration solutions. As important, Galaxy gives users a place where they can voice their integration experiences, concerns and requirements. Meanwhile, Galaxy should help partners market their solutions, and gain insight on integration gaps and requirements from a much broader audience, and amortize the costs of developing their integrations over a larger number of customers. The ecosystem approach puts vendors and customers on the same page and fosters the collaboration that should result in a win/win for all involved.

However, while Pervasive has built Galaxy, the question remains whether enough users and partners will come to make it a true integration destination point. To fuel customer interest, Galaxy needs a strong cadre of actively engaged developers, SIs and integrations in the Galaxy ecosystem. Conversely, to attract partners, it needs a lot of customers that partners can sell their services to. Pervasive will need to double down on its social media, marketing, partner engagement and other related activities to ensure Galaxy reaches its goals–especially as it faces strong competition from the big guys–in our opinion, particularly from Dell-Boomi, which appears to be thriving under the Dell umbrella.

But, Pervasive’s smaller, independent status can also play in its favor, as noted in Top Takeaways from Pervasive’s 2010 IntegratioNext Conference. The company can keep a laser-like focus on the integration needs of customers and the business development needs of partners. And its independent status may appeal to prospective partners that may having differing agendas than or encounter red-tape challenges when working with Pervasive’s larger rivals. If Pervasive can use this agility and focus to its full advantage, and rev up marketing and social media engagements, Galaxy should succeed in it mission to create a vibrant integration marketplace.

Social Media: How Does Your Small Business Stack Up?

Social media offers small businesses an inexpensive, relatively friction-free way to accomplish different business functions, from generating new leads to getting input for new product development. Consequently, it’s not surprising that small businesses are rapidly moving to take advantage of it.

How far along the social media curve is your business compared to your peers? We’ve picked some key data points from our recent joint SMB Group-CRM Essentials “2011 Small and Medium Business Social Business Study” to put together a quick quiz to help you benchmark your social media prowess.

Take the Quiz

1. Which of the following best describes your company’s use and/or planned use of social media to engage with your customers or prospects?  (Check one)

a.    We currently use social media in a strategic and structured way to interact with customers and/or prospects: 4 points

b.    We currently use social media in an ad hoc, informal way to interact with customers and/or prospects: 2 points

c.     We don’t currently use social media to interact with customers and/or prospects, but plan to do so within the next 12 months: 1 points

d.    We do not currently use social media and have no plans do so in the next 12 months: 0 points

Although social media is a relatively recent phenomena, 44% of small businesses are using social media, and about 31% are planning to use it. Among those currently using social media, 24% say they’re using it in a structured and strategic way, while 20% are using it in an informal, ad hoc manner. Give yourself extra points for being a strategic user, because the study also reveals that small businesses that take a more formal and structured social media approach are 2 to 3 times more likely to be satisfied or very satisfied with outcomes from their efforts than those using it in an informal, ad hoc way.

Figure 1: Small Business Use/Plans for Social Media

2. Which of the following ways are you using or planning to use social media for your business?  (Check all that apply)

a.    Sales and marketing related activities: generate new leads, improve market awareness, generate more web site traffic, enhance company reputation, etc: 3 points

b.    Market and competitive research activities: get input for product development, analyze market trends, gather competitive intelligence, etc: 3 points

c.     Customer service activities: improved service/support, create more/better customer interactions, etc: 3 points

d.    Internal activities: improve internal collaboration, aid new employee recruitment, etc: 3 points

Today, most small businesses use social media primarily to help market their businesses. 22% use it to generate new leads, and 21% use it to boost market awareness for the company. In comparison, just 10% use it to gather competitive intelligence, and 7% use it to get new ideas for product development. But, small businesses often find that they get more value from social media for these kinds of “listening functions” than for the megaphone-type marketing activities.

3. Which of the following social media channels does your company proactively use or plan to use to help you engage and interact with customers and prospects?  

Score 1 point for each of these that your business uses: a) Company Facebook page; b) post content to others’ relevant Facebook groups; c) social bookmarking sites; d) LinkedIn, e) YouTube; f) industry-specific communities; g) user review sites; h) geo location services; i) coupon services; j) company blog; k)posting on relevant blogs and forums.

Facebook accounts for the lion’s share of current SMB social media use. 26% of small businesses have a Facebook page, and 20% engage in and/or post content to relevant Facebook groups. In contrast, 9% use YouTube, 9% have a company blog, and 5% use coupon services such as Groupon or LivingSocial. However, small businesses are often more satisfied with the results they achieve from some of these less-utilized social media channels than from Facebook.

4. Does your company use or plan to use any free and/or paid tools to monitor and manage social media?

a.    Currently use either free and/or paid tools: 6 points

b.    Plan to use in the next 12 months: 2 points

c.      No plans to use: 0 points

Only a very tiny minority of small businesses use free tools to monitor and manage social media—and an even smaller group use paid tools. Without the ability to monitor and measure the results of your social media efforts, you risk wasting time engaging in activities that are not creating advantages for your business, or worse yet, doing things that could actually be damaging it.

Figure 2: Small Businesses’ Use of Free and Paid Tools to Monitor and Manage Social Media

How Did You Score?

28-33 points: Social Media Black Diamond: Congratulations, you are in the elite group of small businesses that are pushing the social media envelope. You’re eager to explore new ways to create value for your business with social media, and understand the value of social media as a 2-way communication channel. Through diligent listening and social media monitoring, you continuously recalibrate your efforts to optimize results.

20-27 points: Social Media Intermediate: Your knowledge of and comfort level for social media are growing. You’re likely to already have a plan. By putting more thought into the results you want to get, formulating metrics for success, and implementing more effective social media monitoring, you can expand your use of social media in a way that will produce significant results. Team up with partners, relevant industry groups and other simpatico organizations to help echo and reinforce each other.

13-20 points: Social Media Novice: You’re using social media, but in a fairly limited way, and you may not be sure it’s worth the effort. Remember that social media is a two-way street, and to listen to customers, prospects and others in your community, and not just trumpet your own messages. Take time to learn more about the different ways you can use social media in your business, how to use different social media channels for different types of business activities and start developing a strategy to use social media to help your business in one or two very specific ways.

0-12: Social Media Bunny: Everyone has to start somewhere, so congratulations even if you are just beginning to think about whether or not social media is for you. You don’t have to jump in with a company Facebook page of your own. Try starting by listening to and then joining relevant conversations, groups and forums that others have started to get a better feel for the dialogue and how people are responding to it. By listening and participating before you go all out establishing company blogs, YouTube channels, Facebook pages, etc. you can avoid many of the traps–such as shameless self-promotion–that a bunny might ordinarily fall into.

The New Dell and What it Means for SMBs: Takeaways from Dell’s 2011 Solutions for a Virtual Era Event

Twenty-seven years ago, Michael Dell launched Dell with $1,000 and a streamlined sales and manufacturing model that revolutionized the PC industry. Sticking with this playbook, Dell achieved similar success in the server market, once again disrupting the status quo.

However, times changed, and Dell started to look like a one-trick pony. As Michael Dell himself acknowledged at last week’s Dell’s 2011 Virtual Era Analyst Event, which I’m paraphrasing here, “Dell had a winning formula that worked for a long time…but then it didn’t work so well anymore. Technology changed, as did customers’ expectation of technology, and Dell had to reinvent itself.” After re-taking the helm in 2007, Michael Dell began charting a new  course for Dell–one designed to help it capitalize on market demand for better, more cost-effective and easier to use IT solutions.

At last week’s event, Dell provided us with an update on its strategy to help companies in the anytime, anywhere virtual era by providing customers with “open, capable, affordable solutions.” For Dell, this means building solutions on open, industry standards; providing customers with choice; virtually (instead of vertically) integrated solutions; and ensuring that solutions can scale as required.

By leveraging cloud computing and remote services, and delivering the right blend of hardware, service and software offerings as more complete solutions–instead of as commodity piece parts–Dell’s aim is to solve customers’ IT problems instead of creating new ones.

How Dell’s Strategy Plays in the SMB Market

At this year’s event, Dell put SMBs in the spotlight. Steve Felice, president of Dell’s Consumer, Small and Medium Business unit, took center stage in the line-up of keynote presentations, mapping out Dell’s SMB vision. Dell’s other executive presenters and panelists–up to and including Michael Dell–underscored Dell’s commitment to delivering products, services and solutions tailored to the needs of SMB customers as well. (This contrasted with last year’s event, at which Dell mentioned that it would use mid-market businesses as its design point, but then quickly veered into large enterprise territory for the bulk of the event).

More importantly, Dell is putting meat on the messaging bones at both ends of the SMB spectrum. For example:

  • Dell’s focal point for the Virtual Era is the mid-market. Dell defines the mid-market as companies with 500 to a few thousand employees. It believes that by starting with mid-market requirements, Dell believes it can more readily scale up or down and make the economics of IT work better for businesses of all sizes, because mid-market companies have complex IT needs, but scarce IT resources–and can’t afford a lot of expensive labor or IT tools. They need more complete, automated, fixed price IT solutions and services. Recent Dell acquisitions such as KACE, which helps simplify systems management and deployment with appliance and cloud-based solutions, and Boomi, which supplies cloud integration services to help companies affordably integrate cloud and on-premise applications,  focus on mid-market problems. Dell’s results to date illustrate how this approach is shaping up: KACE sales are up 400%, and Boomi (see Dell and Boomi: Doubling Down on Integration) sales are on track to double by year-end.  At Dell’s Take Your Own Path SMB event in December 2010, I met several Dell SMB customers, (see SMB Group video interviews with Chitale Dairy and Pixomondo) that are using these and other Dell solutions to help move their businesses ahead of the competition. 
  • Capitalizing on the consumerization trend. IT innovation used to move mostly downstream, from large enterprises to the consumer. These days, the direction has reversed. Consumers are buying brighter, shinier and often more capable devices than they get at work–and bringing them into the office. Entrepreneurs are starting their own businesses, and don’t want to sacrifice the looks, power, capability and ease of use of consumer devices for stodgy and unwieldy business products. In a nutshell, consumer IT is raising the bar for business IT. Dell is taking advantage of its position as one of only two major vendors with an end-to-end portfolio that spans client devices from consumers through large business. Dell’s consumer products provide it with a great access point to small businesses. Since the introduction of its small business Vostro line in 2007, Dell has continued to make refine and expand its offerings to help small businesses bridge the gap from consumer to prosumer and up with a portfolio of PCs, notebooks, tablets and smartphones geared to different needs across this spectrum, along with services to help with device manageability, security and control. In particular, Dell has been aggressively expanding its mobile offerings with a comprehensive line-up of Android and Windows 7 devices to capitalize on the transformational shift to mobile computing.
  • Taking a more channel-friendly but not a channel-only approach. Dell has moved from being a poster child for the direct model to a company that recognizes the value of the channel and the role it plays in the SMB market. Several of its recent acquisitions, including Compellent, EquaLogic and KACE brought strong reseller channels that Dell is building on. However, Dell also recognizes that while many SMBs continue to rely on the channel, SMBs are increasingly purchasing at least some of their IT solutions directly, as indicated in SMB Group’s 2010 SMB Routes to Market Study.  Unlike its major competitors, Dell’s first priority is to bring greater IT efficiency to the market–not on maintaining an IT channel that doesn’t add value. This should increase the odds that the channel partners that work with Dell are actually adding value instead of just serving as middlemen.
  • Becoming a bona fide software and services provider.  Dell and others have talked about “productizing” services and automating technology solutions to make them more affordable and provide better business value. Dell’s recent string of software acquisitions and its purchase of Perot Systems indicate Dell’s intent to become a serious force in this realm. Dell’s investments to date to build cloud infrastructure and services foreshadow its future intent to offer an expanded range of public, private and hybrid cloud solutions for SMBs. In addition, Dell’s Managed Services footprint is growing, with 9000 team members in 39 countries who provide an array of services, from application services to break/fix. Dell’s focus on using cloud and other technologies to help provide remote, automated services should make these services more affordable for SMBs.

Quick Take

Dell’s strategy for the Virtual Era and mid-market design point bode well for SMBs. Unlike the many technology vendors that speak in jargon-riddled tongues that can make your head spin, Dell execs are also able to tell the story in a way that mere mortals can understand. As important, Dell has found the silver lining in the Dell Hell support crisis of a few years back, building extensive social media capabilities so that it can listen to what customers want, and map to these requirements. Finally, Dell is walking the walk–investing in and building the software and services capabilities it will need to deliver its vision to SMB customers.

Dell contrasts its perspective with that of its traditional major competitors–HP and IBM, which it contends skew towards a large enterprise design point. While I think Dell may be overstating this, Dell’s SMB strategy and solutions seem to be more deeply entwined with the fabric of the corporate vision as a whole.

Of course, I’d like to see Dell go even further with its SMB agenda. Some top of mind ideas:

  • Provide a less expensive but just as inviting alternative to the Mac. Many entrepreneurs and small business owners are defecting from Windows PCs to Macs not because of hardware issues but because they’ve had too many experiences where the Windows slows down and gets funky. I’d love to see Dell put more focus into raising the profile of its non-Windows PC and desktop alternatives.
  • Offer a turnkey social media service for SMBs. Dell really gets social media, and in my opinion, is ahead of the field in understanding how to use it effectively. It would be great if Dell created a streamlined, turnkey offering to help SMBs use, monitor and manage social media. As we learned in the SMB Group’s 2011 SMB Social Business Study, and as highlighted in this post, Is There a Method to Social Media Madness, only about a quarter of SMBs are using social media in a strategic way, and few are using tools to manage and ensure that they’re getting return on their social media investments.
  • Solve the SMB dilemma of having to buy and pay for multiple mobile service contracts for different devices. How about using a little muscle with AT&T (Dell also needs to offer its mobile devices through Verizon) to enable–instead of prohibiting–SMBs to tether their notebooks with their smartphones (instead of banning this) via a bundled service package. The SMB Group’s 2010 SMB Mobile Solutions Study showed that expensive data plans for mobile services are the biggest inhibitor to SMBs adopting mobile solutions, as discussed here.

Dell’s commitment to the SMB market is coming through loud and clear. If it can stay focused and be bold, it has the opportunity to do some big things for SMBs that should really pay off for both Dell and for its SMB customers.

Dell and Boomi: Doubling Down on Integration

Originally published 4-26-11 as an SMB Group research brief in .pdf format, available here.

When big companies gobble up smaller ones, you always wonder whether the acquired company will get swallowed up into the belly of the beast, derailed or morphed into something unrecognizable.

In November, Dell acquired Boomi, which provides AtomSphere®, a cloud integration service that promises to help companies more efficiently and affordably integrate cloud and on-premise applications.  Boomi’s integration cloud helps Dell solve the problem of integrating applications across different locations, networks, clouds and companies (Figure 1). The Boomi acquisition also underscored Dell’s broader strategy (and a string of acquisitions) to create a cloud computing portfolio to help customers maximize the benefits of cloud computing in what Dell calls the “Virtual Era.”

Fortunately, it looks as if Dell is helping Boomi stay the integration course, as we learned in a recent update on the progress of the Dell-Boomi acquisition. In this brief, we provide a brief overview of what Boomi is and what it does, highlights of its new Spring 2011 release, and our perspective on how the Dell-Boomi acquisition is shaping up.

Figure 1: Boomi’s Integration Cloud

What is Boomi and How Does it Work?

Boomi gives companies of all sizes a one-stop shop where they can integrate any combination of SaaS and on-premise applications, and third-party trading partners via Boomi’s AtomSphere integration cloud.

The secret sauce that enables Boomi AtomSphere to deploy these integrations as a service is the lightweight, distributed runtime engines that Boomi calls “atoms” (Figure 2). Boomi’s patent-pending atoms contain the components needed to execute an integration process—including connectors, transformation rules, decision handling and processing logic. With Boomi, customers and partners can:

  • Sign up for an account and begin building integrations immediately for free. Boomi provides a free Trial via the Web, and users can develop the integration without paying a fee.  Once they deploy the integration, users pay for it with monthly subscription pricing.
  • Create integrations without programmers. Based on user feedback, Boomi has redesigned the user interface a couple of times over the years to make it user-friendly for the likes of systems analysts, advanced CRM administrators, or those with report-writing and business intelligence skills.
  • Choose where they want to run their Boomi integrations. Users can have Boomi run their self-contained, autonomous “Boomi atom” integrations in a public cloud, or in a private cloud or on-premise behind their own firewalls. But, while users choose where they run their Boomi atoms, these atoms always connect back to Boomi’s data center for centralized management, updates, etc. via the AtomSphere cloud.
  • Build and/or use pre-built integration widgets. Boomi and its partners also provide pre-packaged integrations in ready-to-run wizards that business users can deploy.  ISV partners typically build these widgets and bundle them with their applications. The widgets contain the application connectors plus the data mappings and transformation logic, and feature wizards to walk end-users through the integration in a step-by-step fashion. For example, Taleo has built Boomi a widget for Workday to ADP integrations.
  • Use the Boomi dashboard to monitor the status and health of all of their integrations, and provide an audit trail.

Figure 2: How Boomi Works

As important, Boomi doesn’t impose any additional security concerns for users. When customers deploy the atom behind their firewall no data passes through AtomSphere. AtomSphere only monitors the health and status of the atom—the data only flows directly between the applications being integrated.


Community is another significant part of Boomi’s value-add. The Boomi dashboard features a green feedback button, and Boomi implements at least 25% of the top-vote getters each quarter. In addition, Boomi Suggest aggregates integration maps (over 15,000 live maps to date) from users. When another user has a similar integration requirement, Boomi Suggest generates automated mapping guidance that typically provides about 80% of the data mapping required—cutting time and cost from the most time-consuming part of creating an integration.

The Boomi ecosystem also houses public and private connector communities, so that once someone builds a connector, they can share it. Boomi provides a revenue share arrangement for companies that build public connectors and widgets.

Boomi’s Spring 2011 Release

Boomi’s Spring release centers on four key areas:

1.     Providing additional connectivity to legacy middleware, such as IBM MQSeries, Tibco, webMethods, Progress, etc. to make it easier for companies to connect Boomi integrations with their on-premise integration services, enabling them to more easily connect existing integrations and applications to SaaS and cloud applications.

2.     Supporting simpler, faster processing for large data sets. This enhancement simplifies data migration, and includes automatic support for’s bulk API, designed for organizations that need to load large amounts of data into Instead of dealing with’s complex API directly, Boomi users simply check a box, and the tool calculates the optimal batch size for loading.

3.     Anywhere integration monitoring. With the advent of cloud computing, applications and data are increasingly distributed across many different locations, networks and corporate boundaries. Boomi atoms enable users to distribute integration capabilities to these disparate data sources, without sacrificing centralized monitoring and management across integrations. Boomi has also added a new API so that users can connect Boomi to third-party monitoring, such as Dell OpenManage.

4.     New partner support programs. Boomi has introduced a 4-day hands-on boot camp for integration practitioners, as well as a new 3-level partner certification program to promote consistent service quality across the partner ecosystem.

While some of these enhancements focus on large companies, they also make it easier for ISVs and SIs to develop, monitor and manage widgets and integration services for their SMB customers.

Why Should SMBs Care?

As noted in the SMB Group’s 2011 SMB Top Ten Technology Trends, cloud computing and software-as-a-service (SaaS) have taken IT cost and complexity out of deploying business solutions, making it easier for SMBs to deploy applications to help run their businesses more effectively.

While some vendors provide integrated business suites, most companies run a mix of on-premise and cloud applications from different vendors. For instance, they may use Intuit QuickBooks, a Sage or Microsoft solution for back-office accounting and ERP needs, for CRM, and other cloud applications for marketing or HR.  But they often lack the time, money or appetite to integrate these applications. When applications don’t “talk to each other” businesses waste a lot of time re-entering redundant data and reconciling inconsistent and inaccurate information across key workflows, such as order to cash. At the same time, the volume of data that SMBs must manage is growing exponentially–adding to the integration challenge.

Simple, clean and affordable integration options help SMBs decrease the time it takes to integrate applications, and derive maximum value from the business solution investments, by:

  • Streamlining connectivity between internal applications and with third-party applications and processes.
  • Reducing the time, errors and business costs associated with inaccurate data entry.
  • Providing a consistent, real-time view of information across integrated applications.

When ISVs or integrators offer SMBs a short cut to integrate applications with those of relevant partners, they help remove adoption barriers and enable SMBs to get more value out of their business applications with less hassle.

How the Dell-Boomi Acquisition Is Shaping Up

Hosted by Dell’s SMB Group (and also working closely with Dell’s Services team), Boomi has retained its offices and independence in Philadelphia and San Francisco. Dell has put a corporate integration executive in place to help smooth the transition, and is investing to double Boomi’s staff by the end of 2011.

However, Boomi continues to gear its offerings for enterprises of all sizes, with revenues evenly split between large enterprise and SMBs. For instance, Mindjet, which has about 250 employees, wanted to standardize its business application integrations to minimize ongoing technical support requirements, and support Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. The company was able to create its first integration in 5 weeks, without using any internal IT resources, is using Boomi’s centralized management and data auditing capabilities to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley, and is adding additional integrations.

About 75% of Boomi’s are channel influenced. Boomi has grown its ISV and SI partner roster to 70+ companies. As discussed earlier, partners can build widgets and deliver them to customers as a packaged integration. Boomi estimates that about ½ of its ISV partners build widgets, and each typically creates about 3 to 5 of them. In addition, there are about 15, 000 live data maps in Boomi Suggest and about 200 connectors in Boomi communities.

Dell Boomi At A Glance  
Number of end-user customers 500+
Number of ISV and SI partners 70+
Number of Boomi connectors in Boomi communities ~200
Number of live data maps ~15,0000
Number of Boomi employees 50 and growing rapidly with 20+ openings

SMB Group Summary and Perspective

The integration challenge has always been complex, and continues to become 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.

Six months into the acquisition, Dell’s approach appears to be on target. Boomi has stayed focused on its mission of helping companies overcome one of the major hurdles to adopting new cloud-based solutions—without having the burdens of raising capital or fielding questions about financial viability.

As a result, Boomi’s growth curve is accelerating. Although some of the Spring 2011 enhancements seem most appropriate for larger customers, they should also help ISVs ease integration issues for SMBs in a more scalable manner. In many cases, SMBs often lack the skills or resources for do-it-yourself integrations, and pre-built connectors and widgets from ISVs are a much better fit.

Looking ahead, while Dell and Boomi indicate they will continue to nurture this channel-friendly, community-centric strategy, Dell is starting to train its own sales, services and specialist teams on Boomi. Although the Dell-Boomi offering faces strong competition in the integration arena from the likes of IBM-Cast Iron, Informatica and Pervasive, Dell teams should provide Boomi with a strong sales boost among both end-users and partners, especially if Dell can leverage Boomi out to its worldwide teams to take advantage of global opportunities.

Overall, Boomi’s cloud integration solution is a good fit with Dell’s expanding cloud computing strategy. As important, Dell’s corporate integration approach appears to be off to a good start to providing the combination of nurturing and autonomy that will help Boomi thrive and optimize the value it can deliver to Dell, its partners and customers.