Laurie: Hi Jon, thanks for speaking with me today. Before we get into what’s new with Acumatica 6.0, can you start by giving us some background as Acumatica?
Jon: Sure, Acumatica develops and sells business applications to mid-market companies. Typically, companies that are about a $10 million revenue number, going up to…we have customers now that are in the billions. The company was formed in 2008, by a set of folks who were really ERP veterans from the ’90s, by some of the founders of Solomon saw the cloud transition happening. They said, “Wow, this cloud platform is real, and we should build an ERP product for the mid-market for that platform.” And that’s how Acumatica started.
How Is Acumatica Different Than Other ERP Vendors?
Laurie: As you know, there are a number of companies competing for business in that space. What differentiates Acumatica from the pack?
Jon: A few things. One is we had the advantage of coming to market a bit later than many. We were founded in 2008, the year the iPhone shipped, and the year HTML5 was ratified as an internet standard. So we’re built on modern cloud technologies. But, 2008, that’s not yesterday either. It takes about five years to build a very robust platform. So, we have the right combination of new technology, and we have thousands of customers using it. It’s proven and tested. The second thing is our licensing policy’s very different from most ERP vendors, who are trying to milk as much money as they can on a user model basis.
Laurie: With per user, per month pricing?
Jon: Exactly. Our philosophy is that ERP is the system of record for the company, and that it’s very important that people in the company who should get access to that information should be able to get that access when it’s needed–without this having to drive a decision of when the business should have to pay for another license or not. So, we basically slot customers into small, medium, or large configurations. From then they get unlimited access, both for employees but also sometimes more importantly is their partners.
Laurie: What about their customers?
John: Yes. We service a lot of businesses that are in ecommerce distribution, wholesale warehouse-type operations, and they have customers or partners interfacing through some sort of portal, and you don’t want to have to pay a license for those customers, who may place an order once a month. And the third differentiator is mobile. Our mobile solution is really unique in that it’s extremely rich, available on iOS and Android, and we truly differentiate versus any of our competitors.
Laurie: In what respect?
Jon: It’s included. What most of the competitors do is they give you a fixed application. They’ll give you an expense app, or a time reporting app. What Acumatica does, we’ll give you a set of applications out of the box, but because we deliver through a channel–this is another thing we should talk about some point, is our partner channel–because we deliver through a channel, our partners can add value and customize so that time and reporting application is unique to your company, and not a generic.
Laurie: What kind of uptake are you seeing on the mobile capabilities in your customer base? .
Jon: Very strong. Especially lately this year, pretty much everybody is doing something with mobile. Some vendors will tell you that because they have a browser-based solution, that means they’re mobile, but it really isn’t. If you look at the typical accounting screen, it’s very complicated. So, you don’t want to take this really complicated screen and look at it on a little phone screen. You want to have simplified screens, tailored to the device, that work with your workflow.
At this point, all of our customers are using our expense app. So if you’re having dinner with a customer, you just snap picture of the receipt, and automatically file the expense report from your phone. So you don’t have a stack of them on your desk at the end of the month, which I certainly used to have.
Laurie: That brings up another question. ERP, enterprise resource management, and business application management–these labels can cover many different functions. What are the key functions that the Acumatica handles?
Mapping Functionality to Customer Stages
Jon: The starting point is financials. In fact, 20% of our customers are coming from QuickBooks. They’ve outgrown QuickBooks, and need to figure out something else. If they’re in QuickBooks Online, they’re already in the cloud, so it’s a very easy migration to an Acumatica solution. It’s typically driven by something such as having to process multi-currency transactions, because they’re getting paid in other currencies. Or they open another office as a different subsidiary. So, it starts with the financials, I call called that “tracking the business”. You go into Acumatica, and you can see what’s going on with the money.
The second phase is that customers may start using Acumatica for things like CRM and distribution. You’ve got your customers in your system, and you want to help drive renewals or service opportunities for your business. Acumatica distribution capabilities help you track inventory, shipments, and more. At this point you’re truly operating your business on top of Acumatica.
The third stage is when customers become very thoughtful about their business processes and workflows. You know, there are too many companies out there that I see where they make the business fit the software, and that’s just wrong. The software should fit the business. So, you want to think about how should your business operate, what processes do you really want to get good at. At this point, Acumatica has a workflow engine that lets you encode these processes into Acumatica.
Laurie: A company’s unique workflow?
Jon: Your unique processes, right. Our partners help our customer do that, so at that point you have a custom business solution with Acumatica, probably in the price range of $75,000 to $200,000.
Laurie: So what’s new with Acumatica 6.0? Are you announcing a new vertical focus?
What’s New In Acumatica 6.0
Jon: Our customers fall into some major verticals. Professional services, manufacturing, ecommerce, and retail solutions, and distribution or wholesale distribution are the top ones for us. We announced in February that we had acquired M5 Solutions, a service management company, and we’re integrating that with Acumatica–and it’s been selling like crazy. Q2 was awesome, awesome results for the company, partially driven by how much that new service module that we’ve been attaching.
Laurie: In addition to the fact that companies like to have things their way, what else have you heard from customers that influences product development?
Jon: Our CRM product is a good example of that. Often customers buy ERP from one vendor and CRM from another. Then you need to bring the two together and synchronize them, and you wind up with two separate customer formats. The fact that Acumatica sells both an ERP and a CRM is an advantage for half of our customers, 50% use our CRM, and they love it. There’s one version of the truth all the time, and that’s a place where…
Laurie: And what’s new in Acumatica 6.0 in terms of Office 365 integration?
Jon: In the 5.0 release, we introduced Office 365 integration, and integrated Office 365 contacts and tasks and calendar with Acumatica CRM. But we know that many users don’t spend their life in the accounting system, they actually live in things like Outlook as well. I certainly do. You probably do as well. So in 6.0, we’re launching a new Acumatica Outlook add-in. So, when you’re working inside Outlook, you’ll have the context of all of your Acumatica contacts there. So, if you’re looking at an email from Laurie McCabe and Laurie McCabe has an outstanding invoice for$200,000, it will pop up and show me that. Or if, for instance, a regular service update needs to be done, that will show up. So, it’s the sort of thing you would have in your system automatically. So, when you’re talking or emailing with someone, you see it in context.
Laurie: It sounds like Acumatica 6 has some great updates, and thanks for sharing some high-level background as well.
This past week, I had the opportunity to talk to Steve Creskoff, a lawyer and a leading expert on international trade. And Steve has just published a new book called “What You Need to Know to Go Global: A Guide to International Transactions.” The best part about this is he’s written it specifically for small and medium businesses that want to explore their options in the international market.
Laurie: Steve, I’m excited to talk to you, because in our SMB Group surveys and the research we do, we see that only a small percentage of U.S. SMBs do business outside of the United States. So, first of all, why do you think this is?
Steve: Well, this is just what the case is today, and it’s unfortunate because small and medium businesses are very competitive internationally. They need to think more about their position in global markets. The statistics tell us that, in terms of trade and goods, only about 23% of U.S. GDP is in trade and goods, and about the same for trade and services, and this is very low. The lowest for any developed economy. So, our small businesses often are not aware of the international opportunities for them.
Laurie: That is very similar to what our data says. But I didn’t realize that the U.S. is the lowest.
Steve: For a developed economy, we’re by far the lowest.
Laurie: So why should more small and medium businesses think about doing business beyond U.S. borders?
Steve: Well, first, let me talk about services. Our economy is about 80% services, and a lot of those services are tradeable, and we’re extremely competitive internationally with our services businesses. We export more services than any other country in the world by far and we have a very favorable surplus in trade and services, so this is important. The politicians don’t talk about that, but this is an area of international trade where we’ve been very successful. And then, of course, about 94 to 95 percent of world population is outside the U.S., so there are all sorts of opportunities for small businesses, whether it’s services providers or if they have a tangible product. So, there are great opportunities that should not be ignored.
Laurie: What are the risks to ignoring the potential?
Steve: First, what you don’t know can hurt you. If you’re not aware of how your product is situated internationally, an international competitor can come into the U.S. market and eat your lunch, so to speak. So, you have to be aware of… You have to evaluate your product or service for the international market and for the global economy, no matter how small you are. For instance, I’m a very small service provider, but most of my work is international, and that’s the case with a lot of businesses that I know.
Laurie: Yes, but many business owners don’t see a ready opportunity to extend their business overseas. Do you have a couple of examples you could share of creative ways that SMBs have gone into new markets.
Steve: Well, first of all, it’s like domestic business. It’s all about people. It’s about meeting people, developing a personal relationship, and telling them about your product or service. You can do this at international trade shows. You can do this through visits, as you do, of course, for domestic clients. And, of course, there are government resources, which are valuable. The U.S. Commerce Department and Small Business Administration have excellent resources. And last but maybe most important are the new internet platforms that have been developed that open up all sorts of potential for international business. Probably it’s an exception about my point about meeting the people, because now you can actually put up your goods or services on an Internet platform and start engaging with prospects in new countries through that.
Laurie: Right. The Internet definitely makes the world smaller. Do you have a favorite business story about a particular business that did something innovative in terms of going to market in another country?
Steve: Well, I’m legal counsel to the Trade Association of Fencing Manufacturers, and one of the members makes equipment to manufacture fencing. They’ve sold in more than 60 countries around the world. They’re located in Southern California. It’s a small business, and it’s not a new technology, but the services component is very important because they send people to their customers to train them on how to use the equipment, and that’s been very significant. So, there are many, many examples of small businesses that have been extremely successful.
Laurie: And you can differentiate yourself with customer service.
Steve: Yes. We think in terms of products and services being separate, but they’re not really. Maybe you’re selling a tangible product, but the services might be critical to that product. Conversely, you may be selling a service, but there may be certain tangible products that support that service
Laurie: So, once a business owner says, “Hmm, I think I do have an opportunity to compete in this market. I can differentiate on either innovation, my product, or service, or whatever,” some of the key financial or regulatory or other kinds of considerations that a business really needs to understand to be successful?
Steve: It’s not really rocket science. There’s a great deal of uniformity around the world in terms of the regulations that apply to international trade and goods and services now, whether it’s a World Trade Organization agreement or a different type of international agreement. Because our businesses are so successful in the area of technology, export controls is one issue I would identify. Not that many goods and services are subject to export controls, but anything that is a so-called dual use item that might have a military application, the commerce department is responsible for that regulation here in the U.S. But businesses can very quickly find out whether there may be an issue or not. Only about 10% of exports are subject to export controls. As far as import controls and taxation and so forth, there are a lot of advisers that can be helpful, whether they’re freight forwarders, customs brokers, trade consultants. And, of course, the commerce department and the small business administration also provide advice. And my book–I’ll be shameless and promote my book!–has a great deal of detail and provides an overview of these various regulations so that a business can have an idea of when they should be talking to a consultant or a lawyer and when they’re probably okay.
Laurie: Absolutely. This has really been interesting, and starts to lessen some of intimidation about expanding a business internationally. But we’ve only just touched on just the tip of the iceberg. As you said, business owners that want to learn more can find a wealth of information about key considerations in your book, “What You Need to Know to Go Global,” which is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, both in paperback, and for Kindle and other ebook formats.
Steve: Thanks. Businesses can also check out my website. And I’m happy to say that the World Trade Organization in Geneva has taken an interest in my book, so my official book launch is going to be September 28th in Geneva. I’m very happy that they like the book and they’re going to be joining me in promoting it. The book isn’t t intimidating in terms of a lot of technical detail, and you can skip chapters if you’re not particularly interested in a given area. It’s like a travel manual. You read the parts that are of interest to you and relevant to your business and you can skip the other parts. So, I hope that many of your listeners will take a look at my book and start exploring their options.
Laurie: Thanks again, Steve, and best wishes for the book launch.
“Digital transformation” is one of the top trending buzzwords in technology today. But what does digital transformation mean? In broad terms, many define it as using digital technology to enable innovation and new, often disruptive, business models. However, technology vendors put different spins on digital transformation, depending on how their solutions fit in to the puzzle.
Most small and medium business (SMB) decision-makers view technology as a key to improving business processes and outcomes (Figure 1). But at the same time,SMBs rank “figuring out which technology solutions can help my business” as one of their top three technology challenges. Although SMBs have bought into the concept of using technology to improve and transform their businesses, many struggle to when it comes to putting a strategy in place to achieve these goals.
Figure 1: SMB Technology Attitudes and Challenges
So I was interested to hear how SAP is framing the digital transformation story for its SAP Business One partners at SAP’s Business One Americas Innovation Summit in April. Although the ERP giant is best know for its large enterprise solutions, Business One, with over 50,000 customers worldwide, is SAP’s flagship business management solution for SMBs.
SAP’s 50,000 Foot View of Digital Transformation
In his opening keynote, Jonathan Becher, Chief Digital Officer at SAP, addressed the growing reality that today, companies need to disrupt or be disrupted. Unlike the industrial revolution, which allowed for a more linear approach to change, the digital era requires exponential change. Becher described digital transformation as consisting of three fundamental shifts:
- New customer experiences, such as in the music industry, which has evolved from vinyl records, tapes and CDs to iTunes and then Spotify and other streaming services;
- New business models, again using the example of the music industry, and its evolution from analog to digital buying and streaming;
- New value creation, as in the case of Airbnb, which has used technology to create a new way for people to list, find, and rent lodging.
While human creativity provides the spark, technology is the fuel that enables businesses to change their business processes and make the vision a reality.
Figure 2: Digital Business Requires Different Processes
HANA: SAP’s Innovation Foundation for Business One
In 2014, Business One became SAP’s first business management solution for SMBs running on SAP’s HANA computing platform. Positioning Business One SQL Server edition as the past, Luis Murguia, SAP’s Senior Vice President and General Manager for Business One, positioned SAP Business One HANA as the “foundation for innovation.” With Business One HANA, SMBs can analyze massive amounts of structured and unstructured information within seconds instead of days, and use predictive analytics to gain new insights into data and optimize business decision-making.
SAP has also modernized Business One with new cloud deployment services from within the SAP cloud. The cloud option is key to SAP Business One HANA growth in the Microsoft-centric SMB market, as it negates the need for the SMBs to understand deploy and manage a new database.
I asked partners at the event, including ECS, Vision 33, Boyum and AchieveIT Solutions, for their views on why customers choose Business One HANA. They noted the solution’s enterprise search capability, which allows users to quickly search for key information. Instead of stepping through tedious pull down menus to find information, such as how many units of an item are in stock, what’s sold and what’s been reordered, users can do a quick search. Another favorite is the ability to create interactive, Excel-like spreadsheets that are connected to the HANA database and refresh in seconds, enabling users to quickly slice and dice data, and make decisions based on real-time information. Partners also said customers see Business One HANA’s user-customizable dashboards and predictive analytics capabilities as top benefits.
Murguia described some real-world examples of how SMBs are using Business One HANA to transform their businesses. For instance, he discussed how a Medistance, an Omron medical equipment distributor in East Europe, changed the game against larger competitors by developing a remote managed care service. Medistance, which had been selling the devices, created a remote managed care service to monitor users’ blood pressure and glucose levels. It now gives away the devices to subscribers to its $15 per month service, which provides alarm notifications and services to evaluate risks and treatment recommendations.
SAP Business One Partners: Key to Moving from Steady to Exponential Growth
Overall, SAP has been steadily growing Business One’s footprint. Sales are up 17% year-over-year, and in 2016, Business One has been adding an average of twenty new customers a day. More important, Business One HANA revenues are also rising. According to SAP, 180 of the 1,000 new Business One customers last quarter chose HANA. However, while SAP is making good progress in wooing new Business One customers to HANA, key challenges remain when it comes to catalyzing exponential growth.
As Murguia noted, Business One partners are essential to accelerating this type of growth. But although some partners have seized on the opportunity Business One HANA provides to sell the digital transformation story, others are sticking with what they know—which is the Microsoft SQL Server version of Business One.
To persuade partners to make this transition, Murguia exhorted them realign their resources and thinking from opportunistic to having a clear vertical and geographic focus. With industry expertise, partners can provide SMBs with guidance for industry-centric innovation, using HANA, cloud, analytics, and mobility as the fuel for change. He underscored the need for partners to make this shift by noting that:
- SAP introduced a new mobile app for sales professionals, which will only run on Business One HANA.
- Only Business One HANA supports multi-currency.
- SAP is providing incentives to sell Business One HANA.
- 95% of new customers use Business One with an industry add-on, and 200 top Business One ISV partners have migrated over 600 vertical apps to HANA.
- Millennial decision-makers will demand the type of Internet-like experience that Business One HANA provides.
Upping Business One’s Go-To-Market Game
SAP is investing in industry-specific marketing programs for consumer packaged goods (CPG), industrial machinery and components, professional services, retail, wholesale and distribution. It is also recruiting non-traditional partners with industry expertise, and providing more support from SAP inside sales to help partners build their pipelines. In addition, SAP has extended its University Alliance program beyond four-year institutions to partner is with community colleges to use Business One HANA in the classroom to encourage more trained millenials into the partner fold.
The vendor is also doubling down on content by making it easier for partners to find and use relevant case studies and to personalize their own success stories. SAP will help partners create more mobile-friendly, bite-size content for its Business One Repository, which currently has over 2700 testimonials. SAP is also “humanizing communication” with local advertising with its “Business One around the world” theme which features local landmarks, and a push to expand social media engagement beyond current Business One customers to a broader swath of businesses in it’s targeted vertical markets.
The digital transformation imperative is clear. Businesses can actively embrace new possibilities and set themselves apart in their markets, or ignore it and risk being stream rolled under.
SAP Business One has a good story and positive proof points in terms of helping SMBs navigate this transformation. In fact, partners told me that once they are in a deal, win rates are over fifty percent.
However, getting into consideration (outside of some European countries and Latin America, where SAP Business One is a recognized SMB brand) is still a struggle. In many geographies, SMBs often discount SAP as a big business brand that’s not for them.
Furthermore, SMBs have many choices when it comes to ERP. While SAP Business One HANA is much less complex than its large enterprise ERP solution, Business One is arguably more complex and takes longer to deploy than several other choices. Some businesses are willing to accept complexity in return for a high degree of customization capabilities, but many will balk at the upfront learning and implementation curve,
To meet its exponential growth goals, SAP needs not only to deliver on the marketing programs discussed above, but must also:
- Develop more compelling “high air cover” brand awareness. SAP needs a much more compelling, omnichannel brand campaign to increase the odds that Business One gets invited to the SMB table.
- Do a better job of “connecting the dots.” How exactly does SAP Business One HANA help SMBs transform and achieve success in the digital era? Why is It more effective than other solutions? SAP must paint a more detailed picture and provide more industry-specific metrics to drive the story home.
- Clear up the cloud story. Business One cloud options are still difficult to sort through. My understanding is that services from the SAP cloud are available in North America, but not in other countries. Some of the European partners I spoke with have their own hosting centers, and say that because of customization requirements and data privacy laws in Europe, multi-tenant cloud isn’t a viable option. If SAP really wants to use the cloud to fuel HANA adoption, it needs to have a much more straightforward cloud story or risks having pure cloud competitors undermine it in deals where cloud is the customer’s preference.
- Put the SAP SMB puzzle pieces together. SAP needs to pull together Business One, Business By Design, Concur, Ariba, SAP Anywhere and other SMB-related SAP solutions into a more holistic, understandable SMB strategy.
SAP has come a long way in transforming the Business One solution for the digital era. However, only time will tell if it can go the distance with additional steps necessary for solution transformation, partner development and marketing reinvention.
The Internet, cloud computing and mobile solutions have empowered people with the freedom and flexibility to do their jobs more easily and quickly than ever before. At the same time, new technologies continue to expand the volume and variety of data at our fingertips, enabling us to create and share information in new ways.
Technology is rapidly reshaping how people work in all businesses, regardless of size. In fact, the old stereotype of SMBs as technology laggards no longer fits: SMB Group’s 2016 Top 10 SMB Technology Trends reveal that today, the vast majority of SMBs have more favorable views about technology’s role in their business (Figure 1). Furthermore, Dell’s Global Technology Adoption Index (GTAI 2015) finds that enterprises using new technologies including big data, cloud computing and mobile solutions have up to 53% higher revenue growth rates than enterprises that don’t.
Figure 1: SMBs View Technology as Key to Success
Source: SMB Group 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study
As Reliance on Technology Grows, Security Requirements Become More Complex
Most SMBs understand that data security and management challenges grow as technology becomes a bigger part of the business fabric. Our study shows that both small and medium businesses rank security as their second-most-pressing technology challenge (Figure 2).
Figure 2: Top Technology Challenges for SMBsSource: SMB Group 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study
However, as noted in SMB Group’s 2016 Top 10 SMB Technology Trends, “Security Remains the Elephant in the SMB Room.” SMBs often feel overwhelmed, confused or inadequate to deal with the magnitude of the seemingly endless potential for digital security breaches. The growth of data, mobile solutions, cloud computing and other technologies give users more flexibility and freedom. But with data living in more places, the risk of data loss and leakage rises. Unfortunately, as we put more information into the right hands, we also increase the likelihood of putting it into the wrong ones.
As the sheer magnitude of potential cyber-security risks grows, SMBs that continue to take an outdated, ineffective, 1990s-era “whack-a-mole” approach to security–deploying point solutions to ward off the security threat du jour–are at increasing risk for both accidental and malicious data breaches.
But, SMB Group research indicates that on average, only 22% of businesses with fewer than 100 employees have full-time, dedicated IT staff, and 31% have no IT support at all. Meanwhile, although 85% of medium businesses have dedicated IT staff, these employees are likely to be IT generalists. Given the fact that there are no chief security officers in SMBs, what’s an SMB to do?
Finding Balance: A New Security Approach for SMBs
SMBs need a more comprehensive approach—one that makes security a manageable challenge instead of a bewildering, unsolvable nightmare. They need a solution that enables them to continue taking advantage of the latest mobile, cloud and other technology advancements, and also offers peace of mind that their biggest risks are being managed.
Endpoint security management solutions help close off the biggest vulnerabilities to the most critical corporate data, wherever it resides—whether endpoint devices, mobile apps, on-premises infrastructure and applications or the cloud (Figure 3). Endpoints can include any end-user device, such as smartphones, PCs and tablets, as well as specialized devices such as point-of-sale terminals and bar code readers.
Figure 3: Endpoint Security ManagementSource: SMB Group 2015 SMB Routes to Market Study
These solutions provide policy-based approach that requires endpoint devices to comply with specific criteria before they are granted access to network resources. For instance endpoint security management solutions:
- Check the status of a user’s device when it connects to the network to ensure that the operating system, browser and other applications are in compliance
- Determine whether security components are up to date.
- Enable policies to be created to set up individual rules for different levels of access to files or applications.
- Are deployed on both the client and server-side, enabling centralized monitoring and management on the server.
- Are often data-centric, meaning that they encrypt and protect the data itself so that it remains protected as it travels across different devices or cloud platforms.
Sponsored by Dell, SMB Group’s free research brief, Finding Balance: A New Security Approach for SMBs, is designed to improve SMB understanding in this area. The brief discusses how endpoint security solutions work; internal considerations to keep in mind when developing an endpoint security strategy; and key capabilities to look for in an endpoint security solution.
Although you can’t eliminate every risk, endpoint security management can offer a more holistic, rules-based approach to face and address the security elephant in your business a more effective way.
This post is sponsored by Dell.
Laurie: Hi, this is Laurie McCabe from SMB Group, and today I’m continuing my conversation with Jason Shepherd, who is Director of strategy and partnerships for Dell’s new Internet of Things (IoT) division. In this second post, we talk about top challenges IoT partners face, how Dell helps address these challenges, and get an update on Dell’s IoT contest. In the first post, Jason provided an overview of Dell’s new Internet of Things division and how its partner programs are structured. In this one, I’m following up to hear about your meeting with Dell IoT partners recently to talk about their challenges. What did you learn?
Jason: Yes, we had our first IoT partner round table, with over 30 different ISV partners, to have an open discussion about their challenges and what they need to accelerate in the market. (see one attendee’s perspective here). We found that their number one challenge, after security–or in some cases, even before security–is data integration. They are looking for hardware solutions, such as Dell’s Edge Gateway 5000 Series to provide a foundation for normalizing all the different fragmented data standards in the field.
Another top challenge is making end users aware of the potential of IoT, helping them to understand potential ROI (return-on-investment) for a solution, and convincing them to take that first step to deploy. So in addition to helping partners on the technology side, partners also want Dell’s help with marketing use cases, case studies, solution blueprints and other assets that help demonstrate ROI and show customers IoT’s potential.
We’ve found that Dell’s perspective about starting small and building fast for IoT is really resonating. There’s a lot of big talk about IoT, and that can be overwhelming. Dell’s approach is practical, to help people first connect existing systems and solve an immediate problem, and then build from there. And then of course, being able to incorporate security and management tools that IT is familiar with helps our OT-focused partners gain credibility and overcome potential IT hurdles. Also, partners need help to connect with other partners. At the end of the day IoT is a partnership game.
Dell’s focus on edge gateways, combined with providing credibility and visibility are really critical, especially for smaller innovators in this space. The other thing that came out of it was having quality hardware. Something in the sweet spot between maker-grade and boutique product that’s purpose-built for these industrial use cases but affordable, that they can really trust and rely on. They’re looking to us to help with that.
Laurie: Can you talk more specifically about the kinds of support you give them?Jason: Yes. We have certification and sales engineers that work with partners to go help them build on Dell technologies, and we have Dell IoT Labs around the globe (Santa Clara, Limerick and Singapore). Partners and customers can bring in their own technology to prove out their solutions on Dell technology.
As partners build solid use cases for their solutions, we can help them create blueprints, ROI proof points, and go to market plans to jointly pursue opportunities.
Laurie: Do you do that on an individual basis?
Jason: Yes, and as Dell and its partners mature together and IoT use cases become even more repeatable, we can develop focused solution bundles complete with sensors, infrastructure and software. We won’t be able to do this for highly complex scenarios but it’s certainly foreseeable that we can create bundles for things like a remote monitoring solution for a data center, a predictive maintenance solution for a machine, a quality control system for the end of a manufacturing line, or a building automation solution for a small retail space. Reducing complexity through solution bundles is where you really start to enable scale or deploying IoT solutions.
Laurie: Do you foresee Dell building sensors?
Jason: We’re do not plan to make sensors, but in time we will certify partner sensors to work with Dell Gateways, the rest of our infrastructure and enabling technologies, and offerings from our key software partners.
Laurie: Okay. So, what are some of your favorite partner stories?
Jason: One is Arrow Electronics, which we showcased at Dell World last fall. Arrow has a warehouse in Phoenix, with eight business units using the facility and power. They all just split the power bill at the end of the month, because they couldn’t determine who was using how much. Arrow, their system integration division, and OSIsoft, which is a well-recognized leader of data historian software with their PI platform, teamed up with Wireless Glue, a startup that provides gateway middleware for connecting to industrial sensor protocols. They all came together to build a solution to instrument the warehouse and create dashboards and analytics of the power consumption. which is a great example of how different partners with different capabilities can join forces to solve a problem. And now that Arrow has the IoT infrastructure in the warehouse they can look at other things they can do to add value. For example, it could be something like making their forklifts more effective, or doing indoor location tracking for pallets and other assets in the warehouse.
Laurie: So the light bulb goes on and they start to look at other use cases.
Jason: Yes, once you have that infrastructure you can start to riff off of it and do new things. It’s a classic example of starting with a focused problem—not trying to do too much at once. Fix the core problem and then grow from there, which is right in line with our message of starting small and building fast
Another example is INEX IoT Impact Labs, in New Bedford, MA, is focused on accelerating and improving how small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) in the community learn about and gain value from the Internet of Things (IoT). Dell, IoT IMPACT LABS’ parent INEX Advisors, Analog Devices, BCC, Foley and Lardner LLP, and PTC Inc. have teamed up to create this IoT solutions hub with many of the end users being fisheries or farms–small businesses in small cities, which don’t have the IT expertise or resources to take advantage of IoT on their own. The Lab is working to field-test, document and commercialize the most efficient and effective approaches to IoT so that SMBs can deploy solutions to level the playing field and help them compete more effectively.
Laurie: Yes, INEX is very interesting, this video does a great job of telling their story. One last question for you: How is the Dell Internet of Things contest shaping up?
Jason: Really well. Solution designs had to be submitted by March 31 and we received more than 120 submissions worldwide from a mix of current Dell customers, ISVs, developers, systems integrators, entrepreneurs and channel partners. Across all different sizes and industries, in different verticals–from universities and schools to hospitals to financial services to food distributors. All are interested in building solutions on top of our new Edge Gateway and with other Dell technologies. We’re seeing use cases that we’ve never even thought of, which is what’s really exciting about bringing this community together in this way.
Laurie: How will you select winners?
Jason: We’ll be looking for solutions that are really innovative, and also have strong market viability, balancing technology, implementation, and go to market opportunities.
Laurie: When will the contest be judged and winners announced?
Jason: Judging is underway and it’s going to be tough to pick the winners. I anticipate in the May-June timeframe we’ll start to announce the winners. There will be 16 prizes, and the total prize value is $600,000.
Laurie: I’m sure you’ll get some really creative entries, please keep me posted! Maybe we can do a follow up about the winners. And thanks again for taking time to dive into Dell’s IoT program with me.
This is the second of a two-part blog series on Dell’s new Internet of Things (IoT) division and partnership programs, sponsored by Dell.
The retail sector has a well-earned reputation as one of the most challenging industries for participants to navigate successfully. Retailers – be they traditional brick and mortar companies, online sellers or, often, a combination of the two – must manage complex supplier relationships and inventories while also catering to the sometimes mercurial wants and needs of their end customers. For retailers, “supply and demand” is more than a trite catchphrase. Rather, it encapsulates an ever-shifting and intricate relationship that demands real-time data, accurate forecasting and efficient operations if the retailer is to generate profits in a business characterized by razor-thin margins.
In short, retailers truly need a 360-degree view of their business, encompassing suppliers, consumers and the many processes that connect the two. With little room for error, retailers and etailers must not only track critical operational metrics closely, they must continually strive to make their processes more efficient and effective.
Retailers sit at the nexus between wholesalers and distributors on one side, and end buyers on the other. They must deal with product availability and pricing demands from their suppliers, while keeping their store offerings competitively priced and in line with current customer demands. As friction-free online shopping options proliferate, maintaining customer loyalty as well as profitability is proving increasingly elusive. Among the operational challenges retailers face:
Retail businesses encompass supply-side and demand-side
Product availability and pricing: All but the largest of retailers are at the mercy of their suppliers, who can set prices close to retail selling prices and whose products may not always align with changing customer demands.
Incoming inventory management: Retailers need to maintain inventory levels and mixtures aligned with the current and forecasted consumer preferences, which aren’t always the same as the suppliers’ preferences and product lines.
Outgoing inventory management: Retailers must have good visibility into inventory levels and purchasing trends to ensuring that inventories are stocked to meet both current and future demands, while limiting overstocking and forced discounting.
Customer satisfaction: In addition to ensuring that they have the right product selection and price points, retailers must work to engender customer loyalty while also increasing the number and value of products each customer buys.
Commerce operations: As higher percentages of retailers enter the online selling realm, they must deal with everything from cart abandonment rates to rapid and accurate processing of orders and shipments.
In addition to the above challenges, retail and distribution business today need to think globally. Digital commerce enables them to setup web-shops and transact beyond their geographic borders and becomes players in a global economy. This is where SAP Anywhere will benefit from being part of the larger SAP company. Most global businesses need more accurate multi-currency exchanges. Does the solution calculate financials in local currencies and support local tax compliance? What languages does it support?
Having a reputable cloud provider handle these and other critical business processes – as well as providing the platform for commerce sites in some instances – frees companies from performing these tasks, which are often outside of their areas of core competency.
SAP Anywhere is targeted at companies with between 10 and 500 workers. Built from the ground up for the SMB market. It leverages SAP HANA to mine the data for real-time analytics and insights.
SAP Anywhere is a cloud-based solution, it will be delivered as SaaS (software as a service) by SAP in a public cloud (Amazon cloud for the US market). While it can be accessed through either mobile devices or desktops, SAP is emphasizing that it will allow SMBs to manage their business from anywhere using their mobile devices.
Perspective and Go-to-Market Channel Implications:
SMB spending on digital commerce solutions is increasing, especially for solutions that are simple and aimed at improving customer experience across mobile, social and web. This new category of front-office solution for small businesses will open new doors for SAP and will necessitate a new channel approach. In North America SAP plans to develop new channels where SAP has not gone before for SAP Anywhere and not restrict it to their existing Business One channel partners. There is also potential for affiliate partners like PayPal, eBay, Facebook, etc. Success with SAP Anywhere will also require partnerships with other type of affiliate solution providers, as part of an expanded ecosystem, that can help specialized SMBs setup sophisticated web-presence instead of the generic out-of-box experience.