The saying used to go “Nobody got sacked for buying IBM”, but if vendors such as BOARD International, OneStream and newly launched Decisyon have their way then the global mega-vendors vendors could soon be facing stiffer competition when it comes to serving Global 2,000 companies with budgeting, planning, forecasting, consolidation, BI and reporting applications, says Gary Simon, FSN’s managing editor.
Historically, the Tier 1 vendors have dominated the performance management space with large suites of applications assembled following a series of product acquisitions dating from 2005 onwards. And although they have expended considerable effort and resources in attempting to seamlessly integrate the various applications, the finished suits are often unwieldy and complex to use and maintain.
OneStream Software is gaining a footprint with several global enterprises with significant complexity that also believe there is an opening for fresh perspectives. Tom Shea, CEO and founder of OneStream Software, told FSN, “You will find that other software systems marketed as ‘unified’ are in fact multiple products or applications requiring additional maintenance points for users. These systems have known symptoms: complex software installations and integration, data quality problems, high use of customer support, and a need to continually add internal resources or hire external consulting. It’s an unsustainable proposition and why global enterprise are moving away from tier one vendors to CPM offerings like ours, designed from day one as a completely unified environment.”
It’s a view shared by Nanni Grossi, CEO BOARD International. He told FSN, “As far as we see when discussing with large companies/organization, most of them failed to achieve a real decision making improvement, despite spending a lot of money. The mega vendors offered them a patchwork of products unified under an umbrella logo, without the level of integration, flexibility and user friendliness necessary to really move the needle.”
On the other hand, BOARD’s strategy around a completely unified CPM and BI environment is paying off handsomely. For example, 2013 marked the 8th successive year of double digit growth for BOARD and it is accelerating. Growth in the last 3 years has never been less than 20 percent while new license fee growth has done even better (+39%, + 35%, + 38% respectively).
Increasingly, BOARD is seen as a solid alternative to the mega-vendors and has already established its credentials in large global enterprise with household names such as Acer, the U.S. Navy and Puma under its belt and a consolidation project in an FTSE 100 with 780 legal entities currently in progress.
It’s a positioning that Nanni Grossi is keen to exploit and this month the company announced the release of BOARD 8.1, aimed squarely at large enterprises. “BOARD 8.1 reinforces our entry as a serious player in the segment for large international enterprises. We have made significant investment and enhancements to ensure that we can support large global deployments of BOARD – in particular in the area of scalability, security, localization and system administration,” added Grossi
But it won’t all be plain sailing for the Tier 2 vendors. As one commentator to FSN’s linkedin discussion group put it, “FTSE 100 size clients generally move from Tier 1 to Tier 1”while another said, “It is not that easy for new players to directly compete with the main Tier 1 providers. Smaller companies are more likely to try something new especially if there is a significant price break, whereas larger companies are generally much slower in breaking from the pack.” However, as BOARD’s track record shows, cracks are beginning to appear, with another Linkedin contributor from PwC observing, “FD's are under increasing pressure to ensure they have timely, well controlled close processes that deliver insight.”
While the key battleground between Tier 1 and Tier 2 to date has been “unified applications” versus a “suite of applications”, innovation is also set to become an important differentiator with Tier 2 vendors often being regarded as more agile and creative. For example, the launch of Decisyon 360 this month is thought to be the first business intelligence and performance management platform that seamlessly unifies social collaboration, analytics, planning and execution across multiple departments and operational systems in the newly emerging category of “Collaborative Decision Making” (CDM).
Decisyon Inc. the authors of Decisyon 360 told FSN that their ground-breaking product enables managers to facilitate contextual collaboration around any data object, process, analytic model or social insight – enabling teams to interact collectively in the context of their real work and information.
But innovation is also coming in the shape of mobile applications. This month BOARD unveiled BOARD Mobile which has been designed for high performance, gesture based usage, offering users access to their desktop application and web based applications on Windows 8 tablets and Apple iPads. Users can also access their data in offline mode, thus making it possible to work without connection to a network. BOARD Mobile uses the same programming-free toolkit as the desktop and browser based applications, making it possible to deploy most types of screens to a mobile device in a matter of minutes.
So is the pendulum swinging in favour of Tier 2 vendors? It will take some time for global 2,000 companies to desert the apparent safety of the Tier 1 vendors in droves but there are clear indications that the tide is beginning to turn. The unified platform message is looking more compelling, the Tier 2 vendors are growing more confident and new entrants such as OneStream and Decisyon are entering the fray with innovative propositions. The writing is on the wall and we may look back to 2014 and say that this was the turning point.