Does an ERP even need third-party apps? These business management systems cover everything from CRM to warehouse and project management – they are supposed to be the one app the company needs.
It turns out the answer is a resounding yes. While Xero and QuickBooks Online connect to several hundred apps that do everything from send invoices to tracking timesheets, ERPs attract apps that solve big-company problems.
Strolling around the expo floor at NetSuite’s SuiteWorld I met a gaggle of software companies with fascinating ideas for helping SMEs.
Price: From US$24,000 a year (three year contract)
I had never heard of treasury management before – it’s above my paygrade, as the saying goes. Yet within five minutes of talking to Kyriba, I could see a lot of appeal to manufacturers and retailers in the Asia Pacific and elsewhere.
The use case is for companies with several offices overseas who want to know how much money they have and where.
If your head office is in New Zealand, manufacturing is in China, retail in France and distribution in the US, how do you know if you have enough money to pay your suppliers in each currency and country?
Kyriba shows you your balances, how much you’re paying in interest and services to various banks, and hedges against currency movement. “Companies are worried about two things – overborrowing and underleverage,” says Karthik Manimozhi, VP of worldwide indirect sales. “To sell in the Middle East you need eight banking relationships (with each country) and you need to know how much cash you have in those accounts. You would have to log into each of these portals to see how much they have and review it in Excel.”
Kyriba competes against treasury management modules in big ERPs such as SAP, Oracle and Infor. It uses automated bank feeds, updated several times a day, to monitor movement of receivables and payables.
It can also do automated payment workflows that update to the finance module in NetSuite.
Kyriba has a short overview of what it does (1.50 min.).
Price: From US$500/month (for a min. 25 users)
Collaboration has to be one of the most abused terms in technology but I have to say this app looks good, demos well and (Hallelujah!) understands mobile. Possibly the most important aspect is looks – if the software is ugly everyone who was not born a geek is going to ignore it.
A collaboration platform with SharePoint in its sights, Huddle is better file sharing and project management in the cloud, with a modern interface and a well-developed mobile app.
Huddle has a relatively low profile given the size of its wins; its largest users include the UK and US governments and the six largest accounting firms in the US. Security is a primary concern and Huddle logs all actions and document changes.
The app can save documents directly from emails in Microsoft Office 365, Microsoft Outlook (desktop) and Google Apps, and integrates with Microsoft Active Directory and identity management tool Okta.
Employees at professional services companies typically resort to unsafe methods of sharing files because they hate using Microsoft SharePoint, the dominant enterprise collaboration platform, says CEO Morten Brøgger.
Reasons for not using SharePoint include it takes too long for IT to set up (30%), the rest of the team doesn’t use it (30%), clients don’t use it (20%) and it doesn’t look professional (20%), a survey commissioned by Huddle found.
The program starts at US$20 a user per month with a 25 user minimum. This gives you 100GB file storage and 25 team workspaces.
Here’s a neat overview showing how it works (2 min.).
Price: From $US65/user a month
Another overused term is Big Data. Now that we have it, people are trying to work out what to do with it. iCharts is a really clever approach to turning Big Data into Something Useful.
NetSuite’s 2015 app of the year, iCharts is a business intelligence dashboard that displays graphs natively inside Netsuite. A user can pull up a NetSuite dashboard showing various metrics in the accounting module and iCharts will invisibly add graphs from data sets stored outside of NetSuite.
The chart builder uses a drag and drop editor and it updates in real-time within NetSuite. The most common use case is companies with separate business systems wanting to perform analysis in one place without exporting and importing large data sets.
iCharts uses Google BigQuery, a cloud-based big data analytics web service designed to process very large, read-only data sets. BigQuery handles databases with billions of rows using a SQL-like syntax.
The possibilities of BigQuery deserves an article on its own. There are many applications for dumping a huge amount of data – or connecting a streaming river of data – and then using a visualisation tool to pull out real-time trends.
iCharts is brand new. It released a NetSuite version in 2014; the standalone BigQuery interface is coming soon. Companies will be able to buy an enterprise version that covers NetSuite and BigQuery together, says Rico Andrade, iCharts’ vice president of marketing.
iCharts has a good testimonial video (3.5 min.) and an overview of how it works (3 min.).
Workflows are a big area of interest for me right now. Technology on its own is not so useful; it’s the magic about how to make it work for you that really matters.
FloDocs, like iCharts, received a special mention during one of the keynotes at SuiteWorld. It automatically documents all the changes and customisations a company makes to NetSuite, and can set up and enforce policies for making changes.
The classic scenario is when a business user adds a custom field to a NetSuite module. The company needs to know who added the field, whether it’s still required, can it be deleted and what processes does it affect.
The process editor uses swimlane diagrams for high-level design and text-based steps for the details. A NetSuite company could set up a process for credit checks that automatically routes a customer request to a category based on their payment history, number of invoices outstanding, and so on.
FloDocs, a Canadian startup, has a basic intro video about monitoring changes and another about setting up processes. (Note to FloDocs – get some better marketing videos.)
Disclosure: NetSuite paid for Sholto Macpherson’s travel and accommodation to attend SuiteWorld.
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