Back in March, I spoke with Ken Rudin of LucidEra about their product launch, and this week I followed up to what’s been going on since then.
The big news is that LucidEra is now available through Salesforce.com’s AppExchange. Although Salesforce.com’s reporting capabilities might be enough if you’re just reporting on the data that you have in their system, LucidEra lets you combine your Salesforce.com data with your corporate data for more of a full business intelligence solution. All of this is hosted, of course, which makes it much more accessible (financially and from an internal IT skills standpoint) for small and medium businesses who want the advantages of BI but can’t afford to play in the BI big leagues.
Rudin was previously with Salesforce.com; combine that with the fact that the first (and, so far, only) LucidEra vertical solution is forecast-to-billing, and that a half dozen of their customers are also Salesforce.com customers, and it’s no real surprise to see LucidEra appear on AppExchange. It’s a natural partnership, and should be of real benefit to some of the Salesforce.com customers who need a bit more in the way of reporting and analytics. Salesforce.com led the first wave of SaaS applications, with a focus on transactional applications that were capturing information; LucidEra is focussed on getting that data out through analytics.
A key feature of LucidEra, whether it’s used in the Salesforce.com context or not, is that you can combine data from a number of different sources, both other hosted data sources and your own on-premise systems. LucidEra becomes your data mart for reporting and analytics, and you just need to get the data in there. They provide automated extract-transform-load for a number of common financial systems, and have some customizable scripts that can be used for systems that they don’t support directly, which may use an Excel spreadsheet as an interim part of the ETL process.
SMBs have never really had the opportunity to do any advanced business intelligence before; companies like this are full of Excel spreadsheets hacked together to mimic a subset of BI functionality. In that situation, the CFO (or any senior management) is always 6 or 7 reports away from what they really need, and with data manually extracted and massaged in spreadsheets, it can take hours or days to do a drill-down into the existing data. In many cases, they could greatly benefit from having BI, but the strategic advantage is not in having that as an in-house solution, but in having the analysis capability and knowing what to do with it. LucidEra gives them a chance to experience better data integration, better data analysis, and all in a way that can be more easily shared amongst people in the organization. Furthermore, it can be done by the business managers themselves, without relying on IT once the data ETL process is set up into LucidEra’s forecast-to-billing solution.
Forecast-to-billing is still the only vertical solution available, although LucidEra obviously wants to create an environment that will encourage other companies to build solutions on their underlying platform. They will be working on other solution applications, and also plan to extend forecast-to-billing to cover everything from the beginning of the cycle (prospects) to the end (cash). They’re also working on some time-based analysis functionality, although Ken wouldn’t talk much about that.
Since our first conversation in March, they have their first customers up and running, with more on the way. Being on AppExchange should certainly help that along.
I believe that SaaS is the way to go for much of the IT infrastructure for SMBs. If I were running a 40-person company now, as I did 7 years ago, I’d be using hosted solutions as much as possible to reduce the internal IT footprint, and therefore reducing costs.