Up next is a deep dive on Business ByDesign, the SaaS offering for SMEs. The deep dives so far have been kind of shallow, and mostly centered on sales, marketing, pricing and packaging of the products rather than much to do with functionality. We’re also running 45 minutes late, and seem to be getting later with each session.
This session is particularly interesting because of the analogy to SaaS BPM: these are mission-critical business systems, responsible for the day-to-day business processes, and there’s some significant issues with customer acceptance of their core processes existing in the cloud.
I hadn’t seen Business ByDesign before — somehow I missed it at SAPPHIRE — so it was interesting to have Rainer Zinow, SVP SME Global Services, give us a demo.
The system is role based, so that functionality is exposed depending on the user’s role. Apparently, there’s some basic document management, but we didn’t see that.
The system is built on an in-memory architecture for both transactions and analytics, using a search engine rather than a database (similar to some ideas that I saw at FASTforward); transactions cause database writes, but client applications are always served from memory.
There are some pretty complete analytics available, where you can drill down into specific items of interest, and even link directly back to the transaction on the ERP side, something that you couldn’t easily do with non-integrated BI.
There’s some lightweight workflow, really just manual routing to a person’s inbox that also allows a work item to be forwarded to someone else.
One of the most interesting parts was exposed when he demonstrated saving the online reports to Excel: the Excel version can be converted to contain formulas that point back to the original data source, which are actually pointers to web services. The reporting implication is that you can save the Excel report, then come back later and update it with point-in-time data simply by refreshing the data source; even better is that this set of web services is available to any environment, not just Excel, allowing you to build mashups or other applications that access the core transactional data.
This sort of hybrid model for SaaS is nice, where you can do everything in the on-demand environment, but also be able to download some desktop tools or build mashups that link directly to the online data.